New House bill would block pay for members of Congress if the U.S. defaults

Representative Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat from Virginia, introduces U.S. President Joe Biden, not pictured, at Germanna Community College in Culpeper, Virginia, on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022.

Sarah Silbiger | Bloomberg | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan bill set to be unveiled Thursday by Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., would block members of Congress from getting paid if the U.S. enters debt default or if the government shuts down.

The No Pay for Congress During Default or Shutdown Act, shared in advance with NBC News, would withhold lawmakers’ pay for the duration of a debt limit breach or lapse in federal funding, an attempt to motivate legislators to prevent either situation.

The bill comes amid growing fears that the divided Congress may not meet the June 1 deadline set by the Treasury Department to raise the debt limit or risk a catastrophic default on U.S. obligations. And the proposal, from two politically vulnerable members in competitive districts, represents a populist move to channel voter anger toward Congress, which is strong among both parties’ bases.

“If Congress can’t fulfill basic obligations tied to the strength and security of our country, lawmakers should not be rewarded with our salaries until we do our jobs,” Spanberger said.

Notably, the Spanberger-Fitzpatrick bill would not permanently prevent lawmakers from getting paid, which would run afoul of the 27th Amendment. Instead, it withholds pay for the duration of a shutdown or default — at least until the end of the session.

If either a default or a shutdown persists, Spanberger’s office said, “congressional payroll administrators — such as the Chief Administrative Office (CAO) in the U.S. House — would release withheld payments at the end of the 118th Congress.”

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