Senators and representatives should not draw paychecks unless they raise the federal debt limit, Democratic Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Barbara Boxer of California declared in a letter to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.
The same goes for President Obama, the senators wrote.
"There is no reason that Members of Congress and the president should be free from the pain that would be felt by our nation if the government were to default on its obligations, and if we cannot do our jobs and protect the full faith and credit of the United States, we should not get paid,” Casey and Boxer said in the letter.
It was a part of the political drama surrounding the debate over whether to raise the $14.3 trillion borrowing limit, allowing the federal government to take on more debt to pay its bills. The statutory ceiling needs to be raised by early August in order to keep from defaulting on the national debt, and to send the proper signals to the bond markets that the U.S. can be trusted.
Republicans however insist that they will not vote to raise the debt limit without a deal for significant cuts in federal spending, including entitlements, to keep the slow the growth of the debt. Some fiscal hawks in the GOP, led by freshman Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania, say that the debt limit does not need to be increased since there are enough federal revenues to pay the debt service, as long as the Treasury prioritizes those payments.
Of course, that avenue would lead to immediate spending cuts so deep that at least parts of the government would grind to a halt so that creditors could get theirs. But if nothing is done to fundamentally lower federal spending, raising the debt limit would just be an excuse to keep going down a dangerous path, argue Toomey and other Republicans.
Geithner takes the position that not raising the limit would threaten U.S. creditworthiness and cause chaos in the markets.
Casey and Boxer wrote a bill, S 388, which would prohibit Congress from being paid if the government shuts down or defaults on its debts. It passed the Senate but has not come to a vote in the House.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee took a shot at Casey, who is up for reelection next year, noting that the Democratic-controlled Senate had failed to pass a budget blueprint for 762 days as of Wednesday. (The government is running on a temporary measure called a continuing resolution.)
“We’d challenge Sen. Casey once again to put his money where his mouth is and…tell Pennsylvanians whether he will in fact reimburse taxpayers for the Senate salary he’s taken over the last 762 days, and forgo his paycheck until he and his fellow Senate Democrats do their job and pass a federal budget,” Chris Bond, press secretary for the NRSC, said in a statement.
Um, probably not going to happen…
Congressional GOP leaders met with Obama Wednesday in the White House to discuss the debt ceiling issue, one day after the House voted down a so-called “clean” measure to raise the limit – one without spending cuts or reforms attached to it.