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Guest column/Congress should do its job or not be paid

April 8, 2012
By BILL JOHNSON , The Herald-Star

If you didn't perform your duties at work for three years, do you think your boss would continue to sign your paycheck?

Well, that's exactly what is happening in the U.S. Senate, where we have elected officials refusing to do their jobs yet continuing to get paid. It's hard to believe, but it's been more than 1,050 days since the Senate has done its job and passed a budget. That's almost three years. Imagine if your family or small business decided not to pass a budget. How would you know if you had enough money to pay your bills? What would your spending priorities be?

It's no way to run a family or a business. And, it's no way to run a country.

What's even harder to believe is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and the rest of the Senate majority, continue to collect their paychecks without performing one of their most fundamental responsibilities - passing a budget for hard-working Americans. Our country is $15.6 trillion in debt, with each American's share of that debt being about $50,000. But, the Senate hasn't gotten around to forcing the government to live within its means by passing a budget in nearly three years. In fact, earlier this year, Reid was asked if the Senate was going to debate a budget, much less vote on one. Reid responded that he didn't feel it necessary to do so. That is inexcusable.

Enough is enough.

I recently introduced legislation called the Pass a Budget Now Act. This bill simply says that if either chamber of Congress - the House or the Senate - fails to pass a budget, the members of that chamber would not be paid. As a 26-year Air Force veteran, I know that if Reid and Senate Democrats were in the military they would be charged, court-martialed and convicted for dereliction of duty for failing to pass a budget in the over 1,050 days. This straight forward, common sense legislation puts pressure on both the Senate and the House to follow the law and pass a budget.

Here is how my bill works: Members of the Senate or House would not receive their salary beginning on April 16 if their respective chambers did not pass a budget by April 15, as required by law. And, once the pay is docked, it can't be received retroactively. Instead, the forfeited pay would go to paying down the $15.6 trillion national debt that threatens the economic security of our children and grandchildren.

Washington is broken and the American people are demanding leadership. They are fed up with business as usual, and they know that Congress and the president must make difficult choices to reign in federal spending, reduce the size of government and help get our economy going again. And, they fear that our children and grandchildren will inherit this massive debt unless we get to work. Failing to pass a budget is irresponsible, but refusing to even debate a budget is an absolute failure of leadership. It's an exercise in political cowardice and sheds light on the Washington mentality that has, according to the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, created the biggest national security risk America faces.

It's time for Congress to do its job. It's time to change the way Washington works. And it's time to hold those in the Senate who are blocking a budget accountable, and hit them where it hurts - in their wallets.

The Pass a Budget Now Act will hold Congress' feet to the fire.

It will make them earn their paycheck - a paycheck backed by the sweat and efforts of hardworking Americans. The American people and future generations deserve nothing less.

(Johnson, R-Marietta, represents Ohio's 6th Congressional District.)

 
 

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