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Lawmaker Pay Again in Play as Democrats Tie Paychecks to Debt Limit

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
Boxer, the Democrats’ chief deputy whip, said her measure requiring lawmaker salaries to be suspended if the government is unable to meet obligations could be brought up as a stand-alone proposal or as an amendment to unrelated legislation.

Boxer, the Democrats’ chief deputy whip, said her measure requiring lawmaker salaries to be suspended if the government is unable to meet obligations could be brought up as a stand-alone proposal or as an amendment to unrelated legislation.

Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee said he also is trying to build support for his own proposal (HR 1884) to put off payment of lawmaker salaries when the debt limit is reached until all other government obligations are fulfilled.

The administration and senior Democrats have made clear they oppose the House bill and disagree with the idea of trying to limit government obligations that will be honored in the event of a debt limit stalemate. Democrats say the GOP measure leaves out too many important priorities, from payments owed to contractors to Medicare and veterans benefits.

Boxer and McDermott also say the House measure is legally flawed because it would prohibit payment of lawmaker salaries, meaning that they might not be restored at the end of the 113th Congress. “It is not constitutional,” McDermott said, referring to a provision in the Constitution that requires an intervening election before a law can take effect to cut off or reduce the salaries of lawmakers.

The Boxer proposal would funnel member salaries into an escrow account when the government is unable to pay its bill. The salaries would be released to members when the debt limit is increased or when the 113th Congress ends.

The proposal to put member salaries in escrow until the end of the 113th Congress is similar to a provision in the debt limit suspension (PL 113-3) that expired May 19, when the debt limit was reset to just less than $16.7 trillion. The law provided for suspending member salaries if the two chambers failed to adopt fiscal 2014 budget resolutions by April 15.

The House and Senate both complied with the requirements of that law by adopting their own fiscal 2014 blueprints (H Con Res 25, S Con Res 8) in March.

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