Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I rise to voice my concerns regarding S. 388, a bill to prohibit Members of Congress and the President from receiving pay during government shutdowns. While I believe it is important we in Congress lead by example, I am concerned this bill does not go far enough. Every bill that Senate moves this Congress should send a clear message to the American taxpayer that we are serious about our Nation's finances, the economic struggles being faced by our fellow citizens across the country, and the future of this great country.
If we are going to prohibit pay for Members of Congress and the President, we must also include members of the President's Cabinet, for example.
The bill prohibits retroactive pay for Members of Congress and the President who would not be paid during a government shutdown. This prohibition on retroactive pay should also apply to nonessential Federal Government employees who would be furloughed during a government shutdown. It is unfair to force hard-working Americans to pay the salaries of politicians who have failed to do their jobs or government employees who did not have to report to work because they are nonessential.
It is also my opinion that this legislation encourages Members of Congress to raise the debt ceiling. Clearly Congress does not need any more incentive to borrow and spend money or raise the debt ceiling. Since March of 1996 Congress has raised the debt limit 12 times. In 1995, the gross Federal debt was $4.92 trillion. Today, the national debt exceeds $14 trillion. We should not be passing legislation incentivizing more borrowing and debt. If anything, this bill should reduce Members' pay if they increase the debt limit, not the other way around.
I am also concerned with the timing and need for this bill. Prior to the Presidents Day recess, the House of Representatives passed a bill funding the operations of the Federal Government through the remainder of the fiscal year that included over $60 billion in spending reductions. Unfortunately, the Senate, which has not passed a single appropriations bill for fiscal year 2011, once again failed to act on this bill. And just today, the House passed a 2-week continuing resolution that the Senate will pass. It is about time for the Senate to do its most basic job--ensuring the continued operations of the Federal Government in a fiscally responsible manner.
With government spending at unsustainable levels, it is imperative that every Member of Congress make hard choices regarding Federal spending and cut waste, fraud, abuse, and duplication at every level of government.