Why, members of Congress, that’s who. Surprise:
There’s at least one constant in a government shutdown: The 532 members of Congress continue to be paid — at a cost of $10,583.85 per hour to taxpayers.
Lawmakers get their pay even as hundreds of congressional staffers are sent home, packs of tourists are turned away at the Capitol, and constituent services in many offices grind to a halt. Most entrances to House and Senate office buildings and underground parking garages are closed.
House members and senators can’t withhold their own pay even if they want to. Under the Constitution’s 27th Amendment, lawmakers can only change the pay of those in a future Congress, not the one in which they serve. Senators and House members are paid $174,000 a year; a handful of leaders make up to $20,000 more.
In fact, this isn’t much of a surprise at all. But I must confess I was surprised. Why? I’m not exactly sure. After all, I knew that Ted Cruz and many other members of Congress were donating their salaries to charity or finding other ways not to get paid. A good idea, no? There’s something profoundly wrong about Washington lawmakers collecting six figure salaries while at the same time their underpaid staffers are losing their paychecks and/or continuing to serve for free. Then again, some members of Congress don’t seem to mind giving themselves special exemptions and privileges unavailable to the American people. Surprise.
The point is that the men and women who are seemingly suffering the most in Washington (besides, of course, World War II veterans) are hill staffers. Indeed, the AP paints an unfortunate picture of what’s happening to them:
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., told all but four of the 30 staffers in his Washington office they were not needed during the shutdown. People quit answering his office phones at noon, replaced by a recorded message normally used for greeting after-hours callers. “They’ll get to hear my message,” Chambliss quipped.
Assistant Senate Democratic leader Dick Durbin sent about 80 percent of his Washington staff home and closed all four of his offices in Illinois. Other lawmakers determined a bigger share of their aides was too important to be furloughed.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said he’d told just four staffers — all part-timers — to go home. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., sent about a third of his staff home, though his office did not say how many aides that meant overall. The offices of House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid didn’t immediately respond to queries about how many staffers were furloughed and how many were still at work
The Capitol was eerily quiet for a weekday when Congress is in session. Doors to the House and Senate barber shops were locked as were most of the restaurants and snack facilities in the Capitol and neighboring congressional office buildings. All the gift shops were closed.