Bill would cut lawmaker pay until Congress eliminates the deficit

Bill would cut lawmaker pay until Congress eliminates the deficit
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A House bill introduced this week would cut lawmakers’ salaries each year until they find a way to eliminate the federal budget deficit.

Under freshman Rep. Rod Blum’s (R-Iowa) measure, lawmaker pay would go down by 5 percent for the first year and an additional 10 percent each successive year.

“For the sake of our children and grandchildren who will be stuck paying off our $19 trillion debt, it’s time we make our politicians face the reality of our fiscal crisis by hitting them where it counts: their own pocketbook,” Blum said in a statement.

If Blum’s proposal were to become law, it wouldn’t affect the current Congress. The Constitution’s 27th Amendment prohibits laws that modify salaries for members of Congress during their current terms. Lawmakers can therefore only turn to legislation that changes pay for future sessions.

Rank-and-file members of the House and Senate earn $174,000 annually. House and Senate majority and minority leaders, as well as the Senate president pro tempore, earn more, at $193,400. The Speaker makes the highest salary, at $223,500.

Some Democrats last year suggested that lawmakers are due for a pay raise to keep up with the cost of living, especially for those who have to maintain residences in both their districts and Washington.

Democrats like House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) warned that freezing lawmakers’ salaries for too long would limit the type of people who can serve in Congress.

“I think, personally, that it was appropriate at the time of the recession in 2009 for us not to have a cost of living adjustment,” Hoyer said at the time. “But to continue that on simply will dictate that the only people who can serve are the rich. I don’t think that’s what the Founding Fathers had in mind.”

Lawmakers approved a freeze on their own salaries in 2010 in the aftermath of the financial crisis and have passed spending bills in the years since then to keep the moratorium in place.

The House is expected to consider a budget resolution in early March before beginning work on individual spending bills. Many conservatives are pushing for a budget that establishes spending at lower levels than the bipartisan deal Congress approved last year.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) introduced legislation on Thursday along the same lines as Blum's that would withhold lawmaker pay unless each chamber passes all 12 individual spending bills.