WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner expressing their strong view that Members of Congress should not be paid if the United States defaults on its obligations because lawmakers fail to increase the debt limit. The House is expected to vote on a debt limit increase later today.
In the letter, the Senators point out that their legislation – S. 388, which prevents lawmakers from being paid during a government shutdown or if the government defaults on its debts – was unanimously approved by the Senate months ago, but has since been blocked by House Republicans.
The Senators wrote, “There is no reason that Members of Congress and the President should be free from the pain that would be felt by our nation if the government were to default on its obligations, and if we cannot do our jobs and protect the full faith and credit of the United States, we should not get paid.”
In the House, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) has introduced a similar bill. Prior to the 1995 government shutdown, Congressman Boehner expressed his support for this same legislation.
The full text of the Senators’ letter is below:
May 25, 2011
Dear Secretary Geithner:
We agree with you that it is unthinkable that the United States could default on its obligations, and that the consequences of inaction would be disastrous for our economy. We also strongly believe that if Congress fails to address the debt limit, the Department of the Treasury should not pay our salaries.
It is one thing to vote “no” on increasing the debt limit to send a message; it is another thing – a dangerous thing – to bring the legislation down.
Earlier this year the Senate unanimously passed S. 388, a bill which states that “Members of Congress and the President shall not receive basic pay for any period in which the Federal Government is unable to make payments or meet obligations because the public debt limit under section 3101 of title 31, United States Code, has been reached.”
This very important legislation has languished in the House of Representatives where Speaker Boehner has refused to allow an up or down vote.
We increase the debt limit to pay for past expenditures, and while we agree that we must get the deficit and debt under control as we did when President Clinton was in office, we must not play politics with the full faith and credit of the United States. Recently, a House member carelessly said that “defaulting on the debt, in the short term and long term…could benefit us to go through a period of crisis…”
We strongly disagree with this statement and wonder whether this member, and others who have made similar statements, would feel differently if they weren’t receiving paychecks while the government defaults on its obligations.
There is no reason that Members of Congress and the President should be free from the pain that would be felt by our nation if the government were to default on its obligations, and if we cannot do our jobs and protect the full faith and credit of the United States, we should not get paid.
As you contemplate how to deal with the ramifications of a failure to raise the debt limit, we write to express our strong view that Members of Congress should not be paid if the debt limit is not increased.
United States Senator
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator