Saturday, March 8, 2014
NOTE: This blog was updated Wednesday afternoon to include Rep. Mike Michaud, D-District 2.
WASHINGTON – All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation plan to donate their paychecks to charity or to needy individuals if furloughed federal employees are not repaid for working during the government shutdown.
Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins as well as Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud indicated that they would only keep their congressional salaries if furloughed employees who are working during the shutdown also receive retroactive pay. The lawmakers differ slightly, however, on what they would do with the money.
“If [furloughed] people who come to work get paid, I’ll get paid. If not, I won’t,” King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said in an interview.
Because members of Congress will still be paid during the shutdown and cannot technically refuse pay, King said he would set aside the money in an escrow account until the situation is resolved.
Collins spokesman Kevin Kelley said the Republican wants to end the shutdown quickly "because of its serious ramifications for American families and our economy."
"Senator Collins believes that members of Congress should lose pay if federal employees who also work during the shutdown are not ultimately compensated," Kelley said in an email late Tuesday. "If that occurs, Senator Collins will donate pay during the shutdown to charities."
A representative for Maine Rep. Mike Michaud, D-District 2, said Wednesday morning that the Democrat would also earmark his shutdown earnings for others.
"If employees who work during a shutdown don't get paid, the congressman wil use his paycheck to directly assist people in need in Maine," said Ed Gilman, Michaud's spokesman. Gilman said rather than giving to an organized charity, Michaud would donate to, say, a family in need of assistance paying their heating bills or to a cause impacting veterans. Michaud is a Democratic candidate for governor in 2014.
The Washington Post had tallied more than 65 federal lawmakers – almost evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans – who had pledged as of Wednesday afternoon to donate or forgo their paychecks.
Members of Congress earn $174,000 a year, although members of leadership receive even more. That equates to nearly $3,350 a week before taxes for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate.
But while hundreds of thousands of federal workers will not receive paychecks as a result of the congressional stalemate, lawmakers will still get paid because their salaries are stipulated by law and are not part of the traditional budgeting process. In fact, the 27th Amendment of the Constitution states that a sitting Congress cannot change its own pay; instead, any changes take effect after the next election.
An estimated 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed as a result of the partial shutdown of government that began on Tuesday. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees – including law those in enforcement, air traffic control and some public health roles – continued to work on Tuesday without pay because their positions were deemed as critical.
Congress has approved retroactive pay for furloughed employees affected by past government shutdowns but is under no obligation to do so. Active duty military personnel as well as civilian defense workers who are not furloughed will be paid, per a last-minute bill passed by Congress prior to the shutdown.
It was unclear when government offices would re-open. There were no signs of serious, leadership-level negotiations on Tuesday between Senate Democrats and House Republicans who are in a stalemate over Obamacare that has spilled over into the federal budget.
Financial disclosure reports show that King and Pingree or their spouses have substantial financial assets. Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, a hedge fund manager who is also majority owner of Maine Today Media, which publishes the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel.Tweet
Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or email@example.com
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