Last updated: October 08. 2013 12:03AM - 4379 Views
ANDREW M. SEDER aseder@timesleader.com

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All five Congress members who represent Northeastern Pennsylvania are among those lawmakers who have chosen to have their pay withheld during the government shutdown that’s entering its second week.

A query Mondays showed that Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey and U.S. Reps. Matt Cartwright, Lou Barletta and Tom Marino have chosen to refuse their pay until the shutdown ends. Nationwide, about a quarter of the lawmakers are refusing play.

Legally, under the Constitution, members of Congress must get paid, but they can choose to defer those payments.

“As long as furloughed federal employees are not getting paid during this shutdown, I will refuse my paycheck too,” said Toomey, R- Zionsville.

April Mellody, a spokeswoman for Casey, D-Scranton, noted that the senator “has cosponsored legislation to ensure that every government employee gets paid” retroactively. She also noted that the senator “intends to defer his pay until this impasse is resolved.”

Sarah Wolfe, a spokeswoman for Marino, R-Lycoming Township, said her boss, “sent a letter to the CAO (Congressional Accounting Office) on Sept. 30, 2013, asking that his pay be withheld for the duration of any government shutdown.”

In addition to deferring his pay, Cartwright is among a group of lawmakers cosponsoring a bill — the No Government No Pay Act of 2013 — that would penalize members of Congress financially at times there’s a shutdown.

“We cannot legally reduce our current pay under the Constitution. So this bill will take that pay out in the next session of Congress, the 114th Congress,” Cartwright said. “I think that is a sensible approach that will discourage members of Congress from throwing temper tantrums of this nature in the future.”

Barletta also supports the bill, and his spokesman said, “If we can find a way to pass such congressional salary laws and make them Constitutional under the 27th Amendment, then yes” his boss would vote for it.

While more than 800,000 federal workers, most deemed non-essential, are furloughed without pay, members of Congress continue to earn their $174,000-per-year salary. That averages out to about $3,346 a week.

Some, according to The Washington Post, have chosen to donate their pay to charities. Others, like Sen. Christopher Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, has chosen to send the Treasury a check for the salary he is paid during the shutdown.

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