Many aspects of this government shutdown confuse me. While federal workers throughout the country are not receiving their paychecks, I am unclear about the members of Congress. It is my understanding from some sources that the House of Representatives and Senate are being paid as usual. Yet other sources claim they know of specific congressmen and senators who are not receiving their paychecks.
Drew B., Portland, Ore.
Congressmen and senators are paid during government shutdowns. The Constitution of the United States provides for that benefit. Unless and until Congress revises the law (which they can), members of Congress will continue to be paid during government shutdowns.
That said, there are individual congressmen and senators who, by choice, are declining their paychecks. At least one from your state of Oregon is doing so by donating the paychecks to charity while the government shutdown remains in place. Speaking of which, giving oneís paycheck to a worthwhile cause is one of various ways that members of Congress can deny themselves their salaries. Since the 17th Amendment precludes members of Congress from altering their salaries (upward or downward) during their term, congressmen and senators cannot actually keep themselves from being paid. Accordingly, here are the methods of getting around the situation should a congressman or senator wish to pass on his or her salary during a shutdown.
No. 1. For each pay check, they can simply ask the appropriate financial office to withhold their pay.
No. 2. For each pay check, they can write and send a check to the United States Treasury.
No. 3. For each pay check, they can donate the amount to whatever cause interests them. As for organizations currently receiving such contributions from congressmen and senators, some examples among others are a boys & girls club, domestic survivors, a food bank, a homeless shelter, an immigrant rights group, a military scholarship, a refugee society, a veterans program, and a volunteer fire department,
Whether or not you find Nos. 1, 2 and 3 encouraging, many citizens would be pleased when legislation discontinues paychecks to members of Congress during government shutdowns. That can easily be accomplished by members of Congress. As a consumer and constituent, you are welcome to contact your congressmen and senators on that issue. In addition to direct contact by e-mail, letter, or telephone, you can always reach them through the United States Capitol at (202) 224-3121.
Meanwhile, letís be optimistic. Perhaps the government shutdown will be concluded by the time you read this column.
Jerry Romansky is a syndicated columnist. Readers are invited to write in English or Spanish: Ask Jerry, Post Office Box 42444, Washington DC 20015. E-mail email@example.com and (because of spam situation) write the name of your newspaper in subject heading. Questions of popular interest are answered in the column. Unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.