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Lawmakers still get a check, even in shutdown mode

By Henry C. Jackson

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:13 p.m. HST, Oct 01, 2013

WASHINGTON >> There's at least one constant in a government shutdown: The 532 members of Congress continue to be paid -- at a cost of $10,583.85 per hour to taxpayers.

Lawmakers get their pay even as hundreds of congressional staffers are sent home, packs of tourists are turned away at the Capitol, and constituent services in many offices grind to a halt. Most entrances to House and Senate office buildings and underground parking garages are closed.

House members and senators can't withhold their own pay even if they want to. Under the Constitution's 27th Amendment, lawmakers can only change the pay of those in a future Congress, not the one in which they serve. Senators and House members are paid $174,000 a year; a handful of leaders make up to $20,000 more.

Lawmakers aren't oblivious to how it looks. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and others are pledging to donate their salaries to charity during the shutdown.

While lawmakers' paychecks will continue, the same isn't true for their aides and some support staff at the Capitol. Like some 800,000 other federal employees judged to be nonessential and therefore furloughed, thousands of workers on Capitol Hill were sent home today.  Those who weren't will still see their paychecks delayed.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., told all but four of the 30 staffers in his Washington office they were not needed during the shutdown. People quit answering his office phones at noon, replaced by a recorded message normally used for greeting after-hours callers. "They'll get to hear my message," Chambliss quipped.

Assistant Senate Democratic leader Dick Durbin sent about 80 percent of his Washington staff home and closed all four of his offices in Illinois. Other lawmakers determined a bigger share of their aides was too important to be furloughed.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said he'd told just four staffers -- all part-timers -- to go home. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., sent about a third of his staff home, though his office did not say how many aides that meant overall. The offices of House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid didn't immediately respond to queries about how many staffers were furloughed and how many were still at work.

The Capitol was eerily quiet for a weekday when Congress is in session. Doors to the House and Senate barber shops were locked as were most of the restaurants and snack facilities in the Capitol and neighboring congressional office buildings. All the gift shops were closed.

The only tourists in the Rotunda, the old House and Senate chambers and other locations for gawking were tiny groups escorted by lawmakers themselves. The red-jacket escorts who normally direct thousands of tourists through the Capitol every day were judged to be nonessential, as were most of the security aides who check them through metal detectors.

As long as the House and Senate remain in session, the visitors galleries for watching lawmakers in action are open, too. Unlike when the government isn't shut down, there weren't any lines of people waiting to get in today. 

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eastside808 wrote:
Somethings wrong when the congressional representatives still get paid while their civil service constituents are furloughed.
on October 1,2013 | 02:44PM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
Why is it that Congress is not placed in an "accepted position" like the Federal government workers who are now going to be working without pay until this whole matter is resolved? Workers who are in a "accepted position" (those that are required to remain while others are on furlough) will get paid but not until the issue is resolved. Likewise Congress and the President should not be paid until this whole matter is resolved. Only until then will we have a sympathetic and understanding government that will work to resolve the issue for the betterment of everyone involved in a more timely manner. At this time Congress and the President are far removed from the realities of not receiving a pay check for basic needs.
on October 1,2013 | 11:55PM
Oahuan wrote:
Oh...that's where the labor unions got their idea from. While the members strike, the union reps still get paid. No wonder unions support the a Democrats.
on October 1,2013 | 02:51PM
lowtone123 wrote:
Well isn't that special.
on October 1,2013 | 03:22PM
MakaniKai wrote:
Of course they do while both sides continue to point fingers. Auwe!
on October 1,2013 | 04:23PM
localguy wrote:
Donate to charity? Really? Hello. This is a nice tax deduction to you, not a loss of pay. Dysfunctional congress must change the law so they too lose their pay just like everyone else. You are no better than anyone else, no special class. If you can't lead by example, get out of the way for those who will. Congress and senate is filled with losers, just can't do their job.
on October 1,2013 | 04:46PM
Skyler wrote:
They need to return it to the US Treasury like Rep. Gabbard is doing. NONE of them should get paid, but the Constitution has to be changed first.

On a different matter - perhaps you should run for office & show us how it's done. Not being facetious - you might be really good at it.
on October 1,2013 | 06:48PM
false wrote:
Luckily that this country is not like other 3rd world countries. Just imagine if thousands of people gathered at the capitol and staged a violent protest/demonstration and demanded congress stop playing games and messing with the lives of 80% of the federal civilian workforce. Worst yet, the threatening of their lives, homes or family have not reached that point yet. It can become ugly if this silly game played by congress continues for a long period of time. Congress always looks out for themselves and protect their benefits by enacting laws for themselves and voted by themselves. How will the taxpayers ever win over congress when they're always covering their okoles and when it becomes law, the citizens cannot do a darn thing.
on October 2,2013 | 06:37AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Except Tulsi Gabbard, she is a much better person than most!
on October 1,2013 | 08:16PM
poidragon wrote:
Saying this only makes me that much more pissed off! 'Lawmakers aren't oblivious to how it looks. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and others are pledging to donate their salaries to charity during the shutdown." How many members of Congress have had actually real life experience living from paycheck to paycheck? Well, I really don't know, nor do I care, but the American people are the ones being affected by this foolish soap opera episode being enacted on Capital Hill by the GoP in the House of Representatives! The ones suffering the most don't want to hear that the members of our dysfunctional Congress are willing to donate their legislative paychecks to charity, they want this political BS to stop and for Congress to get back to work on putting our country back on the road to recovery and prosperity! Abraham Lincoln would not recognize the current incarnation of the Republican party from their political ideology, as it has nothing in common with the founding principles that Mr. Lincoln embraced!
on October 1,2013 | 11:07PM
bigbud808 wrote:
lt was well put ,l read the other day, if congress don't work they shouldn't get paid and they should post the names of who voted for shut down...
on October 2,2013 | 03:38AM
false wrote:
Some claim that they will give part of their salary to charity. Yeah, right! It's hard to believe these sly congress elected officials. Most are silent about their pay especially when their pay is $3,000.00 plus a week versus the average federal worker's pay of $600,00 a week. I hope that congress has furloughed all the non-essentials personnel in the capitol building such as the cafeteria, fitness center, drivers, janitorial services and other bene's that are provided in the capitol building. They should be able to dine at outside food facilities, drive their own cars and clean their own restrooms. If their pay was suspended during this shutdown, I'm positive that they would have acted and pass whatever has caused this shutdown.
on October 2,2013 | 06:55AM
lokela wrote:
That just ain't right period. They should also be furloughed like the people they just screwed.
on October 2,2013 | 06:14AM
leino wrote:
"Senators and House members are paid $174,000 a year" ... for life with perks.
on October 2,2013 | 06:43AM
popaa wrote:
"do as I say, not as I do."
on October 2,2013 | 07:13AM
F8TH wrote:
Remember people, WE all put them there! Don't like what is happening? WE have the power to change things with OUR vote! It is unfortunate that the majority of people who support the people we have in congress now put them there because they are being beneficiaries of the government programs put in place by the people whom they elected. They don't see the big picture, just what is coming to their hands. There is not enough time and space here to explain what is going on and why this is all happening but people, open your eyes, read and study, do your own research on what each political party stands for and why. Unfortunately, our nation is going in the wrong direction and we will all pay for it.
on October 2,2013 | 07:35AM
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