NASHVILLE — While 800,000 federal employees are on unpaid furloughs due to the government shutdown, taxpayer-funded checks are still going to the folks responsible for the situation.
That would be members of Congress and President Barack Obama, whose salaries are authorized by the U.S. Constitution and paid with mandatory funds.
But at least two members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., have joined what may be a growing, dare say, bipartisan movement among representatives and senators to give up their pay as Republicans and Democrats battle over GOP efforts to delay parts of the federal health law.
Black says she plans to give her check to charity during the standoff.
“It is wrong for Congress to continue to collect a paycheck while other federal employees across the country are furloughed as a result of the Senate Democrats’ government shutdown,” the Gallatin Republican said Tuesday in a Facebook posting.
Black was followed today by Cooper who said in a statement that "members of Congress should be punished for the shutdown of government. Therefore I am foregoing my own salary for the duration of the shutdown, and I will be making a contribution to Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee for that amount.
Cooper said he's been "working hard to avoid shutdown, and have been willing to compromise in order to keep government open. Unfortunately, too many of my colleagues have been unwilling to keep government operating. For our collective failure, we should all be punished."
Earlier this year, the Nashville congressman sponsored a bill that halts pay for members in the event the U.S. defaults on its debt. It was later added to a Republican bill, which passed the House. In 2011 he introduced the "No Budget, No Pay Act," which would stop congressional pay if lawmakers fail to pass all budgeted spending bills on time. He's introduced it in the current Congress as well.
But that effort may collide with the Constitution's 27th Amendment, which says "No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened."
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...