Published Saturday, October 5, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:22 pm
congressional salaries in shutdown
World-Herald editorial: Sharing the pain is only fair

Let them eat cake?

Those weren’t the exact words that some Midlands members of Congress used when asked whether they would give up their own salaries while the federal government is shut down.

But that’s sure how it sounded.

“I’ve got a nice house and a kid in college, and I’ll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That’s just not going to fly,” said Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb.

“I think that’s a gimmick,” said Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb. “I think it’s theatrics. It doesn’t do anything to solve the problem. ...”

“Feel-good gestures will not solve the problem. We will keep working toward a solution,” said Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said, “We’re coming to work, though, so as long as we’re working, we ought to get paid.”

Some 800,000 federal workers have been told not to report to work. That’s because members of Congress didn’t do their jobs and pass legislation to fund the government when the new fiscal year began Tuesday.

Among others not getting paychecks right now are the Capitol Police officers who rushed to protect the public on Thursday when a car tried to ram a White House barricade and then led police on a chase that ended near the Capitol.

Those who are furloughed include folks who have house payments to make, groceries to buy and tuition to pay. While they eventually might get back pay for the time they are furloughed, the rank-and-file federal workers didn’t cause this crisis.

That would be members of Congress and the president, who must be paid since their jobs are authorized by the Constitution. As of Friday, the Washington Post counted about 125 lawmakers who plan to decline or donate their pay during the shutdown. Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, said he is declining his salary, and Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., said he asked the government to hold his checks.

Good for them.

Turning back pay might smack of political theater and may not be that much money in the big budget picture. But by being insulated from suffering any direct consequences, lawmakers remove one incentive for resolving the budget stalemate.

It seems only fair that the people responsible for this problem — and the ones who can solve it — lead by example and share in the pain.

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