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As House O.K.'s Pay Hike, Citizen Group Slams Senate's Move to Collect Taxpayer Salaries for Campaigning
For Immediate Release June 29, 2005
(Alexandria, VA) -- Hot on the heels of news that a Senate Committee moved to repeal a statute requiring Congress Members to forfeit pay for unexcused absences like campaign appearances, the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) today urged Congressional leaders to use "any and all means" to keep the law in place and enforce it.
"Just yesterday the House of Representatives voted to grease the skids for a seventh-straight annual pay hike; the Senate shouldn't be allowed to add insult to this injury by forcing taxpayers to subsidize absentee lawmakers," NTU President John Berthoud said. "Although the ?No Work, No Pay' statute has been sporadically enforced in Congress, that's no reason to do away with the law entirely."
Last week a Senate Committee approved appropriations legislation that would repeal Title 2, Section 39 of the U.S. Code, which states that Congressional administrators "shall deduct from the monthly payments (or other periodic payments authorized by law) of each Member or Delegate the amount of his salary for each day that he has been absent from the Senate or House, respectively, unless such Member or Delegate assigns as the reason for such absence the sickness of himself or of some member of his family." NTU has long sought enforcement of this law, but Congress has been reluctant to do so.
"Some might dismiss Section 39 as a technical provision that has outlived its usefulness, but we urge you to instead consider this rule on the basis of its own merit, regardless of whatever past enforcement history it may have," Berthoud wrote in a letter sent today to House and Senate Leaders as well as the Chairs and Ranking Minority Members of the Appropriations Committees. "Indeed, rather than citing lack of enforcement as a reason for repealing the No Work, No Pay law, Members of Congress should take this opportunity to put real teeth into Section 39."
Berthoud explained that compliance with Section 39 "would not require a Herculean effort on the part of Congress," and could be accomplished through the regular payroll certification process to which Member offices are currently subject.
An exhaustive NTU study from January 2005 found that 25 lawmakers had 10 or more days of unexcused absences in the 108th Congress, amounting to more than $500,000 in illegal salary payments. Seventeen of those 25 Senators and Representatives were campaigning for higher office. For fiscal and political accountability reasons, NTU has launched a grassroots effort -- including e-mail alerts and talk radio -- to persuade the full Senate to restore the No Work, No Pay law and, if necessary, push for deletion of the repeal provision in the conference process.
"Raising Congressional salaries past $165,000 in a time of deficit spending is a debacle in its own right, but allowing lawmakers to grab this princely pay on the campaign trail is a downright disgrace," Berthoud concluded. "Instead of enacting laws that abuse taxpayers, Congress should be upholding and following laws that protect them."
NTU is a non-partisan citizen group founded in 1969 to work for smaller government and more accountability from elected officials. Note: The NTU letters to Congressional leaders, the report on the No Work, No Pay law, and other materials on Congressional perks are available at www.ntu.org.
Note: In late 2005, Congress enacted the "conference" version of H.R. 2985, the Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, which repealed Title 2, Section 39 for Members of the Senate only. As of January 2006, House Members were still subject to the 'No Work, No Pay' law.