Maine Public Broadcasting Network
Maine Democratic Congressman Michael Michaud today urged House leaders to move forward on a bill that he says would help break the political deadlock in Washington. The “No Budget No Pay Act” would make sure members of Congress do not get paid if they fail to pass a budget and appropriations bill on time. A Senate version of the measure is coming up for a committee hearing this week. Among the sponsors of that bill is Maine Republican Olympia Snowe.
Michaud started off the week sending a letter to four of his House colleagues: Speaker John Boehner, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer were all urged to get behind the No Budget No Pay Act, which Michaud co-sponsored last year. It's a measure which he says will help restore public confidence in the ability of Congress to get things done.
“Over the past 36 years Congress has passed an appropriations bill only four times on time,” he says. “Because agencies might be making poor decisions not knowing what their budget will be, so what this bill will do is, if Congress does not pass a budget on time, then they will not get paid.”
Nor, he says, would the measure enable lawmakers to claim their pay retroactively once the budget is passed. What's more, pay is withdrawn as the clock ticks. “For every day that the budget is not passed we will be docked that amount,” Michaud says. “So if we go five months without a budget, we lose five months pay.”
The No Budget No Pay Act was introduced by a bi-partisan congressional reform group called “No Labels,” which claims to advocate for common sense solutions. No Labels cites polling data which indicate that 88 percent of Americans support the measure.
Susan Baxter, loading her car with groceries in downtown Portland, says members of Congress should be paid on their results. “It seems like if they're doing their job then they should get paid, and if they can't come together and do what we've sent them there to do, then maybe that's a good motivator to get the job done,” Baxter says.
Portland resident Nick Pappas also feels strongly on the issue. “Great idea,” he says.
Tom Porter: “Why's that?”
Nick Pappas: “Well, I think it's about time that folks in Congress enact some legislation that, not so much shares some of the pain, but at least is resopnsible enough to recognize that for them to move forward they need to take responsibility. And aligning their pay with responsibility, I think, is a great way to do it.”
Not everyone's on board with the No Budget No Pay Act, as it stands. Republican Kevin Raye is president of the Maine Senate. “Well it's an easy bill to support, but it doesn't go far enough,” he says.
Raye is currently gathering signatures to challenge Rep. Michaud for his U.S. House seat later this year. “Members of Congress, frankly, should not be rewarded for simply passing a budget that's out of balance and drives up the deficit, leaving a mounting of debt for ourkids to pay,” Raye says. “Congressman Michaud had an opportunity to join with fiscally responsible Democrats and Republicans in a bipartisan vote to pass a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget amendment, but he voted against it.”
Michael Michaud's House colleague and fellow Democrat Chellie Pingree says she also supports the proposal. In a statement sent via email she says she shares “the frustration most Americans feel with the slow pace of work in Congress.”
Maine Sen. Susan Collins is the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee,and will be co-chairing Wednesday's hearing, when the No Pay No Budget Act will be reviewed. Her spokesman says she has not yet taken a position on the bill.
Fellow Maine Republican Olympia Snowe, meanwhile, has taken a position. She's one of 7 senators from both sides of the aisle who have have come out in support of the bill. Snowe has made no secret at her frustration with partisan gridlock in Congress, and cited it as a major factor in her recent decision not to seek re-election this year.