Does Congress Get Paid During A Government Shutdown? The Rules Are Different
The partial government shutdown is now going into week three with no end in sight. Now in day 18, President Donald Trump and lawmakers in Congress appear no closer to a deal to fund the government, remaining as divided as ever on how to move forward on funding for border security in light of Trump's steadfast demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall. But while hundreds of thousands of government workers are furloughed and working without pay, Congress and the president may not feel the same financial burn. Does Congress still get paid during a government shutdown?
In a nutshell, yes: members of Congress' pay is written into the Constitution, and so they are still entitled to pay even in the event that the government is otherwise not open for business. Members of Congress make an annual salary of $174,000 a year, with some higher salaries for party leaders in both chambers.
"Next time we have a gov shutdown, Congressional salaries should be furloughed as well," tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Dec. 22. "It's completely unacceptable that members of Congress can force a government shutdown on partisan lines & then have Congressional salaries exempt from that decision. Have some integrity."
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley agreed. "Today the new Congress takes office," she tweeted on Jan. 3. "No member should get paid while the government is shut down and border security is not funded."
Per USA Today, the president and yes, lawmakers, are still getting paychecks even while some of the nation's governmental workers are doing without. While the Department of the Treasury (USDT), which is responsible for cutting Congress' paychecks, is affected by the shutdown, members are not left in the cold.
As CNBC reported this time last year when the government was, as you might recall, also shut down, the Constitution (Article 1, Section 6) specifically calls for Congressional salaries to be honored by the U.S. treasury by law. That section doesn't specifically address shutdown protocol, but it's been interpreted as such. The Constitution also prohibits either the president or Congress from changing their pay during their current terms of office, meaning that any possible attempt to change that pay structure won't happen anytime soon.
However, during the January 2018 shutdown, some members of Congress refused to accept their scheduled pay in a show of solidarity with furloughed workers, with Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, for one, opting to donate her paycheck to charity. The senator is doing the same for the current shutdown — she said on Dec. 27 she would be donating her salary to food banks throughout her home state throughout the shutdown.
In fact, several lawmakers have chosen to forego a paycheck as the shutdown has stretched into a third workweek and workers anticipate what could be their first missed paycheck after the pay period ending Jan. 11. Trump, as promised, has continued to donate his presidential salary to various departments and causes through 2018, according to PolitiFact, but it hasn't stopped the affected workers from feeling the burn.
With nine federal departments shut down currently, including the Treasury, it's estimated that the shutdown has affected some 800,000 workers, who, as The New York Times reports, collectively owe nearly $250 million in mortgage payments each month. The shutdown, which began on Dec. 22, became the third of the 2018 calendar year, and at 18 days, it's already the second-longest in U.S. history. When will it end? It's hard to say — but hopefully, it won't be too much longer.