Here’s What Members Are Doing With Their Salary During Shutdown

Withholding, returning and donating, lawmakers say they’re refusing salary while government is shut down

Signs are posted outside of the Library of Congress in Washington on Sunday notifying visitors that all Library of Congress buildings will be closed to the public during the government shutdown. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A government shutdown always unleashes a cascade of political histrionics, and chief among those is lawmakers “refusing” their salaries.

Scores of senators and House members sent out news releases over the weekend defiantly proclaiming what they would do with their salaries while the government remains shuttered.

Of course, the Department of the Treasury is obligated to pay members in full due to a clause in the 27th amendment that blocks officials from “varying the compensation for the services of the Senators & Representatives” between elections.

But many lawmakers are using that reality to score a few easy points with constituents at home. Some announced they will donate their paychecks to charity.

Working the Weekend: Highlights From the Shutdown Floor Debate

Virginia GOP Rep. Scott Taylor, a member of the House Veterans Affairs and Military Construction subcommittee, is funneling his paycheck to charities that help homeless and suicidal veterans.

Rep. Elizabeth Esty will donate hers to charities across her home state of Connecticut.

“I will stay in Washington as long as it takes to get the government back open and back to the business of addressing the issues that matter to the American public, like fixing our ailing infrastructure and putting people back to work,” Esty said in a statement that dozens of members from both parties have used in recent days. “But I will not accept one penny of my salary as long as this misguided shutdown continues. It’s time to stop playing politics and get back to doing the work the people elected us to do.”

Other lawmakers, like Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Florida’s Stephanie Murphy, are simply returning their salaries to Treasury.

A sizable chunk of both Democrats and Republicans have decided to “reject,” “withhold,” “refuse” — pick your verb — payment until the shutdown has been resolved, a move that, in substance, means absolutely nothing other than a delayed paycheck.

That includes Reps. Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Mark Sanford of South Carolina and others.

“As long as 100,000 active-duty servicemen and servicewomen based in North Carolina are defending our freedom with no pay, the very least I can do is lead by example,” North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Walker said in a statement. “Today, I wrote a letter to the Chief Administrative Officer of the House refusing my salary as well. Our heroes deserve better than this.”

Those servicemen and servicewomen Walker referenced are just some of the millions of employees on the government’s payroll nationwide who will be reimbursed for their missed pay once Congress and the president pass a measure to fund the government and end the shutdown.

Hundreds of thousands of other government workers have been furloughed without pay, but will also be reimbursed.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have not struck a deal to reopen the government with another continuing resolution after an avenue seemed to open up to a deal late Sunday evening.

Correction, Jan. 22, 2018, 1:30 p.m. | An earlier version of this story misstated the name of Rep. Mark Walker.

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