GOP senators continue to collect salaries for not doing their job

This week marks the anniversary of the 27th Amendment’s ratification, a constitutional amendment that makes clear Congress can’t give itself an immediate pay raise; no raise can go into effect until after the next congressional election. Originally written by James Madison, introduced in 1789 but not ratified until 1992, the Congressional Pay Amendment was an effort aimed at keeping Congress accountable and preventing “flagrant pocket-lining.”

That ratification was 24 years ago. Who would have thought that a quarter century later, we’d be in a situation where members of Congress are collecting their salaries even as they refuse to do their jobs? If the Founders were wary of lawmakers boosting their own pay, I can only imagine how horrified they would be by senators cashing their paychecks as they ignore their most fundamental, Constitutional duties as elected officials.

{mosads}But that’s exactly the situation we face today: a GOP-controlled Senate with members who refuse to follow the Constitution and provide fair hearings and an up-or-down vote for President Obama’s exceptionally qualified Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. It’s a Senate on track to work the fewest number of days in the past six decades (though certainly not because they don’t have work to do). In other words, it’s a Senate full of members who categorically refuse to do their jobs but continue to collect pay for the work they are, for the most part, not doing.

For most of us, if we started coming to work less and less, flagrantly refusing to do the tasks laid out in our job descriptions, but still tried to collect our checks on payday, we’d be laughed out of the office, if we were lucky. More likely, we’d be fired.

GOP senators are struggling to put a noble spin on their refusal to do their jobs, claiming that the American people should have a say in the next Supreme Court justice. But Americans had their say in 2012, and it is anything but noble to nullify our votes as Republicans are now doing. Fortunately, voters are seeing this intransigence for what it is: overtly partisan obstruction. A recent national poll found that a full 77 percent of Americans view Senate Republicans’ refusal to consider Judge Garland as “just playing politics.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desire to hold open the Supreme Court seat for a President Trump shouldn’t come above Americans’ need for a fully-functioning Supreme Court.

The high court has already deadlocked in important cases, and they are sure to continue to tie, blocked from resolving the underlying issues at play in those cases. The McConnell plan would keep the Court hobbled not just for the rest of this term, but for most of its next one, too. Four-to-four deadlocks “mean that everybody’s time is wasted,” as Justice Anthony Kennedy once put it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the hamstrung Supreme Court has slowed the number of new cases it is accepting for next term, likely reluctant to take on cases the justices may not be able to resolve.

But the type of urgent legal questions the Supreme Court is designed to provide a final answer on won’t stop piling up — and those hurt most will be ordinary Americans, whose daily lives are directly impacted by what happens at the most important court in the country.

It’s time for Republican senators to put the functioning of the Supreme Court and the interests of the American people above their own partisan maneuvering and do the work they were elected to do. Twenty-four years after the Constitution was amended to block members of Congress from immediately raising their own pay, who knew it would be necessary to say that those members actually have to do their jobs, too?

Layne Amerikaner is the senior communications manager for writing & content at People For the American Way.

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