Freshman Rep. Chris Gibson has joined a small group of House lawmakers who have opened their own wallets to help reduce the national debt a few thousand dollars at a time, making an initial contribution that far exceeds those of the others.
The New York Republican follows in the footsteps of Reps. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.), who have long given portions of their Congressional salaries back to the government. Bachus gave more than $400 in both the first and second quarter of 2011, while Walz gave more than $2,000 in each quarter, according to House statements of disbursements, the most recent of which was released last week.
But Gibson eclipsed them in his first contribution by dipping into his military pension, returning almost $20,000 in the second quarter. The retired Army colonel is following through on a campaign pledge to return the $68,000 annual pension while he holds elected office, his spokeswoman said.
"In an era where we're asking pretty much everyone to make tough sacrifices, we're trying to make an example," Stephanie Valle said.
Two other House freshmen are also returning some income in the largely symbolic effort to reduce the nation's debt, which is approaching $14.7 trillion.
Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) may not be forfeiting his military pay — he is a lieutenant colonel in the Ohio National Guard — but he is returning 5 percent of his Congressional paycheck. That amounted to a $2,175 return in the second quarter, which ran from April through June.
"During this fiscal crisis many Americans have made sacrifices, and I wanted to do my part by volunteering to cut my pay by five percent," the Ohio Republican said in a statement. "I believe Congress must make tough decisions on spending if we are going to save the American Dream for my daughter Sarah and all of our kids."
Rep. Scott Rigell chose to go a bit further to offset the national debt — three times further.
The Virginia Republican has vowed to donate 15 percent of his paycheck, which amounted to more than $6,500 in the second quarter.
"Rep. Rigell believes that the trajectory of spending in Washington presents a material threat to our nation's future," spokeswoman Kim Mosser said in an email. "He also believes in leading by example in controlling spending."
A spokesman for the House Chief Administrative Officer, which maintains the account to which the Members donate the money, confirmed that the funds have been sent to the Treasury.
"All the money the Members gave there went to the reduction of the debt," Dan Weiser said.