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Congress Won't Face Pay Cut in Sequester

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: Congress, sequestral pay cuts, constitution, Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act, 27th Amendment lawmakers )

- 1930 days ago -
So how did lawmakers' pay escape the axe? Turns out that's a mystery with conflicting explanations that lead deep into a rabbit hole of federal budgeting arcana.

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Angelika R (143)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 11:08 am
***** Please also see my related petition Pay Cuts for Congress - Take Action *****

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 11:10 am
U.S. lawmakers won’t have their $174,000 salaries affected by across-the-board government spending cuts going into effect this month, but there’s little clarity about how the bank accounts of senators and representatives were spared in the so-called sequester.

The spending cuts hit every budget account with a few exceptions that were written into the law that set up the federal budgeting process more than two decades ago, known as the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act. Compensation for the president is specifically exempted, but there’s no mention of pay for members of Congress.

So how did lawmakers’ pay escape the axe? Turns out that’s a mystery with conflicting explanations that lead deep into a rabbit hole of federal budgeting arcana.

The Office of Management and Budget, the agency in charge of executive branch money matters, hasn’t said how it determined that lawmakers’ salaries would continue to flow from the Treasury unscathed.

The issue of lawmakers’ pay has been politically fraught since the founding of the nation. A constitutional amendment limiting Congress’s ability to change its own pay was originally passed as part of the Bill of Rights in 1789, but was not ratified until 1992. The 27th Amendment prevents changes in congressional salaries from taking effect until an election has occurred.

Several news outlets, including CNN and Politico, have cited the 27th Amendment as the explanation for why lawmakers’ pay has been unscathed. But the 2012 election took place after the sequester was signed into law and before it took effect.

An OMB official said the amendment is not the reason lawmaker salaries are intact, adding only that “they are not subject to sequester and never have been.”

The agency’s report on the sequester, required by the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012, lists lawmaker salaries as “exempt” but there’s no reason provided — one of the only accounts listed in the report that is exempt without explanation.

Congressional salaries are funded through “a permanent appropriations account” established in 1981, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service.

Gramm-Rudman says that any individual employee’s salary that is set by law, like standard federal pay scales, can’t be cut because of a sequester. But that provision doesn’t explain why a whole class of people, like the member of Congress, couldn’t see an across-the-board pay reduction. The OMB official said Gramm-Rudman simply doesn’t apply to lawmakers’ salaries at all due to the specific way in which they are funded.

Under Gramm-Rudman, officials are instructed to use furloughs instead of cutting public employees pay and only then as a last resort. But a furlough for lawmakers isn’t in the offing — as much as that might be relished by the large share of Americans who say they hold Congress in ill regard. A congressional furlough could raise constitutional questions, which would be decided by a court only if a lawmaker sued the government for lack of pay.

Just the opposite has been happening in recent months with lawmakers of both parties rushing to propose bills cutting their own pay, despite the fact that such a pay reduction is clearly prohibited by the 27th Amendment.

Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.) have introduced one of the latest, which would reduce congressional salaries if federal employees are furloughed.

“This is an obvious step to hold Congress accountable for the job we need to get done,” McCaskill said in a statement announcing the legislation.

A user on the liberal Web site launched an online petition calling on lawmakers to cut their salaries for future sessions of Congress if they impose furloughs on workers. The site has collected 342,440 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.

Stan Collender, a leading expert on federal fiscal matters and formerly a longtime aide on the House and Senate budget committees, said the fate of lawmaker salaries in the sequester falls into a gray area and the fact they’re left untouched is likely the result of “some sort of internal, below-the-radar decision.”

“Something’s not being said here,” Collender said.

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 11:11 am
Are you content living with "internal below-the-radar decisions" ??????

Joanne Dixon (38)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 11:27 am
Glad you give credit to the ONE lawmaker, Tammy Duckworth, who took a voluntary pay cut. A hero in the military and a hero in the House.

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 11:51 am
Of course, Joanne! Thx for noting that post and most likely signing as well !
Perhaps I should repeat this petition link to thank Tammy here, for those who did or will not see it:

Thank Rep.Tammy Duckworth for Taking a Pay Cut - Please Sign

David C (129)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 11:58 am
selfish greedy and wrong on their parts!!!

Fiona Ogilvie (565)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 2:47 pm
Of course, Congress is not going to not give money to themselves.

Roseann d (178)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 2:49 pm
Of all the ones that deserve to have their salaries would be the GOP

Freya H (357)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 5:51 pm
That absolutely sucks like a Hoover! Those fat slobs should face an enormous pay cut for the damage they've done to this country.

Rise up, voters, take revenge: Re-elect nobody!

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 6:08 pm
We need to find that MoveOn petition and co-sponsor their bill by signing-any ideas? The regulation about Congress being exempt obviously STINKS:

Marcia S (1)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 6:12 pm
This is wrong on so many levels. Unfortunately I'm not surprised. Easy to call for belt tightening on others when you yourself will not be effected. What a farce.

Renee Paxton (2)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 6:19 pm
voluntary pay cuts!! like to see more than one person. how about maine sen and rep they all have more money, can give back some . . .how little people friendly r they?

Sue Matheson (79)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 6:21 pm

Sarah G (109)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 6:33 pm
surprise, surprise!

Past Member (0)
Tuesday March 12, 2013, 6:47 pm
signed, thanks for this great article and the petition link

Robert O (12)
Wednesday March 13, 2013, 1:17 am
No surprise since that's the nature ofthebeast. The rest of the country suffers (including the people that elected them or helped them stay in office) and so many people have to bear the brunt of this disaster meanwhile Congress gets to go merrily along their way as if nothing were wrong. Thanks Angelika.

Ro H (0)
Wednesday March 13, 2013, 4:54 am

paul m (93)
Wednesday March 13, 2013, 7:30 am

They abuse their expences, vote amongst themselves for a pay increase with pension,
but you have to take cuts in wages and conditions ..

Judith Hand (55)
Wednesday March 13, 2013, 10:53 am
Noted. I'm delighted to hear of Sen. Bill Nelson's activity in FL (my home). He's a good man and how he can stand all of this stuff is beyond me. He responds to every single email and message...anyway!...interesting how the Washington Post wrote it. Frankly, this brings pictures of mobs carrying clubs to mind, but it does seem right that all would be effected by the sequester. I'll now take a look at the petition you mentioned in your comment, Angelika. Tx!

Birgit W (160)
Wednesday March 13, 2013, 1:17 pm
What else is new?

Christeen A (371)
Wednesday March 13, 2013, 1:27 pm
Surely this doesn't surprise you.

Lois Jordan (63)
Wednesday March 13, 2013, 1:30 pm
Thanks, Angelika. All petitions signed....including the in my regular member mailings. I can only suggest that anyone who wants to sign that one should go to their website. I'm sorry I don't have better info.

Past Member (0)
Wednesday March 13, 2013, 1:56 pm
We shouldn't face any sequester cuts! Please sign,

Deborah W (6)
Wednesday March 13, 2013, 2:35 pm
The Sequestration TRANSPARENCY Act of August 7, 2012 (H.R. 5872, 112th) "likely the result of some sort of internal below-the-radar decision? No kidding. Bipartisan approval, signed by the President. BOTH sides suck.

Any of those opting for a voluntary pay cut should be taken as serious and worthy of reelection ... all others need political history researched and posted as a matter of public record, so their next election has a basis for our (their employer) vote -- or not!

Colleen L (3)
Wednesday March 13, 2013, 3:38 pm
I signed the petition. As for them not expecting cuts, is a bunch of BS. They should be treated no differently than the normal working class. Same goes for their benefits too. Thanks Angelika

Jeremy S (3)
Wednesday March 13, 2013, 6:32 pm
How come I'm not surprised. They can cut the salaries of all sorts of employees, so long as their own are safe... Sickening!

. (0)
Thursday March 14, 2013, 10:23 am
Conflicting information? It can't be!! The poorest face the worst of times, not the people at the top who don't give a damn.

Hartson Doak (39)
Friday March 15, 2013, 6:48 pm
The lying thieves cover themselves with exemptions so they can not have their salaries reduced, their children go to college for free, free postage, free travel, free free. Then they have the balls to screw the people.
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