The clock struck 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday with congressional lawmakers incapable of reaching an agreement on a short-term measure to fund the government. The failure led to the first government shutdown since 1996, and stood as another low point for a Congress that’s pretty much only had low points.
With the historically unpopular Congress now responsible for losing the paychecks of as many as 800,000 federal workers — at least until it can come up with an agreement to end the shutdown — many would think it only fair to expect lawmakers to feel some of the financial pain of their latest embarrassment. Instead, this is happening:
Your representatives will still be getting their paychecks, so they’ll be free to keep on cozying up next to their six-figure salaries.
Senators and members of the House of Representatives make a constitutionally protected $174,000 a year. For many of the massively wealthy individuals that serve in Congress, this amount may be inconsequential. Others probably wish they could take in more.
A handful of lawmakers have said they’ll donate their pay to charity during the shutdown, instead of rolling in it like “Geni-Cakes” the cat. Among them is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a key orchestrator of the GOP’s plan to agree to fund the government only if Democrats vote to defund or delay Obamacare, the law that was passed by Congress in 2010, upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012 and on Tuesday launched its highly anticipated health insurance exchanges, just as the government shut down.
Of course, even if your congressman’s pay was determined by some sort of political need for karmic balance, the shutdown is still a raw deal for hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal employees and the larger American public. Key federal agencies, national parks and the stock market will all feel the pain of the shutdown. These cutbacks will limit critical services and damage financial stability across the nation.
As for lawmakers themselves, perhaps they should enjoy their comfortable congressional salaries while they have them. A recent poll of Americans showed that blame for the shutdown is more likely to be placed on Congress — and especially Republicans — than on President Barack Obama. Of course, if voters were to exact retribution for this disaster and vote members of Congress out, many lawmakers would likely just continue along the typical lifecycle of a Washington politician: Move to a lobbying firm, make a boatloads more money, and be freed from the stress of that whole governing thing they’ve proven so terrible at.
You really need a gift from this baby sloth.