Decision Maker Response

Kurt Schrader’s response

Jan 18, 2019 — I want to thank Thomas and Katie for taking the time to write this petition, and everyone who has signed onto it thus far.

Our number one job in Congress is to write and pass a budget to ensure the entire federal government is open and operating. In any other profession, if you don’t do your job, you don’t get your paycheck. Congress should not be any different. That is why my first action in this Congress was to re-introduce my Hold Congress Accountable Act.

The 27th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads “No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened,” prohibits Congress from altering its own pay. This necessary amendment was written, of course, to prevent Members of Congress from giving themselves a bloated paycheck. The unintended consequence, however, is that Congress cannot pass legislation that would reduce our salaries. To put it simply, it is written into the Constitution that Members of Congress must be paid in full every month, even during a shutdown. Changing this would require a constitutional amendment like H.J.Res.18, a bipartisan joint resolution that I have cosponsored.

As Thomas and Katie note, however, cutting Congress’s paycheck during a shutdown is not a partisan idea. There is plenty of support from across the political spectrum for holding Congress accountable. The reality, however, is that two-thirds of the House and the Senate are required to pass a constitutional amendment. And I am a realist – in this climate, it can feel like getting two-thirds of both chambers to agree on anything would be nothing short of a miracle.

As an alternative to a constitutional amendment, my bipartisan Hold Congress Accountable Act is written such that for any shutdown during the Congress in which my bill becomes law, Members’ pay will be withheld during the shutdown in an escrow account and they would receive it at the end of the Congress. For any shutdown taking place after 2020, Members’ pay during any lapse in appropriations would be canceled altogether.

I first introduced a version of my bill in 2013, following the 17-day shutdown in October of that year. Since that time, I have also donated the paycheck that I have received during shutdowns to charitable organizations in my home state of Oregon. A handful of my colleagues have done the same, and I applaud them. I just think it’s the right thing to do.

But it is not enough. Members of Congress ought to feel the same urgency that our constituents and communities often face during these shutdown. It is totally inappropriate and just plain wrong to hold the paychecks of public servants across the country in a limbo because Congress isn’t doing its job. We owe it to everyone to change this.

I want to thank every one of you for continuing to raise your voice on this issue. Together, let’s make this change!