Lawmakers Backtrack on Shutdown Promises to Give Up Pay

Friday, 08 Nov 2013 06:46 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Some of the almost 250 lawmakers who gave up their paychecks during the 16-day shutdown in solidarity with furloughed government workers are backtracking on their pledges, The Washington Times reported Friday.

Those lawmakers argue their promise to go without was only good for as long as the shutdown lasted — and now that the government is up and running again and workers got paid, they shouldn't have to do without.

The president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, however, said their supposition is just a shameless effort to "wiggle out" of their promise.

"People across the country, when they heard their member of Congress said they would be returning their pay during shutdown, that's what they heard and what they expected," David Williams told the Times.

"For Congress to even try to backtrack on that just reduces the amount of trust people have in Congress, if that's even possible."

The Times pointed out members of Congress, who make $174,000 a year, never missed a check at all, since they were paid Sept. 30 and Oct. 30 — and the shutdown lasted from Oct. 1 through Oct. 16.

Under federal law, lawmakers have to be paid during shutdowns; the Treasury gave full paychecks to every lawmaker, and it was up to individuals to either accept the pay, send the check back to the Treasury, or donate the money to charity.

In the first days of the shutdown, many lawmakers vowed to give a portion of their salaries to various charities.

According to the Times, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana said she'd donate her salary to charity if all federal workers didn't get back pay after the shutdown. Her spokesman said because federal workers did get paid, the senator is collecting her own check, too.

And California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, who voted against the House bill to reopen the government, got and kept his full paycheck once the government reopened.

"Mr. Hunter said he was suspending his paycheck until full operations resumed. So he would receive his paycheck as will federal workers," his spokesman said.

Some lawmakers did come through for charities, the Times reported.

Wyoming Republican Sen. Michael Enzi sent a check for $7,733.33 to the financial clerk of the U.S. Senate Nov. 4 to make up for his pay during the shutdown, the Times reported.

Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken donated his pay to Second Harvest Heartland, a hunger relief charity in Minnesota, and Arkansas GOP Rep. Tom Cotton donated to two Arkansas-based charities and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the Times said.

Among those who returned shutdown pay to the Treasury were Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, on Oct. 18, and Rep. Stevan Pearce, a New Mexico Republican, on Oct. 22, the Times reported.

"The shutdown impacted Americans, and it is wrong for members of Congress to receive a paycheck while other government employees faced uncertainty," Pearce said in a statement. "In returning my pay I have requested that the Treasury apply the full amount to the national debt."

Williams told the Times, "it's really not about the money."

"It's about the symbolism and whether or not Congress follows through on its promises," he said. "Whether it's $7,000 or $7 billion, people want to see Congress is serious about these things."

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