Some members of Congress are declaring that they won't accept their pay or will donate it to charity for as long as the government shutdown lasts. This appears to be an effort to avoid charges of hypocrisy and insensitivity as voters express outrage at the shutdown and the rancorous dysfunction in Washington.
A Washington Post survey finds that 108 legislators had committed to the no-pay pledge as of Wednesday evening – 56 Republicans and 52 Democrats – out of 435 members of the House and 100 senators, and more were expected to make the commitment Thursday.
The shutdown started Tuesday, and hundreds of thousands of government workers have been furloughed without pay. Members of the House and Senate, however, are still getting their salaries.
"I shouldn't get a congressional salary while other federal employees are denied the ability to go to work," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in a YouTube video cited by the Post. "I'm going to take my salary during the government shutdown and donate it to the Wounded Warrior Project."
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said she would give her pay to a charity in her home state because "right now, federal workers across North Dakota and the country who chose to work in public service have been forced to go without pay – including my Senate staff."
Aides to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told the Post that each man plans to put his pay in escrow for the duration of the shutdown. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., plans to donate his pay to a Louisville charity for the duration of the shutdown.
Each member of the House and Senate makes $174,000 a year. The House speaker makes $223,500, and each party leader in the Senate makes $193,400. Legal scholars say the Constitution forbids legislators from officially changing their own pay until the start of a new term.
The president's salary is $400,000, and the vice president's is $230,700.
Asked if Obama would accept his pay during the shutdown, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney didn't answer directly. "Our position is that the government should be open," Carney told reporters.