NASHVILLE -- While 800,000 federal employees are on unpaid furloughs due to the government shutdown, taxpayer-funded checks are still going to the people 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. Republicans and Democrats are involved in a partisan standoff over continuing funding for the federal government, which led to the shutdown Tuesday.
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 is giving 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 wrote Tuesday morning in a Facebook posting.
Cooper, who since 2011 has made a cause of trying to punish Congress with legislation for failing to pass spending bills, said in a statement Wednesday he also was donating his money to charity during the partial shutdown.
"Members of Congress should be punished for the shutdown of government," the Nashville Democrat said and added he also will give his money to charity.
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."
Closer to home, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., "will ask the Chief Administrative Officer of the House to withhold his pay until the temporary lapse in appropriations is resolved," spokesman John Donnelly said in a statement, also noting 11 of 17 staff members have been furloughed.
In an interview Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., noted that congressional pay is mandated in the U.S. Constitution. Efforts were unsuccessful Wednesday in reaching a spokesman to see whether the Chattanooga congressman is considering donating it to charity during the budget battle.
In 2011, Cooper introduced the "No Budget, No Pay Act," which would stop congressional pay if lawmakers fail to pass a budget and all spending bills on time.
He reintroduced it in the current Congress. A revised version was added to a Republican debt-ceiling bill but was altered, then passed. Senators also passed it in January. As amended, if a budget is not passed on time, congressional paychecks would be diverted into escrow accounts until a deal is struck or until the end of the 113th Congress, Politico reported earlier this year.
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, ...
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