Federal employees may be furloughed, Navy patrols reduced and everyday citizens inconvenienced by the sequester budget cuts that take effect Friday, but there’s one group of Americans who won’t have to worry about paychecks: members of Congress.
The White House Office of Management and Budget and the Clerk of the House of Representatives say lawmakers can’t suffer any salary cuts from the sequester because of a provision amended into the U.S. Constitution.
The 27th Amendment, first proposed by the Founding Fathers in 1789 but not formally ratified by the states until 1992, declares that “no law, varying the compensation for the services of Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”
In other words, a pay cut or pay raise in the middle of a budget year like the sequester can’t be applied to lawmakers’ pay. It must wait until after the next election, which isn’t slated until November 2014.
“They are not subject to sequester and never have been,” OMB said about lawmakers.
Other operational costs of Congress can be reduced outside of lawmakers salaries from the sequester, the automatic budget cuts averaging around 10 percent at most federal agencies that resulted from the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Now lawmakers are looking for other ways to pubish themselves, however.
In January, the Senate passed a new budget deadline and the “No Budget, No Pay” bill in an attempt to force budget decisions. The bill threatens to withhold members’ salaries if a budget has not been decided on by the new deadline, April 15. However, the lawmakers salaries will only be held in escrow until a budget is finally passed or until the end of this congressional session.
Will this be enough to force lawmakers to pass a budget? Many Americans don’t think so.
“The public is furious,” said Peter Giesen., a political science professor at James Madison University. “The only way to get them to do what they ought to do is to saw to them that their salaries should cease when the sequester starts.”