Editorials, Opinion

Joke MCCARTHY Shutdown Act raises valid points

Why should Congress get paid for shutting down the government?

Maybe Minnesota Rep. Angie Craig was trolling House Speaker Kevin McCarthy when she introduced the My Constituents Cannot Afford Rebellious Tantrums, Handle Your (MCCARTHY) Shutdown Act, but we suspect many Americans would throw their support behind the legislation, even if the rest of Congress won’t.

The MCCARTHY Shutdown Act (kudos to whomever successfully reverse-engineered that acronym) would withhold pay from U.S. representatives and senators for every day that the government is shut down. As Craig said in a statement, “Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans are ready to shut down the federal government and put the livelihoods of working families at risk — while still collecting a paycheck. … it’s ridiculous that we still get paid while folks like TSA workers are asked to work without a paycheck.”

According to the actual bill, for the current Congress, the money would be held in escrow and then released on the last day of the 118th Congress. That means current lawmakers would still eventually get paid, but they would have to wait.

The full force of the rule won’t come into effect until after the general election in November 2024. So for future Congresses, their salaries will be reduced by one day’s pay for every 24 hours the government is shut down. This could, in theory, disincentivize future shutdowns.

There is currently a group of politicians in Washington whose sole goal is to (metaphorically) burn the federal government down. These individuals delight in causing chaos for no reason other than to cause chaos. They intentionally interfere with governance, because they think there should be no federal government. And they are being paid with taxpayer dollars to play their petty games. 

Perhaps lawmakers would be less willing to hold the government hostage when it’s their own paychecks at stake, since they don’t seem to mind robbing workers of theirs.

What many forget is that government shutdowns don’t just affect government employees — there are ripple effects deep into the private sector, and even into our personal lives. If regulators and inspectors can’t work, industries have to slow or halt production, causing shortages and delays. Need a passport or visa? Good luck, because that already lengthy process will take much longer. And so-deemed “essential” federal workers who are forced to work without pay aren’t likely to do their best work during a shutdown.

It’s highly unlikely such a bill could ever pass Congress. No governing body votes to decrease its own compensation, only increase it. But the MCCARTHY Shutdown Act should still be brought to the floor for a vote, and representatives (and senators, if the bill makes it that far) should have to go on record about what they prioritize more: a functioning government and the livelihoods of American workers, or their own, very cushy, salaries.

Life isn’t fair, but it would be fairer if Congress had to play by the same rules as the rest of us. After all, if we don’t do our jobs, we don’t get paid. Why should Congress?