Reporting Heather Brown
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hundreds of thousands of federal workers won’t be getting paid for the foreseeable future. That had many of you emailing, wanting to know: Do members of Congress get paid during a government shutdown?
“I was hoping they weren’t paid in the shutdown,” said Larry Lozinski of Richfield. “I was hoping it would help them get motivated to talk with each other.”
All 435 House members and 100 Senators are paid through the shutdown.
“Their pay is written into law,” said University of Minnesota political science professor Kathryn Pearson. “Members of Congress are paid during shutdowns, because their pay is not subject to the annual appropriations process.”
It’s those twelve appropriations bills Congress hasn’t yet passed that fund the salaries of all other federal workers, including Congressional staffers.
But the members’ annual salaries of $174,000 come from a different pool. The Speaker of the House makes more at $223,500 a year.
“The idea is that members of Congress aren’t determining their own salary,” Pearson said. “The law was designed to protect the public from Congressional excess, members voting themselves pay raises while in office.”
In addition to the Congressional pay law, the 27th Amendment prevents members from making any salary changes this session. The 27th Amendment specifically prevents any salary changes until the start of a new term.
As for Congressional staffers, those who are considered essential are working now without pay. They will receive back pay when the shutdown is over. As for other federal workers or staffers who have been furloughed, it’s unclear if they will receive back pay. When the government shutdown in 1995-1996 for 28 days total, those furloughed workers did receive back pay.
WCCO-TV asked Minnesota’s Congressional delegation about what they’ll do with their paychecks during the shutdown.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) said she’d donate to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.
Sen. Al Franken (D) said he’d donate to a “charitable organization that’s helping people affected by the shutdown.”
Rep. Tim Walz (D-1st District) said he will donate to ECHO Food Shelf of Mankato and Rochester’s Channel One Regional Food Bank.
Rep. John Kline (R-2nd District) has asked for his pay to be withheld.
Rep. Erik Paulsen (R- 3rd District) said he’d ask for pay to be withheld.
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-4th District) did not return calls.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D – 5th District) said he will keep pay. In a statement, he wrote: “If handing back pay would help furloughed workers I would find a way to survive without pay, but of course it won’t. Only allowing a vote on a clean continuing resolution will do that. The focus on Congressional pay is an attempt to draw attention away from the issue.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R – 6th District) said she’d ask for pay to be withheld.
Rep. Collin Peterson (D – 7th District) did not return calls.
Rep. Rick Nolan (D – 8th District) said he will donate a portion to charity.