Bipartisan sponsors say sequestration exemption for lawmaker salaries is hypocritical.
House lawmakers have introduced legislation to cut congressional pay by 8.2 percent beginning with the next Congress.
The bipartisan bill, dubbed the Sequestration of Pay for Members of Congress Act, would reduce lawmakers’ salaries, starting with the 114th Congress, which convenes in January 2015. The legislation docks members’ pay beginning in November 2014, when the 114th Congress is elected.
Non-exempt, non-defense discretionary spending under sequestration has to be cut by 8.2 percent during fiscal 2013, according to the Office of Management and Budget.
The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., and Ami Bera, D-Calif., would comply with the U.S. Constitution by applying the pay cut to the next Congress. The 27th Amendment prohibits a sitting Congress from increasing or decreasing its own pay, but it can change the pay of future legislative bodies.
“Much has been said about sequestration, but few have mentioned that the pay of members of Congress is exempted,” DeSantis said. “When members exempt themselves from the operation of the law, it's not only unfair, but it also violates a core principle of republican government.” DeSantis successfully shepherded a bill through the House earlier this year that extends the pay freeze for federal employees and lawmakers through the end of 2013.
Since sequestration took effect on March 1, the notion of cutting congressional pay has become popular with some lawmakers. In the Senate, Democrats Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Bill Nelson of Florida have introduced legislation that calls for a reduction in congressional salaries once furloughs begin across government. A provision in the McCaskill-Nelson bill says if the pay cut is deemed unconstitutional, then the legislation would take effect in the next Congress. Several lawmakers and some Obama administration political appointees have said they would donate portions of their pay to show solidarity with federal workers facing furloughs and, as a result, smaller paychecks this year.
“It’s completely hypocritical for members of Congress to exempt themselves from across-the-board spending cuts, while the American people are bearing the burden of those cuts,” Bera said. “Real leadership begins with accountability.”
Lawmakers already are facing a looming deadline related to their salaries. In February, Obama signed into law the No Budget, No Pay Act which withholds lawmakers’ pay if Congress cannot agree on a fiscal 2014 budget by April 15. Under the law, congressional salaries would be held in escrow until lawmakers pass a budget; if Congress fails to do that, then salaries would resume in January 2015.
Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., this week introduced a bill that would withhold the president’s salary if he again fails to submit a budget by the statutory annual deadline -- the first Monday in February. That bill is essentially No Budget, No Pay aimed at the president.