Late last month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “No Budget, No Pay Act,” which, among other things, temporarily extended the nation’s debt ceiling. The Senate followed suit the week before last, and the President signed the bill into law.
I voted for the bill. Here’s why:
For the past two years, many of us in the House (some more than others, unfortunately) have been trying to draw attention to the alarming condition of our nation’s debt, our record deficits, and the out-of-control spending in Washington. While we have won some moral victories in that time – for example, a lot of lawmakers at least pay lip-service to addressing our deficits, something they wouldn’t even talk about just a few years ago – the hard truth is that the things haven’t gotten any better. There are a lot of reasons for that: some politicians don’t understand the severity of the problem, others choose to ignore it, still more acknowledge the problem but are unwilling to make hard decisions for fear of losing their next election. These, however, are probably not new conditions in Washington.
What has been “new,” however, is the fact that the U.S. Senate has not passed a budget for almost four years. Yes, you read that right: four years.
You might inquire at this point: “Isn’t Congress required, by law, to pass a budget?” And, of course, the answer is “yes.” We are.
However, when Congress passed that law requiring it to pass a budget, it failed to provide a penalty. Which means, simply, although we are required to pass a budget, and we are technically breaking the law if we don’t, nothing happens if we just ignore the law.
The “No Budget, No Pay Act” changes that: if either the House or the Senate fail to pass a budget, then the members who fail to meet their legal obligations don’t get paid. (Technically, our pay is withheld for up to two years – a limitation placed on us by the 27th Amendment, which says that Congress cannot vary its compensation.)
It seems pretty reasonable. After all, if you don’t do your job, you don’t get paid. Neither should we. And, as every family knows, part of getting your household finances in order is to set a budget. And folks know that if they don’t set a budget, they will likely just continue to spend. Congress is no different, and it is imperative that we pass a budget.
I was glad to see the Senate pass the bill and to hear that my colleagues are fully intending to offer a budget in the next couple of weeks.
Will having the Senate pass a budget solve our debt crisis? Of course not. But at least it will allow us, as a nation, to discuss specific ideas on how to handle the situation. The “No Budget, No Pay Act” is a first step, albeit a small one, in moving to a real discussion on issues that cannot be fixed with platitudes and campaign slogans.
Yes, “No Budget, No Pay” raised the debt ceiling for a few months, and some folks in my own party disagree with that move. I see the temporary extension to be a reasonable price to pay to force the Senate to operate under a budget. That is a small victory, but one worthy of a small debt extension.
As I said when I voted for the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” initiative in July 2011, which also proposed to raise the debt ceiling, I would consider any proposals that meet one simple test: do they help fix the spending problem? “No Budget, No Pay” did. I look forward to seeing a budget out of the Senate for the first time in more than 1,300 days.
Mick Mulvaney (R-Indian Land) represents the S.C.’s 5th Congressional District.