U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said today he will cosponsor and work to make law legislation to cut off pay to Congress if it doesn't pass a budget and appropriations bills by the beginning of the fiscal year, October 1, as required by law.
"How can you balance a budget if you don't have a budget?" Alexander said. "You wouldn't get paid at the Grand Ole Opry if you showed up late and refused to sing. The same should apply to members of Congress who don't do their jobs."
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) introduced the "No Budget, No Pay" Act in the Senate last December. Rep. Jim Cooper has introduced the legislation with 87 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation provides that members of Congress may not receive pay after October 1 of any fiscal year in which Congress has not approved a concurrent resolution on the budget and passed the regular appropriations bills.
Alexander said, "I have tried every other means I know of to persuade senators to do their work on time and it hasn't worked."
In February, Alexander helped organize a bipartisan coalition of senators to encourage Senate leaders to follow through on their announcement that they would try to enact all twelve appropriations bills by the October 1 deadline.
The Senate Appropriations Committee reported nine of the 12 bills to the Senate floor by July 9, but Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid reversed course and announced that the Senate would not consider any appropriations bills this year.
In a Senate floor speech on July 19, Alexander addressed Reid's failure to bring up the legislation, a right only the majority leader has, saying: "By not bringing up appropriations bills, by reverting to political exercises, by leaving off the table many amendments that need debate none of that encourages confidence in the ability of the United States to govern."
Alexander said today: "I am fed up with the failure of Congress to do its most basic job of managing taxpayer money and am I am sure most Tennesseans are, too. This is serious proposal by Sen. Heller and Rep. Cooper. It deserves bipartisan support and I will work to make it the law."
Alexander continued: "This is mostly a one-sided problem. The Republican House passed a budget on time in each of the last two years. The Democratic Senate has not approved a budget for three years. Even though Democrats have been the primary offenders, both parties have not lived up to their responsibilities. It is time to enact new rules and make sure the job gets done regardless of who is in power."
Alexander said fiscal year 2006 was the last time Congress passed all of the appropriations bills.