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The Introduction of the Member of Congress Pay Sequestration and Fairness Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce the Member of Congress Pay Sequestration and Fairness Act, which would subject the pay of Members of the House and Senate to any future sequestration, or automatic, across-the-board spending cuts. While Members of Congress may differ on the merits of sequestration, once the cuts are a matter of law, Members should abide by the laws we impose on the American people. The most serious effects of these arbitrary, across-the-board cuts are being felt by the American people. For example, during the remainder of this fiscal year, as a result of sequestration cuts to Medicare, many cancer clinic patients will have to go to hospitals for outpatient chemotherapy at sharply higher costs, or face reduced access to treatment. More than a million federal employees may be furloughed, which will result in reduced pay. It is simply unfair for well-paid Members of Congress to subject federal employees, who not only usually earn considerably less but are now also in their third year of frozen wages, to pay cuts that Members are unwilling to take themselves.

Under the 1985 law that established the sequestration process, the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act (also known as the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act), Congress expressly exempted certain federal programs, activities, and projects, including the President's pay, from sequestration. The pay of Members of Congress is not expressly exempt. Nevertheless, the Office of Management and Budget has interpreted the law to exempt the pay of Members. I would hope that today's Congress would revise the law. My bill would subject Member pay to any future sequestration implemented under the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act, including the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010. In order to comply with the 27th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits changes to Member pay until an intervening election, this bill would take effect next Congress.

I ask my colleagues to follow the example we set for ourselves when, in passing the Congressional Accountability Act, we pledged that the laws that apply to the American people would also apply to Members of Congress.

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