Congressman Tom Petri is an original cosponsor of legislation introduced September 19 to cut the pay of members of the House and the Senate, and also that of the president and vice president if they fail to avert a scheduled indiscriminate cut in federal spending.
If Congress and the president fail to act before January 2, automatic spending cuts will go into effect, impacting many important programs. But in a recent report, the Office of Management and Budget identified the salaries of those most responsible for the current budget deficits as exempt from the cuts.
"I think that is unacceptable, which is why I participated in introducing the Member Pay Reduction and Responsibility Act, H.R. 6438," said Petri. "If we fail to head off the automatic budget cuts, our salaries should be cut by the same amount as other non-exempt, non-defense discretionary spending - about 8.2 percent."
In the summer of 2011, President Obama called for an increase in the maximum amount of debt the federal government is allowed by law. With the federal deficit for 2011 reaching $1.3 trillion, conservatives in Congress insisted that any increase in the debt ceiling could only be allowed if new procedures were put into place to bring about deficit reduction.
A key part of the debt ceiling agreement was the threat of automatic spending cuts January 2, 2013, if Congress and the president failed to reach a grand bargain to cut deficits. The automatic cuts would be so massive and so indiscriminate that they would simply have to get the job done, it was thought.
"But now, here we are, a little over three months away from the deadline, and little is being done," said Petri. "It's a disaster in the making. Our inaction would lead to massive across the board cuts in defense and non-exempt domestic programs. Separately, we face expiring tax laws that will raise taxes on just about everyone. And the Congressional Budget Office says the threat of inaction could tip the economy back into a full blown recession."
"I am for decisive action to bring the deficit down, but we should decide what to cut. Across the board cuts of this size would be a major mistake," Petri said. "But if we must have them, it would just be wrong to leave out congressional salaries."