If the Government Defaults, No Pay For Congress

One of the ironies of the GOP pushing up to possible default as a way to deliver a defeat to President Obama is that if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, the GOP will be ceding tremendous power to Obama, because the president gets to decide what the government will and won’t pay. Here’s an idea that I hope someone at the White House is gaming out:

Figure out the cost of running the White House executive offices, minus the salaries of top appointees. Make sure the domestic staff are paid, pay the civil servants, take care of everyone on loan from an executive agency or the military. And make sure all operations at the White House continue to be funded. But don not pay the salary of the President and Vice President, the senior communications staff, the special assistants and counselors and the other top advisors.  Then, also ask the Clerks of the House and the Senate to make the same calculations. Ask them to figure out what it costs to pay for the physical plant, for the non-partisan staff such as the HR and IT people and the Capitol Police, to keep the lights on and pay for the essential operations. Then, if there aren’t legal prohibitions against it, the president should tell the country he’s cutting the funding to Congress equal to the pay of the members of Congress, every chief of staff, committee staff director and the entire leadership staffs of both parties.

Sure, many members of Congress are independently wealthy and won’t be hurt by losing their approximately $170,000 per year salary. And this would “punish” everyone, even though it’s only the House Republicans who, at this point, appear to be exercising a de-facto veto on any resolution to this contrived “crisis.” But it’s their fault this is happening, and if they want to be leaders, they should say that sacrifice starts with them, and by including top staffers, even wealthy Republicans in Congress will see their staffers immediately feel the squeeze.

It may not be legally possible for Obama to partially starve Congress of funds. But even if it’s not possible for him to do it, he should make the public challenge, and call on every member of Congress to join him in not accepting pay or paying his top assistants until the “crisis” is resolved. It would be a wildly popular move with the public, it would put economic pressure on a lot of members who accepted the challenge, and for those who didn’t, the ads against them next October would be lethal.

Republicans want to wage economic warfare? Then let’s retaliate in kind.

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