Senate GOP introduces No Budget, No Pay; claims it is constitutional

The Senate bill comes as the House prepares to vote on a short-term debt ceiling increase that would also withhold the pay of senators if the Senate fails to pass a budget resolution by April 15.

The House bill simply withholds pay until the end of the current Congress.

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It does so because the 27th Amendment to the Constitution states that “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

The Senate bill, in contrast to that of the House, cancels pay if a budget and 12 individual appropriations bills have not been passed by Oct. 1. No retroactive pay is provided.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), the lead sponsor, said the bill is constitutional because in his reading the original intent of the 27th Amendment was to prevent pay raises.

“I think specifically if you are talking about the 27th Amendment, what they were trying to make sure didn’t happen was members of Congress enriching themselves. I think you can go home and tell your constituents that you are not getting paid and many of your constituents are not going to worry about that, but you say you enriched yourself and you did increase your pay during a congressional sessions, then there’s some real issues,” he said. “I think that’s the heart of the 27th Amendment. This doesn’t do that, it goes in the opposite direction.”

“I don’t think it is unconstitutional,” he said.

He said the House version is an acceptable alternative, but the Senate bill addresses the problem in future congresses as well.

The group No Labels, which pushed No Budget, No Pay legislation last year, said the bill had to pass before the end of the 112th Congress in order to apply to this Congress without violating the Constitution.

Heller and Machin said Wednesday they are pleased Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) announced Wednesday that Democrats will move a budget for the first time in four years.