The Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced today that Norton would introduce legislation when Congress returns from recess next week to subject the salaries of members of Congress to any future sequestration, or automatic, across-the-board spending cuts. Under the 1985 law that established the sequestration process, certain federal programs, activities and projects, such as Social Security benefits, are expressly exempt from the across-the-board spending cuts. The law also specifically exempts the President's salary. Member salaries are not expressly exempt, but the law has been interpreted by the Office of Management and Budget as exempting member salaries because, apparently, their salaries do not meet the definition in the law of an "account."
"It is the very definition of unfairness for well-paid members of Congress to subject federal employees, who earn less, to effective pay cuts that the members who mandate salary reductions are not willing to take themselves," Norton said. "Sequestration cuts are beginning to spread wreckage in critical federal programs and investments on which the American people depend. Federal employees are facing pay reductions due to the furloughs scheduled to begin this month, on top of three years of pay freezes. The least Congress should do is update the 1985 law so that in the event of sequester cuts during any year in the future, members would share in the pain they are inflicting on the country and on federal employees. If we do not fix the 1985 law now, the American people will conclude that we have deliberately taken a pass on cuts to members' salaries."
In order to comply with the 27th Amendment, which prohibits changes to member salaries until an intervening election, the Norton bill would take effect next Congress. While the salaries of members of Congress are currently exempt from sequestration, their office budgets, which pays for staff, are not and are subject to the same across-the-board cuts as federal agencies.
Prior to sequestration becoming effective this year, Norton announced that she would donate a day's pay for each day federal employees are furloughed this year as a result of sequestration, divided between support of furloughed federal employees and providing the same level of constituent services to the residents of the District of Columbia by preventing furloughs of her own office staff. Norton's donations, which will match the highest number of furlough days by any federal agency, will go to the non-profit Federal Employee Education & Assistance Fund, which, among other things, provides no-interest loans and grants to federal employees experiencing financial hardships, and to her office.