UPDATE: Poll: Should Congress Forfeit Paychecks if They Can't Pass a Budget on Time?

U.S. Representatives Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack have co-sponsored a bill to forfeit congressional pay if Congress can't pass a budget on deadline.

U.S. Representatives Bruce Braley, D-Waterloo, and Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa City, have co-sponsored a bill to forfeit congressional pay if Congress can't pass a budget bill on deadline.

Loebsack signed on as a co-sponsor of the "No Budget, No Pay" bill Dec. 16. Braley joined him Feb. 13.

A press release from Braley's office reads:

The most basic responsibility Congress has is deciding how much money the government takes in and how much it spends.  However, Congress has only passed its spending bills on time only four times since 1952. In the last 14 years, annual spending bills have been submitted an average of 14 months late.
“In the real world, there are real consequences if deadlines aren’t met,” Braley said.  “There should also be real consequences if Congress can’t meet its deadlines.  I can think of few stronger incentives to get politicians to do their job than tying their pay to their job performance.  This idea is a powerful way to restore a little common sense to a Congress that has none.”

The government's fiscal year begins Oct. 1. Under the bill, if Congress can't meet that deadline to pass the new budget, congressional pay would cease until the bill is passed.

There is precedent for such action, at least at the state level. In California, voters approved a similar measure, and last year state lawmakers had their pay withheld when they did not pass a balanced budget on deadline. In New York, lawmakers had millions of dollars in pay withheld when their state budget was months late in 2010.

So what do you think? If Congress doesn't meet its deadline, should it give up its pay? Answer our poll, and tell us how you feel in the comments section.

Greg Tagtow February 15, 2012 at 01:50 PM
This is clearly an election year stunt for both of them. I have not heard a peep from them about the democrat controlled Senate not passing a budget. 14 months would be nice compared to the over 1000 days that the Senate has refused to act and create a budget. Now we hear from some of the Senate leaders that maybe they should not be required to pass a budget at all...............huh? In what will be a tough election year for them, this is a chance for them to look more conservative. On top of that, they know they won't get the support they need to pass it, but hope to look good to the voters with the effort.
CFBusinessOwner February 15, 2012 at 02:47 PM
It may be an election year but at least the Congressmen are trying to do something to get everyone to move forward---not an easy thing to do with the culture of "No!" that has crippled the budget process. I'll take this common sense approach any day instead of little temper tantrums by the few who want to gum up the process.
Greg Tagtow February 15, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Kate, I would prefer the culture of NO SPENDING if we don't have the money. We should not be borrowing from China what our grandchildren will have to pay back. By the way, the Republican congress has not missed a budget deadline, but the crippling part is that, without a budget form the democrat Senate, nothing can move forward. Congress in the past would take both budgets, mash them together in a compromise and move forward. Really hard to do that when one side refuses to even create a budget............sorry, but there is no common sense involved here.
Greg Tagtow February 15, 2012 at 02:59 PM
.............and these Congressmen are making a stand for show............nothing more. If it was honest we would have heard them long before the +1000 day mark from the do nothing Senate...........
scott ehredt February 15, 2012 at 03:09 PM
I'm sure they are concerned with re-election. But this is also the work of No Labels' plan, Make Congress Work. No Labels has made great progress in just under a year and their bill actually has a Senate hearing scheduled for March 14 in Lieberman's committee. Only about 10% of bills actually ever get a hearing. No Labels is a counterweight to MoveOn.org and the TEA party which have increased partisanship in congress. No Labels on the other hand intends to provide support for Congressman who are willing to search out compromise, whereas the other groups seek to punish such behavior. Greg, I hope you'll check out No Labels and let me know what you think.
scott ehredt February 15, 2012 at 03:18 PM
The thing that is new to the stage is the strength of the No Labels movement, which already has over 440,000 people signed up. And this is a group of moderate R's and D's and independents who swing elections. That's why the politicians are paying attention. But, it can only work if the movement continues to grow. So I urge anyone reading this to check it out. No Labels is asking only a trivial contribution of 10 minutes a week and $10 per month. That's all it will take to talk some sense into our representatives and get them to face the very issue you and I care most about...balancing the budget.
scott ehredt February 15, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Spot on, Kate. Sounds like you are a No Labeler at heart, if you haven't yet signed up. We need to take small steps at first like No Labels' 12-step plan to Make Congress Work. If people continue to get behind this, we can reward representatives who work toward restoring Congress as a functional institution. But it will require a movement, a groundswell of grassroots support. That's what No Labels is working to build right now. For anyone tired of the dysfunction, NL is at least worth checking out.
Greg Tagtow February 15, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Scott, I have looking into the No Labels thing, but was not impressed. Not all things can or should be compromised on in this world. I understand that the world is made up of right, wrong and some gray, but if an issue that is clearly on the right side; compromise just for the sake of compromise just waters it down. From the No Labels website: "No Labels believes the biggest problem with Congress is not necessarily the people in it. It’s the outdated rules, procedures and traditions that govern the institution and make it impossible for anything to get done. Congress has become a place where even good, talented people get dragged down by a broken system. But if the rules of Congress change, we can make our government work again." I don't agree with this premise. The system worked for over 200 years and the problem is that the Congress is not following the rules of the past. I submit that the problem is with the people there and what the Washington culture itself does to them.
Greg Tagtow February 15, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Back to my original point. Them joining this issue at this time is clearly on opportunist move on their part, or we would have heard it from them years ago. I will support men of conviction, but if that conviction floats with the political breeze, they need to be replaced.
scott ehredt February 15, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Thanks for checking it out. I agree there are some principles that should not be compromised. At the same time, governing is frequently about weighing the relative importance of widely held and competing principles. In many cases when we don't compromise, it leave the country in a compromised state. As for the system working for over 200 years, this is true. But there are new developments now that are increasing hyper-partisanship and allowing a smaller number of people to obstruct the business of Congress. For example, the Senate now routinely calls for a filibuster without actually having to hold the podium and speak. No Labels isn't proposing that we do away witht he 200 year tradition of the filibuster. They are merely proposing that we return to the 200 year tradition where Senators actually had to hold the podium by continuously speaking. In other words, if you are going to obsturct a vote, then do the work. Allowing otherwise is a step away from the system that worked for so long. Einstein once famously said that you can't expect a different outcome unless you change the process. For those disatisfied with the outcome we are getting from Congress, the No Labels movement offers a means to change the process.
scott ehredt February 15, 2012 at 04:04 PM
It is quite possible you are correct. Possibly one flaw with me is that I want to believe in the best in people, and that might not be the most accurate way to look at things. But let's assume you are correct and those who signed up for this are actually being opportunistic. If so, then they are responding to the kind of support/pressure that No Labels is creating. If NL can get them to support obvious reforms such as not getting paid when you don't get the work done, then maybe NL can address more significant reforms such as gerrymandering. (Luckily, Iowa doesn't have a serious gerrymandering issue.) Maybe NL can provide an opportunistic way for representatives to address our budget shortfall, without opening them up to primary challenges from their outer flank. If the reality is that they are being opportunistic, then NL is helping to shape that reality and provide the incentives for legislators to have a Congress that is less dysfunctional. By the way, Boswell also co-sponsored this bill. And Latham believes in it so much (according to his staff) that he wrote a competing bill. (I'm not sure the differences). But his staff said that he would support whichever bill makes it to the House floor. I haven't heard King's position on it.
CFBusinessOwner February 15, 2012 at 04:58 PM
I agree that we should stop the borrowing from China---something we've been doing for quite awhile. But we also need to address the reason Congress is at a standstill: Lobbyists (on both sides) can't agree on where the cuts will come from---social services or defense---the major parts of the budget. At least this bill by Braley/Loebsack is a move in the right direction. And best of all, it's got us all discussing this issue. I'm thankful for folks like you who care.
Alison Gowans February 15, 2012 at 06:38 PM
The article has been updated with information about precedent, at the state level, for this idea.
Greg Tagtow February 15, 2012 at 06:51 PM
So then, what happens when one body of congress, say the Republican controlled House, passes budget after budget.............but the other body, for the sake of arguement, the Dem controlled Senate will not even propose a budget. Would they both be punished even though there is nothing the House can do to make the Senate pass a budget?
scott ehredt February 15, 2012 at 07:14 PM
That's exactly how it would work and that's exactly why it would work. Congress as a whole is required to pass a budget as one of their few constitutionally defined responsibilities. If, as an entity, they can't pass one on time, they would all be docked pay and they would all be incented to get their work done.
Stephen Schmidt February 15, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Wow, 67 out of 69 people say yes. At the moment this may be the most lopsided poll we've ever done.
Greg Tagtow February 15, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Sorry to be the 1 Other person. I would have been in the Yes column, but had issues with my perceived motivation of the 2 representatives listed in the article. Also, I have no expectations that even if this did pass, that they would not find some way around it anyway. Just like the false notion of a "debt ceiling" that just keeps getting raised with increased government spending each year. And the false notion of any deficit reduction in Washington that so far has only been decreasing the rate of spending growth, while you are still spending more than we take in. You want to put some fear into them, push for term limits...........
scott ehredt February 15, 2012 at 08:16 PM
You're right, of course. All they have to do to get around it is to pass another law that says they'll suspend this one for a period of time. However, such a move would really tick off a bunch of voters. And, it is harder to withdraw a law than it is to pass one. With the debt ceiling, at least the TEA Party was able to do the country a favor by threatening to not raise it. They focused the attention of citizens on a major problem facing our country. And, before raising it, they were able to get some small concessions that led to trillions of dollars in cuts over 10 years. Unfortunately we need 10's of trillions in cuts. But it was a couple steps in the right direction. I personally am a fan of the Simpson/Bowles plan, which asks all citizens to share the cuts and/or carry some additional tax burden. So while I applaud the TEA Party for getting out attention focused on this issue, I'm disappointed they couldn't support a bi-partisan plan like this where the ratio of cuts:tax increases was about 3:1.
CFBusinessOwner February 15, 2012 at 08:18 PM
(For the sake of civil discourse I think it's good to use their correct respected names. Republicans and Democrats). It's also good to acknowledge that in this case both parties share equal responsibility for lack of movement and so yes, all members should shoulder the blame and be docked their pay.
scott ehredt February 15, 2012 at 08:18 PM
I believe the way California voters handled it is that they actually made it part of their state constitution, so legislators can't pass a contrary law.
Stephen Schmidt February 15, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Haha, you don't have to apologize about having a dissenting opinion from the majority. I was more commenting on how it seemed much more lopsided than I would have though.
Stephen Schmidt February 15, 2012 at 08:20 PM
though --> thought
Greg Tagtow February 15, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Kate, you are still incorrect on how this is supposed to work. You wrote, "It's also good to acknowledge that in this case both parties share equal responsibility for lack of movement and so yes, all members should shoulder the blame and be docked their pay." The Republicans and a few "Democrats" in the House did their job and HAVE passed a budget. They did their job and are waiting for the Democrat controlled Senate to produce a budget so that they can then combine those in committee and hammer out the final budget. There is nothing else that they can do so NO blame should be placed on the ones that did do their work. The Republican "lack of movement" as you call it, is them waiting for 1000 plus days for a Senate budget to compromise with. I don't know how I can make this any easier....
scott ehredt February 15, 2012 at 08:39 PM
But note that the reason the Democrats couldn't pass a budget in the Senate is that the Republicans wouldn't allow debate to end by using the filibuster. So it is the super-majority requirement in place due to the filibuster that prevented the Democrats from passing a budget. It isn’t quite fair to blame them. If the rolls were reversed and the Democrats controlled the House while the Republicans controlled the Senate, the Senate still likely would be the body that didn’t get something passed. That’s where No Labels comes in with their 12-point plan, one point of which is to limit the use of the filibuster.
Greg Tagtow February 15, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Scott, you are incorrect here. My sources tell me this: "You can’t filibuster the budget. The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 stipulates that debate is automatically cut off after 50 hours of debate. At that point, a budget can be passed by a simple majority, 51 votes. Democrats currently hold 53 seats in the Senate. They can pass a budget on a simple party-line vote." If this is indeed the case, the Democrats had more than enough votes in the past 3 years to present and pass a budget. I found it at the link below, although there are other sites saying the same thing and CNN reported as much..... http://biggovernment.com/mikeflynn/2012/02/12/white-house-lies-to-public-on-senate-budget-rules/
B.A. Morelli February 16, 2012 at 07:25 AM
It is interesting that there is a precedent for a bill like this, at least at the state level.


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