Congress Considers “No Budget, No Pay”

January 23, 2013 13:00 pm

by Charlie · 13 comments

Today’s Courier Herald Column: 

Last week I argued that Republicans needed to reorder the deadlines they face to unwind the remainder of the fiscal cliff by pushing the debt ceiling back until after sequestration and a new Continuing Resolution (CR) are passed.  The debt ceiling seemed the wrong battle to have first both politically and for the well-being of world financial markets.  It also seemed disingenuous not to vote to cover the debts for money that they had a hand in appropriating.

After a three day retreat in Williamsburg, House Republicans have decided to go one better.  On Wednesday, they are expected to pass a measure that takes care of the debt ceiling until May, but they have decided to get creative and “gently nudge” the Senate to pass a budget.  And by gently nudge, they’re using the political equivalent of a ballpeen hammer.

Attached to the bill extending the debt ceiling will be a measure that withholds congressional pay if the respective bodies don’t pass a budget by April 15th.  House Republicans, tired of taking exclusive heat for the gridlock in Washington, are being less than subtle that it has been almost four years since the Senate has passed a budget out of their chamber.  To emphasize the point, one of the House Republicans’ favorite talking points early this week was “The last time the Senate passed a budget, the iPad didn’t exist.”

Sure, the measure is a bit gimmicky.  After all, it only requires the House to pass their version of a budget to continue getting paid, and the Senate to do likewise.  There is no measure requiring both bodies to pass a finalized budget before the fiscal year end to continue receiving their pay – something that would definitely end this cycle of temporary battles over continuing resolutions.  Despite this, however, progress can still be demonstrated on several fronts.

The Senate leadership, without much high ground to stand on in refusing the measure, has said they won’t object to the addition of the pay withholding trigger.  The White House, who has always demanded a “clean” increase to the debt ceiling, has said if this measure passes Congress they won’t veto it.

Politically, it is a 180 degree change from where Republicans were sitting on New Years’ Day, with little political capital and even less leverage in these negotiations.  Three weeks later, Republicans – at least temporarily – are setting the agenda.  For a party whose political victories are few and far between lately, they’ll definitely take this one.

More importantly, this is a step to return the appropriations process to a more normalized state.  The appropriation and spending of taxpayers’ dollars has been less about a systematic budgetary process through committees and more about cobbling together last minute short term compromises that tend to reward the well-connected over the prudent.

Furthermore, by forcing the Senate to pass a budget, Senators will now be equally on record of voting for or against tax and spending measures.  Until now, the House has been solely on the record for tough budget cuts.  Cuts that were widely used against them in the 2012 campaign.

The Senate, led by Democrats, must now also go on record whether they are for budget cuts – and if so, which ones.  Or, they can pass a status quo budget which favors more borrowing and spending.

Regardless, with both a Republican House budget and a Democratic Senate budget, there will at least be two clear goal posts for both politicians and the public to debate between April and September.  There will likely be two distinct visions and paths for the country to take.  This is not a bad thing.  In fact, it is what the country sorely needs.

Hopefully, this move will be a small step on a return path to a functional government.  It will be up to us, as a people, to make sure the debate happens between the House and Senate after April to ensure which vision presented for the country’s financial future will survive this budget process.

In the interim, it’s not too early to ask that the next Continuing Resolution incorporate another trip wire.  Neither body of Congress should be paid if both sides have not passed a budget by the end of this fiscal year on September 30th.

xdog January 23, 2013 at 1:35 pm

That doesn’t seem like a serious bill at all. Maybe their goal is simply to do something to counter Obama and the dems.

Charlie January 23, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Westmoreland Votes to Hold Senate Democrats’ Feet to the Fire, Restore Fiscal Responsibility in Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House of Representatives has passed legislation that would require both the House and the Senate to pass a budget resolution by April 15th. If no budget resolution is passed by that date, Members of Congress will not receive their paychecks. The legislation was proposed by House Republicans in an effort to force Senate Democrats to draft and pass a budget for the first time in nearly four years. This legislation will help House Republicans put forth and pass a budget that balances within ten years.

“It’s about time we held Senate Democrats’ feet to the fire,” stated Westmoreland. “American families don’t have a $16 trillion credit card like the federal government, and they know that in order to live within their means, they must set an annual budget. That budget helps to keep down their spending and keep them on track to end the year debt free. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats have refused to pass a budget in almost four years. It’s no wonder our country’s finances are such a mess. H.R. 325 will force Senate Democrats to finally do their job and pass a budget – or lose their paycheck.”

In addition, the legislation included language that would suspend the debt limit until May 19th. This would not give the president the authority to spend any more money. Instead, it would allow the Treasury Department to continue to pay our bills as they come due. Unfortunately, a majority of House Democrats refused to support the measure, with House Democratic leaders actively working to thwart the passage of the bill.

“Democrats have been complaining for months that we just need to pass something to allow the Treasury Department to continue to borrow money,” stated Westmoreland. “Well House Republicans have offered a bill to do just that, but more than half of House Democrats still refused to support it. Why, you may ask? Because it doesn’t give unbridled power to President Obama to raise the debt ceiling whenever he feels like it. Just like the American people, I am sick and tired of Democrats playing politics with our economy and their livelihoods. This is a good, clean bill that promotes strong fiscal responsibility and it’s shameful that House Democrats have become so hyper-partisan, that a majority of them refused to support it. I hope Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid does not make the same mistake and brings this bill to the Senate Floor for a vote immediately.”

The White House has said they will not veto the legislation, but it is unclear as to whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will allow the bill to be brought to the Senate Floor for a clean up or down vote.

xdog January 23, 2013 at 1:40 pm

“This is a good, clean bill that promotes strong fiscal responsibility and it’s shameful that House Democrats have become so hyper-partisan, that a majority of them refused to support it.”

Right, Lynn.

Andre January 23, 2013 at 2:07 pm

It actually is a good, clean bill. House Resolution 325 is only five pages long.

Section 2 of the bill says quite clearly, “If by April 15, 2013, a House of Congress has not agreed to a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2014 pursuant to section 301 of the Congressional Budget Act, of 1974, during the period described in paragraph (2) the payroll administrator of that House of Congress shall deposit in an escrow account all payments otherwise required to be made during such period for the compensation of Members of Congress who serve in that House of Congress, and shall release such payments to such Members only upon the expiration of such period.”

Either Congress passes a budget or they don’t get paid. There’s nothing bad or unclean about that.

Romegaguy January 24, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Actually it wouldnt go into effect until after November 2014. Pesky US Constitution and the 27th Amendment…

Charlie January 23, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Graves Votes For ‘No Budget, No Pay’

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-14) issued the following statement after voting for H.R. 325, the “No Budget, No Pay Act,” which passed the House today and would withhold the salaries of members of Congress if their respective chamber does not pass a budget by April 15, 2013:

“I am committed to balancing the budget and forcing the government to operate within its means. We cannot allow Washington to continue dragging down our economy and sidelining jobs that our communities need.

“The first step in that process is forcing the Senate to follow the law and pass a budget, which they have failed to do for almost four years. In the House, we will again put forward a bold vision for the country, which will include tax, spending and entitlement reform. Our goal is to balance the budget in ten years.

“If the Senate again fails to pass a budget, they will have their pay withheld. No budget, no pay. The American people expect and deserve that kind of accountability.”

Baker January 23, 2013 at 1:50 pm

No Budget No Pay and several other measures pushed by the group No Labels would be a great way for the nattering nabobs that roam northern Virginia to actually be held to account. I encourage everyone to check out No Labels and the rest of their suggestions.

http://www.nolabels.org/work

#s 8 & 12 will never happen, most of the others at least deserve some thought, particularly #s 1 & my favorite #6.

Charlie January 23, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Price Applauds Passage of “No Budget, No Pay”

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) responded to the passage of H.R. 325, or the “No Budget, No Pay Act,” saying:

“It has been 1,365 days since the U.S. Senate last passed a budget. If families and businesses must adhere to a budget, why shouldn’t the U.S. government? House Republicans have done our job year after year – putting forth a bold, responsible plan to correct the nation’s fiscal course. We will do so again this year with a plan that will come to balance within 10 years.

“By passing ‘No Budget, No Pay’ today we underscore the utter urgency with which lawmakers should approach America’s compounding fiscal problems. We are also introducing a common sense measure of accountability: the Senate Democrat majority must fulfill its most basic responsibility, as required by law, and pass a budget, or their pay will be withheld until they do their jobs.

“It is encouraging to hear that prominent Democrat Members of the Senate are coming to the realization that passing a budget is an unavoidable responsibility for their chamber. Clearly, the vast majority of the American people support meaningful spending reforms and real fiscal restraint in order to eliminate budgetary deficits and pay down our national debt.

“These are endeavors House Republicans have supported for years. We hope the Senate Majority will do its job and put ‘pen to paper’ on our nation’s fiscal crisis. If so, we look forward to seeing the budget they produce.”

elfiii January 23, 2013 at 2:59 pm

It’s smart politics to take away Obama’s axe from him.

Now let’s see those spending cuts or a government shut down, one or the other.

xdog January 23, 2013 at 3:03 pm

One can only hope that the other ideas that came from the Williamsburg retreat are more substantive than the No Budget No Pay proposal.

joe January 23, 2013 at 6:04 pm

No Budget, No Pay is nothing but a headline grabbing gimic. How many of our 100 senators are living paycheck-to-paycheck? Most are multi-millionaires, and just need the Senator title so they can make real money. Withheld pay will have to be given to them eventually anyway. A sitting congress cannot change it’s own pay.

Suspending the debt ceiling is on shaky constitutional ground. It may move the power to incur debts from the legislative to the executive branch.

This may be a ‘clean’ bill, but it is still a bad one.

Baker January 24, 2013 at 7:01 am

You’re right, but I daresay the tens of millions of dollars that would’ve been withheld from the Senate these past four years would be a hit to a lot of folks. They may all be corrupt, insider-trading millionaires, but over the course of four years that adds up to a lot of money.

It’s simple, and it puts some pressure to pass a dang budget. Not to mention it puts some more media attention on the issue, which, inexplicably, has not happened up to this point.

For those, like our dear friend GriftDrift, who continue to claim there is not a huge liberal bias in most media, I ask you, what would a majority of the media have done to a Republican senate majority leader who didn’t pass a budget this long? He’d be skewered every day and called a rudderless coward and ran out of town on a rail.

John Konop January 24, 2013 at 7:18 am

Baker,

I had the same opinion as you about the pressure issue……obviously you are right about lobbyist, corruption……but while not being a solution it is a step in the right direction.

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