House Republicans: No Budget, No Pay

John Boehner

As we noted last week, House Republicans have decided to throw in the towel on the debt ceiling. But despite giving in on this particular battle, they are pushing an angle that would prevent members of Congress from getting paid until they actually do their duty by passing a budget:

House Republican leaders said Friday that they will schedule a vote next week on a plan to extend the nation’s debt ceiling for three months, but that it would also require the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass by a budget by April 15 for the first time in four years or see senators’ pay withheld.
Under the GOP plan, House members would continue to be paid even if the Senate did not pass a budget because Republicans who control that chamber will certainly pass one, explained a senior House Republican aide. The base pay for both House members and senators is $174,000 a year.

The strategy was announced at the conclusion of the House GOP’s private three-day issues and strategy session here.

“We are going to pursue strategies that will obligate the Senate to finally join the House in confronting the government’s spending problem. The principle is simple: No budget, no pay,” House Speaker John Boehner said in remarks he made to the Republicans at the conclusion of their retreat on Friday, according to excerpts released by his office.

While House Republicans have passed a budget each year since taking control of the House in 2011, the Senate has not acted in nearly four years — the last time being April 29, 2009. Some conservatives — particularly American Majority Action, the same group that led the charge to replace Speaker John Boehner — are complaining that the plan to withhold congressional pay violates the 27th Amendment.

This amendment, which was one of James Madison’s 12 original amendments to the Constitution, was ratified in 1992. It states, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

As Jim Harper noted over at Washington Watch, Congress automatically receives cost of living adjustments (COLA), which often take effect before a new Congress is seated, unless they pass a law suspending the increase. Interestingly, Boehner filed suit over COLA increases, arguing that they were unconstitutional because they violated the 27th Amendment. He lost at the Supreme Court.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke on the subject yesterday during an appearance on Meet the Press. He said that Senate Democrats will pass a budget, but they want a tax increase as part of an agreement. That’s not exactly a surprising development. President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelsoi had already said that raising more tax revenue was their goal, even after growth-killing tax hikes on higher-income earners were passed as part of the “fiscal cliff” deal. President Obama’s position on tax revenue was affirmed this weekend by David Plouffe.

In other words, President Obama will get his debt ceiling hike, for at least three months, but it doesn’t look like Congress is going to pass a budget any time soon.

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