The 27th Amendment protecting congressional pay raises has been getting a lot of attention this week after claims that a recently proposed House GOP bill violated the most recent revision to the U.S. Constitution.
"No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened," states the amendment which was made law in 1992.
In other words, a sitting U.S. Congress cannot alter its pay while in session.
On Monday, the Rules Committee in the Republican-led House proposed a bill that would allow the payroll administrator to withhold senators and representatives pay after April 15 if a fiscal year 2014 budget could not be agreed on.
The last time the Senate passed a budget was in April 2009.
The House proposal led to immediate questions of whether the bill was a violation of the 27th Amendment.
"The answer is unclear because the 27th Amendment has never been authoritatively interpreted by the Supreme Court. Yet it seems almost certainly unconstitutional. Withholding pay effectively ‘var[ies] the compensation’ of lawmakers," said UCLA Law Professor Adam Winkler on the website Talking Points Memo
In the same TPM piece, a GOP leadership aide defended the proposed bill. telling TPM
"The legislation does not change members’ pay. It does not reduce it. It withholds it until they pass a budget, which is permissible under the 27th Amendment," said the unnamed aide.
Law professors weren't the only ones concerned by the initial proposal.
Republican Darrell Issa, the House Oversight Committee chair. also expressed concern, initially telling the website Roll Call that he thought the bill was unconstitutional.
Issa's office, however, issued an immediate follow-up statement about the bill following the representative's remark, saying that "the final proposal brought before the House will have resolved any constitutional questions and that it will have my support."
The bill is expected to be up for a vote on Wednesday and if approved by the House it will head to the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hasn't said where he stands on the proposal, one of his aides called the GOP move "reassuring."
The White House released a statement on Tuesday saying President Barack Obama wouldn’t oppose the bill.
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