As Republicans in the House of Representatives use their government funding proposal to make more and more aggressive cuts, moving them further from what Senate Democrats and the White House can stomach, the prospect of a government shutdown March 4 becomes more likely. Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., got together Wednesday and agreed to submit a proposal that would make it a little more painful for our elected officials to shut down the federal government -- by denying their paychecks.
Congress and the president are paid under mandatory spending rather than yearly appropriations, Boxer explained at a news conference this morning before she and Casey met with Majority Leader Harry Reid about their bill. That means that, unlike all other federal employees, they would still get paid during a government shutdown. The Boxer/Casey bill would take that paycheck away and also keep members of Congress and the president from being paid retroactively at the end of a shutdown. It would also apply if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling before the government hits that $14.3 trillion cap.
"This legislation is not just the right thing to do to fix a loophole in the law," Casey said. "I think this legislation is in furtherance of that goal of avoiding a government shutdown. I dont think there's any question that we can come together and avoid that. But just as we talked last week about outlining the consequences of a shutdown, in addition to that, we've got to take steps to make sure elected officials here are living by the same rules as everyone else."
Boxer noted that a similar amendment she proposed in 1995 -- when the government actually did shut down -- passed the Senate unanimously but in conference committee "mysteriously was dropped."
The amount of money saved would be negligible, and would depend on the length of a shutdown. "But that's not the point," Boxer said. "The point is to say that if we, members of Congress, fail in our responsiblity to act like grownups and get this thing moving forward we're going to pay a price, just like other people are."