Elected officials split on taking pay during shutdown

Amidst a government shutdown, which has sent some federal employees on leave without pay, Congress continues to debate the budget — on the clock.

Elected members to the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives will continue to receive a paycheck from the federal government, while non-essential employees remain on furlough.

Central Missouri Newspapers Inc. asked Mid-Missouri congressional officials their views on drawing a salary during the budgetary gridlock. Each of these four members of Congress earn $174,000 annually.

U.S. SEN. CLAIRE McCASKILL

In response to several questions about what U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, plans to do with her paycheck during the government shutdown, such as which specific charities and why if she chooses to donate it, spokesman for her office Andrew Newbold wrote in an email to the Fulton Sun: “Claire will be writing a check to give up her pay to the U.S. Treasury or to charity ... Whether the money will be given back to the Treasury or to a good cause is a decision the Senator hasn’t had a chance to make yet. But she will not be keeping her salary.”

U.S. SEN. ROY BLUNT

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican, said Wednesday during a telephone conference call with Missouri reporters, “I don’t think it’s worth my time to talk about it,” when asked if he had decided to have his pay withheld or give it to charity.

“I give a lot to charity and, probably like everybody else, could give more than I give,” he said. “I just think we spend so much time talking about things here that really don’t matter. ...

“And I think it’s a silly conversation to have — but, if people want to give their pay back and they’d rather talk about that as the big problem that Congress faces, they certainly have every right in the world to do that.”

Blunt added he doesn’t “want to be critical of any of my colleagues who talk about this, but it is such a small issue relative to the big problem we face.”

Blunt is keeping his Washington, D.C., and Missouri offices open, so that constituents “would have somebody to call, to see if there was a way to solve (a) problem with an agency they were trying to call (that is) shut down — or, at least, figure out how we can get them in contact with the right person, as soon as possible.”

U.S. REP. BLAINE LUETKEMEYER

Although he noted members of Congress must take their salary under the 27th Amendment, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, a Republican from St. Elizabeth, said the congressman is concerned with issues other than salary at this time.

“Right now, he’s focused on trying to get the government up and running,” spokesman Paul Sloca said.

According to Sloca, Luetkemeyer’s staff is at 50 percent right now, with the Jefferson City office open and offices in Washington and Wentzville “open most days.”

Luetkemeyer’s district covers all or part of 13 counties in the central and east-central parts of the state.

His Mid-Missouri counties include Cole, Callaway, Osage, Miller and Camden.

U.S. REP. VICKY HARTZLER

Although U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, has requested to have her pay “withheld,” the offer likely will not be necessary, unless the shutdown drags on.

Congressional employees are paid on the last day of the month. Thus, they just received checks on Sept. 30 and are not due to be paid again until Oct. 31. 

By that point, congressional employees are hopeful the government shutdown will be resolved, said Steve Walsh, Hartzler’s press secretary.

“We hope it doesn’t last long and isn’t an issue,” Walsh said. “We’d like to get it settled as soon as possible.”

In a release issued Wednesday, Hartzler said she’s requested her pay be suspended for the shutdown’s duration.

In a request submitted to the House of Representatives, she wrote: “I have been informed that despite the current lapse in appropriations, Members of Congress will continue to receive their salaries. Until the government shutdown is resolved, I request that my pay be withheld.”

Hartzler’s three district offices will remain open.

Walsh noted that the rest of Hartzler’s staff — including himself — have been working without pay since Tuesday.

“She wanted to do what the rest of the staff is doing,” he noted.

He noted that when the 1996 shutdown was resolved, a continuing resolution allowed all the “essential” employees who worked without pay to receive back pay.

“We think that is likely to happen again,” he suggested.

Although members of Congress may be willing to forgo their checks, the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution restricts Congress from freezing or cutting its own compensation.

As to whether Hartzler would give back or donate any pay she receives from during the shutdown, Walsh said: “We’ve had no discussions about that.”

Hartzler’s district covers more than a quarter of the state, geographically, in the central, west-central and southwest areas — including Columbia, Moberly, Mexico, Warrensburg, Sedalia and Lebanon.

Her Mid-Missouri counties include Boone, Moniteau and Morgan.

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