USA Today: Should Congress get paid if the US defaults on its debt? These lawmakers say no.


A new bill would block lawmakers from getting paid if the government defaults on its loans or shuts down, a looming possibility as negotiations over raising the debt ceiling stall between President Joe Biden and top Republicans.

Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., on Thursday introduced bipartisan legislation that would require congressional payroll administrators to withhold lawmakers’ pay once the debt limit has been reached or a lapse in government funding begins, according to a press release.

Lawmakers would still eventually receive that pay. The payments would be released at the end of the 118th Congress in 2025, in compliance with the 27th Amendment.

“Members of Congress promise to fight for their constituents in Washington, and should not be paid a taxpayer-funded salary if they cannot deliver on that promise,” Fitzpatrick said in the release. “Our bipartisan legislation is a no-brainer — lawmakers should not be paid if we irresponsibly default on our nation’s debt.”

‘If you don’t do your job, you don’t get paid’

The government is allowed to borrow up to $31.4 trillion. After hitting that limit in January, the Treasury Department has been using “extraordinary measures” to pay the nation’s bills.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told congressional leaders earlier this month that her “best estimate” is that a default could occur as soon as June 1, though it could also be “a number of weeks later.” She called it “imperative that Congress act as soon as possible to increase or suspend the debt limit in a way that provides longer-term certainty that the government will continue to make its payments.”

Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy appeared to make some progress toward a debt ceiling deal in an Oval Office meeting earlier this week. McCarthy told reporters after the short afternoon meeting that it’s possible to “get a deal by the end of the week.”

Should the party leaders fail to strike up a deal, the Treasury has predicted a doomsday scenario in which global financial markets fall into turmoil, mortgage rates rise, seniors miss Social Security checks and millions of jobs are wiped out across the country. In such an instance, Spanberger and Fitzpatrick’s bill suggests members of Congress should struggle alongside ordinary Americans.

“Working Americans get it,” Spanberger said in the press release. “If you don’t do your job, you don’t get paid.”

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