Today, Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-Miramar) voted against H.R. 325, the "No Budget, No Pay Act," which would suspend the debt ceiling through May 18, 2013, as well as withhold salaries from Members of Congress if the House and Senate do not adopt a budget resolution by April 15, 2013.
"I voted against this legislation because we don't have time to waste on silly political gimmicks that cover for right-wing radicalism. While I am pleased that some of my Republican colleagues have finally recognized the grave importance of ensuring the full faith and credit of the United States in the payment of its debt obligations, it is ridiculous to attach to this measure impractical provisions that do nothing to address our underlying national challenges.
"In the first place, suspending the debt ceiling until May just keeps kicking the can down the road, creating yet another crisis point three months in the future. The Republican philosophy seems to be: Why do now what we can do later -- and why do later what we can do even later? This is no way to address our fiscal challenges, and it is no way to manage the world's largest economy.
"Withholding Member pay is downright silly. It is unconstitutional under the 27th Amendment, which says that Congress cannot pass a law varying Member compensation unless there has been an election before the law takes effect. In any case, this bill doesn't permanently withhold salary, it simply places the money in an escrow account to be released at the end of this congressional session. In other words, it does nothing.
"But if we're going to make Member pay contingent on the House and Senate adopting a budget resolution by April 15th, then why not make Member pay contingent on other legislative goals, as well? Maybe we should dock pay for Members who fail to vote favorably on disaster relief legislation. Or maybe we should refuse to pay salaries until Congress passes an economic stimulus plan that creates jobs and grows the economy.
"There is an endless series of challenges that both the House and Senate ought to be tackling to benefit struggling Americans. The problem isn't Member pay. The problem is an unyielding, reckless, and extremist bloc in the Republican Party, which insists on obstructionism at all costs, even if that means doing great harm to the American economy. You can withhold all the pay you want, but until the Republican Party can bring their right-wing under control, the 113th Congress is in for as difficult a ride as the 112th."
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.