Weekly Column by Sen Lamar Alexander: I’m Joining Those Who Say “No Budget, No Pay”

Posted on September 28, 2012

I announced this week that I will cosponsor and work to make law the “No Budget, No Pay Act,” which will cut off pay to Congress if it doesn't pass a budget and all of the appropriations bills by the beginning of the fiscal year, October 1, as required by law.

I have tried every other means I know of to persuade senators to do their work on time and it hasn’t worked.

Earlier this year, I helped organize a bipartisan coalition of senators to encourage Senate leaders to follow through on their announcement that they would try to enact all twelve appropriations bills by the October 1 deadline.

We went to work in the Senate Appropriations Committee, and reported nine of the 12 bills to the Senate floor by early July, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reversed course and announced on July 9 that the Senate would not consider any appropriations bills this year.

And though members of both parties have failed to live up to their responsibilities, this is mostly a one-sided problem. The Republican House passed a budget on time in each of the last two years. The last time the Senate passed all of its appropriations bills was 2006, and the last time it passed a budget was 2009.

How can you balance a budget if you don't have a budget? You wouldn't get paid at the Grand Ole Opry if you showed up late and refused to sing. The same should apply to members of Congress who don't do their jobs.

I am fed up with the failure of Congress to do its most basic job of managing taxpayer money and am I am sure most Tennesseans are, too. The Australian foreign minister recently said the U.S. is one budget deal away from restoring its global preeminence. He’s exactly right, which means it’s time to enact new rules and make sure the job gets done regardless of who is in power.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) introduced the “No Budget, No Pay Act” in the Senate last December. Tennessee’s own Congressman Jim Cooper has introduced the legislation with 87 cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation says that members of Congress won’t be paid after October 1 of any fiscal year in which Congress has not approved a budget and passed all of the regular spending bills. The legislation also prevents Congress from retroactively paying members of Congress for any period after October 1 that they fail to pass a budget and all of the regular spending bills.

This is a serious proposal that deserves support, and I’m going to do everything I can to make it become law.

In a Senate floor speech in July, I said that not bringing up appropriations bills, reverting to political exercises, and leaving off the table many amendments that need debate—none of that encourages confidence in the ability of the United States to govern.

I’m out of patience and I’m ready to join those who say: “No budget, no pay.”

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