One of the more irritating things Congressmen do – and there are lots of those – is the introduction of gimmick bills designed to get headlines.
We see those all the time. Often they involve Congress attempting to treat itself the way the general public is treated, or to punish supposed evildoers for the crime of making money in ways the bill’s author deems unfit.
But last week Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) threw another gimmick bill on the table – and for once, it’s a bill worthy of passage.
The legislation I have co-sponsored is simple – members of the U.S. Senate and House do not get paid until they pass a budget. The appropriately named “No Budget, No Pay Act” (H.R. 3643), stipulates that if Congress does not approve a budget and spending bills by October 1st of each year, the paycheck for every single member of the Senate and House will be withheld until a budget is approved. Additionally, no member can retroactively receive pay that would have been earned during the time without a budget.
No small business would tolerate paying an employee who refuses to do his or her job. So why should taxpayers pay a Congress that refuses to complete one of its most basic annual responsibilities? They shouldn’t, and that’s why I support the “No Budget, No Pay Act.”
For all of the constant griping about Congressional privilege and how well they’re paid, the amount of money Congressional pay actually constitutes is microscopic in the grand scheme of things. But not having a federal budget is far more costly; not having a federal budget means the federal government runs on continuing resolutions – and those continuing resolutions mean federal spending is essentially locked in at levels higher than at any point since World War II. Without a budget there is no prioritization of federal spending, there is no pruning of wasteful or ineffective programs, there are no layoffs or furloughs of federal employees as they’re needed. Instead the government continues churning out $3.6 trillion per year in federal spending, 40 percent of which has to be borrowed.
The House, since the Republicans recovered a majority in 2010, has passed budgets. But in each of the past two years those budgets have been dead on arrival in the Senate. Senate Democrats won’t vote for a Republican budget, and as it turns out they absolutely won’t vote for President Obama’s budget. And the Senate leadership won’t even offer one.
Why? Well, because Harry Reid and his leadership team know that if there is to be a budget it will have to be a great deal smaller than the de-facto budget being churned out of Washington on these continuing resolutions. Having a budget means cutting the budget; Reid knows he can’t get a deal with the Republicans on the House side without swallowing serious budget cuts – not because John Boehner is so unreasonably hard to deal with but because there is a majority within the GOP majority which is in favor of deep cuts to the size of the federal leviathan.
And that’s no good for Reid and the Democrats. Better to leave the budget alone, and in so doing effectively lock in the massive spending increases which in the last six years has grown from $2.73 trillion – that was the figure produced by the GOP-controlled House before Republicans lost their majority in the 2006 elections – to $3.60 trillion now. That’s a 32 percent increase in federal spending in just six years; in their wildest dreams Democrats couldn’t have come up with such a bacchanal.
So Reid will hold on as long as he can with the current levels of spending, and when the question of balancing the budget is brought to the table you’ll hear him talk about soaking the rich – regardless of the fact no serious forecast shows that the Buffet rule or any of the other socialist-style tax hike plans will make even the slightest dent in a trillion-dollar debt blob.
Buchanan’s bill doesn’t guarantee a balanced budget. What it does do is make it painful for Reid’s members to continue the status quo.
Of course it won’t pass. But it deserves to, because like Buchanan said if you can’t pass a budget on Capitol Hill you’re not doing your job. And if you’re not doing your job why should you get paid?