GOP lawmaker proposes withholding pay if Congress can’t pass spending bills

GOP lawmaker proposes withholding pay if Congress can’t pass spending bills
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Rep. Brad Wenstrup has put forward an idea for motivating Congress to finish its appropriations process on time this year.

The Ohio Republican introduced legislation on Thursday that would withhold lawmakers’ pay if they don’t vote on all 12 individual spending bills by the Oct. 1 deadline.

The proposal, titled the Do Your Job Act, would help Congress avoid turning to another massive catch-all spending package like the omnibus bill lawmakers approved at the end of last year. It's been offered by various lawmakers every year since 2011.

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"If we don't fulfill the responsibilities of our office, we shouldn't get paid. That may require some tough votes,” Wenstrup said in a statement.

He noted that in the last five years, the House had passed less than half of 60 potential regular appropriations bills, while the Senate had only voted on two.

"A three percent participation rate in the Senate is unacceptable — that's not even worthy of a participation trophy, let alone a paycheck," Wenstrup said.

Congress has not passed all 12 individual spending bills since the 1990s. The time-consuming nature of an open amendment process, combined with the potential for politically charged votes, has made the process a heavy lift.

Some bills, like the spending measure for the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, haven't made it to the House or Senate floor in years.

As a result, lawmakers have repeatedly turned to all-encompassing spending bills that fund the entire government or multiple packages that fund a handful of agencies.

Last year, the Senate only passed one individual spending bill, for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. 

The House managed to pass six spending bills, but failed to pass a seventh due to a controversy over amendments regarding the display of the Confederate flag. House GOP leaders ultimately opted to ditch the process that allows members to offer an unlimited number of amendments.

Under Wenstrup's bill, all spending bills would be required to come to the floor under an open amendment process.

This year's appropriations process is already off to a shaky start.

Conservatives overwhelmingly opposed the two-year bipartisan budget framework Congress passed last year and don't want to use the framework for appropriations bills this year. Instead, they want to make advances toward deficit reduction by adopting a budget that reduces spending by tens of billions of dollars.

But a more conservative budget resolution would make it harder for lawmakers to pass appropriations bills that both chambers can pass — a situation that resulted in last year's omnibus.