MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – With just days until automatic budget cuts will start slashing 13 percent from federal defense budgets and 9 percent from the rest of the federal government, many viewers like Jim Bitter from Eden Prairie are asking if politicians will feel the pain.
“How much will the salaries and staff budgets of the president, vice president, cabinet members, senators and congressmen be affected by the sequester cuts?” asked Bitter “I have a feeling that I’m not going to like the answer.”
Indeed, Congress can’t cut its pay because of the Constitution’s 27th Amendment. It was intended to keep senators from giving themselves pay raises. They can give the next Congress a raise, but the amendment says they can’t pass any “law varying the compensation.” So no pay cut either.
WCCO-TV reached out to Minnesota’s congressional representatives, who said they expect to see cuts of 5 to 10 percent in their office budgets. Steve Johnson, communications director for U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minnesota), says they will feel the impact.
“The cuts would certainly affect travel, day to day expenditures for items such as office supplies, and our ability to hire a full contingent of staff,” Johnson said. “Bottom line is that we all continue to do as much or more with less and provide taxpayers with a solid return on investment for every dollar.”
According to Tony Ufkin, press secretary for U.S. Rep. Tim Walz (D- Minnesota), it’s the same scenario throughout the congressional offices held by Minnesotans.
“In the last two years our office budget has been cut by about 11 percent and, should sequestration take effect, would face additional across-the-board cuts just like everybody else,” Ufkin said. “Furthermore, the congressman has been frugal with his office budget since first coming to Congress, returning over $200,000 in savings to the U.S. Treasury.”
Despite the fact that the Constitution prohibits this Congress from cutting its pay, Walz is already returning some of his salary to taxpayers, according to Ufkin.
“Since he first came to Congress, he has voluntarily frozen his salary and gives back his automatic pay raise to the U.S. Treasury every month in an effort to help pay down the debt,” he said.
Allison Myhre, communications director for U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota), says cuts are nothing new to her office.
“We are going to be cut, but we don’t know exactly how much,” Myhre said. “In the past few years [our office] has given significant amounts back [of our budget] and we expect to be able to deal with those cuts.”
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D- Minnesota) says the sequester will hurt Americans across the board.
“I didn’t vote for the sequester, and I don’t support it,” McCollum said. “It will reduce citizens’ access to a variety of government services, including those provided by congressional offices. Sequestration will affect my ability to serve my constituents in the way in which they deserve.”
Cabinet secretaries and 1,500 other presidential appointees are considered 24/7 jobs, so none of them will be eligible for temporary layoffs or furloughs.
Most of the rest of federal employees will be potentially laid off for a period of time, unless a deal is made by March 1.