FACT CHECK: Does Congress Get Paid During Government Shutdowns?

Aryssa Damron | Fact Check Reporter

Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., tweeted Thursday that “no member [of Congress] should get paid while the government is shut down,” prompting The Daily Caller to ask – do members of Congress truly receive salaries while the government is shut down?

Newly-elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also called congressional salaries during the shutdown “completely unacceptable” and said that “next time we have a gov shutdown, Congressional salaries should be furloughed as well.”

Verdict: True

All 535 members of Congress are still receiving their salaries due to provisions in the Constitution, as well as permanent appropriations for congressional pay.

Fact Check:

After Congress’s failure to reach a funding agreement, the government entered its 14th day of a partial government shutdown Friday. The appropriations, which are needed to fund a quarter of the government, were threatened with a veto if they did not include $5 billion for a border wall requested by President Donald Trump.

The House passed a spending bill that included $5 billion for a border wall. However, the bill faced opposition from Senate Democrats due to concerns over that very funding.

Despite the partial government shutdown, which has affected some 800,000 federal employees, all members of Congress are currently receiving their full salary, which has been $174,000 a year for non-leadership positions since 2009.

The U.S. Constitution lays out the method of compensation for members of the House and Senate. Article I, Section 6 says, “The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States.”

According to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, “Due to their constitutional responsibilities and a permanent appropriation for congressional pay, Members of Congress are not subject to furlough,” the process which has left many other government employees without a paycheck, at least temporarily.

Member salaries have been provided by a permanent, mandatory appropriation outside of the normal appropriations process since 1981.

A report on congressional salaries by the CRS confirms that “both the automatic annual adjustments and funding for Members’ salaries are provided pursuant to other laws (2 U.S.C. §4501)—not the annual appropriations bills.”

Several senators have come out in recent days and expressed that they would forego pay during the shutdown.

“Until @realDonaldTrump re-opens the government, I’m donating my salary to @HIASrefugees, a nonprofit that helps refugees and makes our country stronger in the process,” tweeted Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who recently announced she was exploring a presidential run.

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said Dec. 22, “I cannot take a salary during a government shutdown knowing that so many federal workers in Nevada and across the country will go without pay. I’ll be donating my salary to a Nevada charity for every day of the Trump shutdown.”

Nearly 250 members of Congress refused or donated pay during the government shutdown of 2013, according to The Washington Post. This included Democratic Sens. Warren, Richard Blumenthal, Al Franken and Sherrod Brown, as well as Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, Rob Portman and Ted Cruz.

In 2011, Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Bob Casey introduced a bill to prevent Congress and the president from being paid during a government shutdown. The bill passed the Senate but did not get a vote in the House. They introduced the bill again in 2013 without success.

If a change was made to withhold congressional salaries during a government shutdown, it would not be able to go into effect until after the elections in 2020 due to the 27th amendment.

The 27th Amendment says that “no law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.”

The longest government shutdown in recent history lasted 21 days during the administration of President Bill Clinton.

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Aryssa Damron

Fact Check Reporter