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Public Statements

No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. MILLER of Michigan. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise today in strong support of H.R. 325, the No Budget, No Pay Act.

The Budget Act of 1974 requires each House of Congress to pass a budget each year by April 15. This is important, of course, because the budget that we pass is our blueprint, literally, for how we're going to spend the hard-earned tax dollars that the American people send here to Washington to run our Nation.

Today, we are in a situation where the United States Senate has not passed a budget in nearly 4 full years, leaving the American people with no idea of how the Senate intends to deal with the fiscal crisis that is facing our Federal Government. In the time since the Senate last passed a budget, the Federal Government has experienced deficits of over $1 trillion each and every year, and we have added more than $5 trillion to our national debt. Obviously, this is a very serious fiscal crisis, and the American people are demanding answers.

This legislation will allow us room to begin working on a solution that will put our Nation on a much more sound financial footing. This bill will extend our Nation's borrowing authority for 90 days to give each House of Congress, the House and the Senate, the needed time to do what they are legally required to do, which is to pass a budget to show the American people how we intend to deal with the many challenges that we face. But while giving Congress time to do its work, it also has a very important caveat associated with it that says, if we don't do what we are required to do by law, that we will not be paid. Simply put: no budget, no pay.

This idea actually came, Madam Speaker, from previous bipartisan efforts to bring fiscal responsibility to Washington. And now the President has indicated that if it reaches his desk, he will sign it, that he does not oppose it.

As well, there have been very promising indications coming out of the United States Senate from many Democratic Members that they will also step up, after 4 long years of inaction, and put forward a budget.

I believe that this can be the impetus today for us to begin working together to make the difficult decisions to finally address our fiscal challenges. Today, we can send that very strong message to the American people with a bipartisan vote to show that we are willing to put our paychecks on the line to meet these challenges.

Now, some are concerned about whether or not this legislation is constitutional because of the 27th Amendment's restriction that the pay of Members of Congress cannot be varied--that is really the operative phrase of that amendment, ``varied''--that it can neither be raised nor reduced until another election has taken place. This bill, Madam Speaker, was carefully crafted to comply with the requirements of the 27th Amendment.

So this is how it will work:

If either the House or the Senate does not pass a budget by April 15, the deadline, then beginning on April 16, the pay for Members of that Chamber will be placed into an escrow account and will only be paid when that Chamber--either the House or the Senate--has passed a budget or when we reach the end of the 113th Congress. The amount that Members are paid will not be reduced nor will it be raised, so we stay in strict compliance with the terms of the 27th Amendment.

There is no requirement in the 27th Amendment which states that Members have to be paid weekly, biweekly, monthly, or bimonthly or what have you, only that the pay that they receive will not vary.

Now, some have suggested that the escrow account into which the Member pay would be deposited should bear interest so that that could then, as well, be paid to the Members. This cannot happen because that would actually cause Member pay to increase, of course. It would then vary their pay, which would not be in compliance with the strict terms of the 27th Amendment.

So I am extremely hopeful, Madam Speaker, that we will successfully conclude our work in a timely basis here in the House, and I hope that this additional provision, as well, encourages the Senate to also complete our important work and pass a budget.

What we are suggesting certainly is not unreasonable. I'll tell you, I come from southeast Michigan, and one thing I can tell you that is true about the people that I am honored to serve is that they get up every single day, every morning and work hard all day, every day. They simply do not understand how Congress can fail to do our job for almost 4 years--no budget out of the Senate for almost 4 years--and yet suffer no consequences.

The American people are demanding that their Members of Congress deal effectively with the challenges we face. Our problems are real, and it's time for real solutions or real consequences.

The concept, again, very simple: no budget, no pay. When times are tight, you balance your checkbook. When you run out of money, you stop spending. When your credit card is maxed out, you cut it up or get a plan together to pay it off. And if you don't do your job, you don't get paid. These are the principles, Madam Speaker, that Americans live by, and we certainly should be no exception.

So I would urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. MILLER of Michigan. Madam Speaker, before I yield time to my good colleague here, a couple of comments in regards to what my ranking member has said from the committee, why not no gun control, no pay, or using some other examples. I would just point out that none of those are required by law, as passing a budget is required by law.

Also, there was some comment again about the significance of the 27th Amendment. I would just add quickly a statement from David Rivkin, Jr., and Lee Casey. These are two constitutional attorneys that served in former administrations who say the bill passes muster. Their comment:

It does not vary Members' compensation instead holding it in escrow until such time that a budget is passed or, at the latest, this Congress comes to an end. It is attentive to the text and structure of the Constitution.

And just one other quote. This is from another constitutional attorney, a Greg Watson--actually, a gentleman who rallied the support to pass the 27th Amendment. I will proudly point out, in 1992 it was my State of Michigan that put it over the three-fourths threshold. But at any rate, he said:

Nowhere in such a proposal do I see any violation of the terms and provisions of the 27th Amendment. Such a proposal does not vary the dollar amount of compensation to Members of Congress. The proposal merely delays the disbursement of that dollar amount.

Statement of David B. Rivkin, Jr., and Lee A. Casey

Members of Congress are accountable not just to serve their constituents but also to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. The House of Representatives' debt ceiling extension furthers both. The American people expect that their elected representatives in Congress will work together to enact a budget resolution, and the House bill's approach holds them personally accountable for doing so. It honors both Article I and the Twenty-Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it does not vary Members' compensation, instead holding it in escrow until such time that a budget is passed or, at the latest, this Congress comes to an end. This mechanism is a model for the way that Congress ought to work: it is creative, it is fiscally responsible, and it is attentive to the text and structure of the Constitution.

Madam Speaker, at this time I am very honored and privileged to yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Mississippi (Mr. Harper), who is a distinguished member of the Committee on House Administration.

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Mrs. MILLER of Michigan. Madam Speaker, the reason that we have such an enormous amount of national debt, such a number that you can't even get your mind around it anymore, $16 trillion, a big component of that is because we have not been following the law in having the Senate pass a budget as we have done in this House.

I would say, having been very proud to participate and sit on the platform watching the President of the United States in his inaugural getting sworn in just the other day, one of the things that he said is that we have to address our debt and we have to work together. And today, the White House is saying they will not oppose this bill. So I am asking my colleagues to work together in a bipartisan way. Passing a budget is the foundation for us to begin to get a handle on this out-of-control spending and the deficit and the debt that we have.

Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. MILLER of Michigan. Madam Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

I would just say this, Madam Speaker: what we're hearing from our Democratic colleagues here in the House is really a complete disconnect from what we're hearing from their Senate colleagues about this particular bill.

You have House Democrats saying that this bill is nothing but a gimmick. I've heard it said that this bill is a joke. In other words, it is a gimmick or a joke to suggest that Congress should follow the law.

I think that's different than what Senate Democrats have been saying very vocally, that this bill actually would give them an opportunity to pass a budget and the White House saying that they won't oppose it. Again, it's a complete disconnect from my colleagues here on the floor, some that I'm hearing on the other side there. I would say more pointedly that it's a complete disconnect from what the American people have as an expectation for their government, which is to follow the law, to pass a budget, to get a handle on our debt and our spending, and to prioritize our spending.

Again, a budget is a blueprint for a path forward. It speaks to the American people of the priorities of their Congress, of their government. We will have lots of other opportunities to address this terrible national debt.

I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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