Senators not in ‘millionaires' club’ would be hurt by lost paychecks

Senators not in ‘millionaires' club’ would be hurt by lost paychecks

The Senate is often called the “millionaires' club,” but some of its members would feel the pain if a blown budget deadline costs them their paychecks.

Provisions in the “No Budget, No Pay” debt ceiling bill that is headed to the Senate floor would impound senators' salaries if the upper chamber doesn’t approve a budget by April 15.

For most of the upper chamber, the loss of the $174,000 annual salary would be no hardship. Many senators are millionaires many times over, having earned substantial fortunes outside of politics.

But for a small group of senators whose net worth is measured in thousands instead of millions, the passage of “No Budget, No Pay” would put their very livelihoods at risk.

“We’re not all millionaires,” Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiDems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee Robert Mueller's forgotten surveillance crime spree Clinton: White House slow-walking Russia sanctions MORE (D-Md.) told The Hill. “When I splurge, it’s on a Ravens t-shirt.”

“As much as I love my job and my constituents, I have bills to pay,” said Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiAlaska gov, lieutenant gov come out against Kavanaugh The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Budowsky: Kavanaugh and the rights of women MORE (R-Alaska).

“As a non-millionaire senator, I am certainly in a different spot that someone who is independently wealthy,” Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowCongress prepares to punt biggest political battles until after midterms Trump attacks Dems on farm bill Trump is wrong, Dems are fighting to save Medicare and Social Security MORE (D-Mich.) said.

The provisions in the bill specify that if the Senate does not pass a budget resolution, pay will be withheld until Jan. 3, 2015, when the 113th Congress ends.

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The trigger is attached to a House-passed bill that would suspend the debt ceiling until May 19. Senate leaders support its swift passage to avoid a default on U.S. payment obligations now that the $16.4 trillion debt ceiling has been reached.

House Republicans devised the plan to force Senate Democrats to pass a budget, which they have failed to do for the past four years. But the threat of lost pay might be easy for some lawmakers to shrug off.

The Senate is home to Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerRussia docs order sets Trump on collision with intel community Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless Bipartisan trio asks US intelligence to investigate ‘deepfakes’ MORE (D-Va.), who is worth at least $85.9 million; Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), whose fortune is at least $56.9 million; and Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPoll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it Ford opens door to testifying next week Police arrest nearly two dozen Kavanaugh protesters MORE (R-Tenn.) who is worth at least $19.6 million, according to financial disclosure reports from 2011.

But not every member of the Senate has an investment portfolio worthy of Wall Street.

“It will affect me but not as much as some members, such as those with small children,” Mikulski said.

For 2011, Mikulski had a minimum net worth of $191,000 due to assets like IRAs as well as money market and savings accounts.

Middle-class senators in the Republican Party are in an especially tough spot. If Senate Democrats come up short on a budget, they’ll suffer the consequences.

Murkowski would not say whether she backed the concept of withholding lawmaker pay.

“What I do support is some mechanism to make sure we do the most important job we have, which is to pass a budget,” she said.

Murkowski’s minimum net worth was at least $164,000 in 2011, according to her financial disclosure report.

Murkowski’s view contrasts with the strong support for the bill from newly appointed Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTrump assures storm victims in Carolinas: 'We will be there 100 percent' Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Trump to visit North Carolina on Wednesday in aftermath of Florence MORE (R-S.C.). He said the country’s fiscal priorities should come first.

“We’ll all be affected … but what is more important is that it’s bad for the country not to pass a budget,” he said.

Scott’s minimum net worth is more than $1.2 million, thanks largely to real estate holdings in South Carolina.

Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE (R-Nev.), who has sponsored a more stringent version of No Budget, No Pay, acknowledged this week that the concept depends on the less wealthy senators pressuring the Budget Committee to act.

“I think there would be a lot of people that would be affected of the 535 people that serve here in Washington, D.C., including myself,” he said.

The dynamic could open a class divide in the Senate, with lawmakers of less independent means facing pressure from their colleagues to bend on issues like taxes and entitlements in order to get a budget through.

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) noted that possibility when the House bill came to a vote this week.

“The last thing we want to do is say to people thinking of running for the Congress, ‘If you’re not a millionaire, don’t run because we can’t guarantee you’ll be paid your salary,” Nadler said in a statement.

One of the key figures in the budget maneuvering is Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersTrump's trade war — firing all cannons or closing the portholes? The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump rips 'ridiculous' spending bill | FBI dragged into new fight | Latest on Maryland shooting Poll: Most Massachusetts voters don't think Warren should run for president in 2020 MORE (I-Vt.), a staunch advocate for antipoverty programs and entitlement benefits. He sits on the Budget Committee, and a 'no' vote by him in committee would be enough to stop a budget from moving forward.

The Vermont independent had a minimum net worth of $141,000 in 2011. He declined to discuss “No Budget, No Pay” this week.

Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinOn Nicaragua, the silence of the left is deafening Dem Senator open to bid from the left in 2020 Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation MORE (D-Iowa), whose net worth is at least $10 million, said the paychecks issue is moot because a budget will be approved.

“It’s ridiculous and sophomoric,” he said of the House legislation.

Stabenow said Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: HHS diverts funds to pay for detaining migrant children | Health officials defend transfers | Lawmakers consider easing drug company costs in opioids deal Trump health official defends funding shifts to pay for detained migrant children Judiciary Democrat calls for additional witnesses to testify on Kavanaugh MORE (D-Wash.) could be trusted to produce a progressive Democratic budget resolution before the April 15 deadline.

Those assurances could be welcome news for senators like Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinDems seek to rebuild blue wall in Rust Belt contests The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump Poll: Democrats inch forward in Wisconsin MORE (D-Wis.), a liberal member of the Budget Committee who responded with an emphatic “yes” when asked if she would be affected by losing pay.

In 2011, Baldwin had a minimum net worth of $301,000, according to her financial disclosure report as a House member.

Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedNew York Times: Trump mulling whether to replace Mattis after midterms Overnight Defense: Biden honors McCain at Phoenix memorial service | US considers sending captured ISIS fighters to Gitmo and Iraq | Senators press Trump on ending Yemen civil war Senators press Trump administration on Yemen civil war MORE (D-R.I.) — who had a negative net worth in 2011 due to a pair of residential mortgages — told the Hill he strongly supports doing a budget on time, but did not think it should be tied to anything like pay.

Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyTrump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Obama to hit campaign trail in Pa. for gubernatorial, Senate candidates Trump is wrong, Dems are fighting to save Medicare and Social Security MORE (D-Pa.) said losing his salary would present him with a financial crisis of sorts.

“Definitely could not take that hit. It would present a real problem,” Casey said.

Casey had a minimum net worth of $127,000 in 2011. The Pennsylvania senator said lawmakers have little grounds to complain, given the widespread unemployment that still pervades the country.

“If we’re doing our work and we’re doing what they expect us to do, to work together and to get things done, we won’t have to worry about the consequences of pay loss or pay delay. Most people out there have it much tougher than anybody here,” Casey said.

NOTE: Lawmakers report their assets and liabilities on annual financial disclosure reports but don’t have to use exact figures, instead providing those values in ranges. The Hill uses the low end in the value range for each asset and liability in calculating a lawmaker’s worth, and then subtracts the sum of his or her liabilities from the sum of his or her assets to arrive at a minimum net worth for the lawmaker.

— Peter Schroeder contributed to this report.