Deny Congress pay during shutdown

Regardless of how or when the federal government shutdown ends, one thing is certain: Members of Congress should not get paid for the days the government was not fully operational.

Not only should lawmakers not get paid during the shutdown, but they should not be paid retroactively for the days of the shutdown once the government is up and running again.

In private business or industry, if an employee doesn’t get his or her work done by the time the work is to be completed, that worker is disciplined or fired.

Yet, in the federal government, the people in charge have the power to not accomplish what they’re being paid to do and still get compensated as if they were.

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., has introduced a bill that would block members of Congress from getting their salaries for as long as the shutdown continues. Too bad there’s virtually no chance of that idea gaining much support from enough other lawmakers.

Meanwhile, the bill might – might – violate the Constitution’s 27th Amendment, which stipulates that no law changing congressional compensation may take effect until an election in the House of Representatives.

However, it would be interesting to obtain a court interpretation, based on what is and isn’t happening in Washington these days.

Since the government workers who have been furloughed aren’t performing their assigned tasks, it would be logical for them not to be paid for work not done.

But like what occurred in connection with a shutdown in the mid-1990s, lawmakers already have assured that the pay will be forthcoming.

The type of concern and compassion that the government-employee pay action seems to project isn’t spilling over to the Americans losing money in their employee 401(k) accounts as a result of the shutdown’s negative fallout on Wall Street.

Likewise, families awaiting approval of government-backed mortgages likely will have to wait longer as a result of Congress’ impasse.

Resolving the federal budget and the nation’s debt limit issues are more pressing immediately than the repeal of what has become known as Obamacare.

Even if Obamacare is allowed to remain as it currently exists, Congress in the future can change parts of it that don’t work – or even repeal it through an orderly shutdown unlike the kind some in Washington now are promoting.

Regarding the congressional pay issue, several lawmakers have said they either would refuse their pay throughout the shutdown or donate it to a worthy cause. However, even those donating it would win; they would be permitted to claim the donation as a charitable contribution on their federal income tax return.

Like the shutdown, that’s unacceptable.

“It’s time for Congress to start living in the real world – where you either do your job, or you don’t get paid,” Minnesota’s Nolan said, noting the lack of compromise and collaboration that continues in Congress’ two chambers.

It would be at least a small refreshing gesture if all members of the House and Senate jumped on board with his idea.