Back in 2013 North Dakota Democrats tried to attack Rep. Kevin Cramer for continuing to accept his congressional salary during a government shutdown. Cramer, in fact, not only collected his salary but didn’t feel like it was something he should apologize for.
“I’m staying here and I’m working,” Cramer said in an interview during the shutdown that year. “My office is open, we’re taking phone calls, I’m voting every day, I’m debating every day, I’m going to countless meetings. I’m working to earn the salary the people pay me to do the job.”
Makes sense to me, but government shutdowns are always seen by politicians as a good backdrop for theater. So this time around, as the possibility for another government shutdown looms, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (who donated her salary during the last shutdown to a charity called “Beer for Boobies”) is proposing legislation to halt congressional pay if the government isn’t operating:
“If members of Congress refuse to do their jobs, they shouldn’t get paid — it’s as simple as that,” Heitkamp has said in a statement More from The Hill, which provides some facts demonstrating just how hollow a gesture this is from Heitkamp:
Her legislation, co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va) and Barbara Boxer (Calif.), comes ahead of an end-of-the-month deadline to pass a government spending bill.
But even if the legislation were taken up and passed before the Oct. 1 deadline — a herculean feat in the Senate — it wouldn’t impact lawmakers’ salaries if the government were to shut down next week.
To be clear, I doubt Heitkamp really cares if her legislation could actually pass, or if it would end up in anyone actually losing their pay. The goal here isn’t to create policy so much as to posture oneself and manufacture talking points.
And boy does Heitkamp need some talking points to distract from a rough couple of weeks she’s had where she’s flagrantly violated campaign promises on the filibuster, abortions, and voted to support a deal with Iran that is hugely unpopular with her constituents.