Unlike some in Congress who claim they won’t be taking their salary, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) specified the charity to which his salary will be sent. Franken will be donating his salary during the GOP shutdown to Second Harvest Heartland, a hunger relief organization that works throughout Minnesota.
“Second Harvest Heartland is a great organization that works throughout Minnesota, providing vital assistance to families who would otherwise go hungry,” said Senator Franken in a statement. “Just as I was prepared to do in 2011 when we faced a possible shutdown, I won’t be taking my salary. I believe that while the government is shut down, donating my salary to charity is the right thing to do, and I’m going to make sure that money goes toward helping people who might be badly affected by the shut down.”
The Senator’s office explained that he chose this organization because “he said people who rely on the federal government’s safety net programs may need help making ends meet as a result of the shutdown.”
Members of Congress make $174,000 a year, with leadership making more. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) makes $223,500 annually, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the President pro tempore of the Senate make $193,400.
The Washington Post is keeping a running tally of which lawmakers have sworn to “refuse” their salaries. As of this writing, they’ve determined that at least 56 Republicans and 48 Democrats have claimed that they will refuse or donate their salaries.
However, under the Constitution, members of Congress and the president must be paid by law, so they can’t technically just refuse their salaries. Under the 27th amendment, lawmakers’ salaries can’t be altered until the start of a new term. Thus they will be donating money if they are really “refusing” it, and not just putting out a statement saying that they are “refusing” their salary.
A Boehner spokesperson told The Washington Post that the speaker “will not be paid for the duration of the shutdown.” Note the passive voice here — this could mean anything. How will he not be paid? He has to be paid per the law. Is he going to wait to collect his paycheck or is he really giving the money to charity or back to the government? Look for specificity in these promises or they are sort of meaningless.
In January, Senator Barbara Boxer introduced a bill designed to prevent lawmakers from getting paid if the government was shutdown. The Daily Beast noted, “A similar bill passed the Senate unanimously in 2011, but the House never voted on it.”
So, the Republican-led House blocked a bill to keep them from getting paid when they take the economy hostage.
Since Republicans are behind this shutdown (and no, they don’t get a break just because they are not part of the suicide caucus because as of this writing, they haven’t managed to stand up to the tea jihadists), including charging newbie Senator Ted Cruz who specializes in adolescent hubris, their first order of business should have been to shut down their own perks and salaries. Not all of Congress, not their staffers, but their own. Jumping off the bridge because Ted said so isn’t good enough for highly paid alleged adults whose job it is to fund the government.
Personal accountability might help them grow up.