Time For Congress To Do Its Job
How many Americans could stop doing their job and still receive a regular paycheck? Probably not very many — unless you are a member of the U.S. Congress.
Even though Congress is mandated by law to pass a budget, the U.S. Senate has not passed a budget in more than 1,350 days. Lawmakers here in Washington have neglected to carry out their legal responsibilities, yet they continue to receive both the pay and perquisites of office.
This is not right and is not consistent with what the Founding Fathers intended.
That is why I'm joining the Fix Congress Now Caucus, a bipartisan coalition that advocates for innovative solutions to the dysfunction in Washington. Last year, Fix Congress Now co-founder Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., introduced the No Budget, No Pay Act, which would have required Congress to pass spending bills and a budget by Oct. 1 every year or face the penalty of not getting paid. This concept has garnered support from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers who recognize that our nation needs a major course correction, and I intend to co-sponsor No Budget, No Pay legislation during the 113th Congress.
Members of Congress should be held to the same standards as the people they represent. It is unthinkable that American citizens could simply flout their responsibilities — much less the law — and not face consequences. Congress' lack of accountability is just one of many reasons that Washington is a mess, spending is out of control, and our national debt is in the trillions. The suspension of congressional pay if a budget is not passed in a timely manner is one way to ensure some level of accountability.
The Senate's disregard of its responsibility to pass a budget has implications beyond the budget process. As James Madison pointed out in The Federalist Papers, the precept that the law needs to apply to elected officials is a vital component of republican government. Representatives are supposed to be servants of the people, not a ruling class separate from the citizenry and immune from the law.
Working with the Fix Congress Now Caucus and supporting No Budget, No Pay are just the first steps in getting Congress back to the basics. I also plan to refuse a pension, and decline health benefits, as a way of demonstrating my commitment to reforming Congress.
It will not be easy to change the culture of Congress, but the No Budget, No Pay proposal will be a good start. After all, most Americans would agree that there is simply no reason why Americans should be taxed so that members of Congress can get paid for failing to do their jobs.