Bill would cut congressional salaries

Freshman Congressman proposes a pay cut for lawmakers to ensure fairness under the sequester -- when it is 'constitutionally permissible.'

Ron DeSantis

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.)

Federal employees are used to frozen wages and furlough fears at this point, but pay for members of Congress has so far remained unscathed. That could eventually change, if one congressman’s bill successfully makes it through the legislative process.

That constitutional protection that exempts congressional salaries from the sequester is something Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) finds unfair, so he introduced a bill on March 14 that would reduce the pay for members of Congress -- as soon as it is "constitutionally permissible," the congressman said during a floor speech the day before.

"Much has been said about sequestration, but few have mentioned what bothers me most about it: the pay of members of Congress is exempted under the sequester," DeSantis said. "When members of Congress exempt themselves from the operation of the law, it’s not only unfair but it actually violates the core principle of Republican government."

Citing James Madison’s writing in The Federalist Papers, DeSantis said House representatives should not pass laws from which they are exempt, "saying make no law which will not have its full operation on themselves and their friends, as well as on the great mass of the society."

Members of Congress "must live under the same rules as anybody else," DeSantis said. "Our founding fathers expected it, the American people demand it."

The proposal would slash congressional pay by 8.2 percent, DeSantis told Fox News on March 14. Congress is constitutionally barred from adjusting members' own pay until an election has taken place. The intent was to prevent legislators from giving themselves immediate raises, but the 27th Amendment says that no variation in compensation – whether up or down -- is allowed until "until an election of representatives shall have intervened."

So DeSantis' pay reduction could take effect with the next Congress. "It’s a small money saver, but it speaks to a larger principle," the congressman said.

The freshman representative is no stranger to pay-related legislation. On Jan. 15, DeSantis introduced his first bill, H.R. 273, to overturn an executive order giving nonmilitary federal employees a raise. The proposal passed the House on Feb. 15, but has not moved in the Senate.

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