Boxer Op-Ed: John Boehner must join 'no budget, no pay'
By Barbara Boxer and Bob Casey
March 10, 2011
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), in a recent speech in Nashville, Tenn., said it was our “moral responsibility” to avoid a government shutdown.
We couldn’t agree more. So we are now urging him to take a critical step to help take the threat of a government shutdown off the table.
The Senate last week unanimously passed our legislation that would prevent lawmakers and the president from being paid during a government shutdown. A similar bill has been introduced in the House by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).
Now is the time for the speaker to show that he means what he says by bringing this important bill up for a vote in the House.
While we may not agree on everything in this budget, lawmakers from both parties should agree on this: If we cannot fulfill our most basic responsibility to keep the government operating, we should not receive a paycheck.
It’s a little-known fact that members of Congress and the president are not treated the same as millions of other federal employees — because we’re paid through mandatory spending, rather than annual appropriations. In the event of a government shutdown, we would be among the few to continue receiving paychecks.
It’s unfair that members of Congress or the president would be paid while millions of other workers who serve the American people would see their paychecks cut off and have to struggle to pay their bills.
Our bill could fix this inequity. It would also go a step further, saying that lawmakers and the president should not be paid retroactively after a shutdown. The message could not be clearer: No budget, no pay.
Boehner supported this same legislation back in 1995, telling a CNN interviewer, “I’d be happy to sign onto that bill right now.” The Boxer-Durbin bill passed the Senate, but was blocked by the House.
The American people have a right to expect that Congress will do its work. That means making sure that essential services are not interrupted because of partisan politics.
Social Security checks should not be delayed. Veterans’ benefits should not be disrupted. Passports should continue to be issued. Superfund sites should be cleaned. Oil wells should be inspected. Export licenses should be granted. All this would be threatened in a shutdown.
A government shutdown would be a disaster for our nation and our economy. We must end the threat once and for all — and begin work on a responsible budget that will reduce the deficit without putting our economic recovery at risk. Failing to do so would be an abdication of our most fundamental responsibility.
That’s why, in a bipartisan spirit, all Democrats and Republicans joined together to pass our bill in the Senate. Now it is time for Boehner to put this “no budget, no pay” bill on the House floor for a vote without delay.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is the chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee and chairwoman of the Select Committee on Ethics. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) is the chairman of the Joint Economic Committee.
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