George Voinovich: Congress Shouldn't Get Paid After Letting Down the Country With Latest Shutdown

In an op-ed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer yesterday, former Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) criticized the current Congress not just for the ongoing government shutdown but more broadly for the dysfunction of the budget process in recent years. He points out that a concurrent budget resolution has not been passed in four years, and lawmakers have relied increasingly in recent years on continuing resolutions (CRs), which is a poor way to allocate funds.

These “CRs,” as they are called, are a cop-out by our elected officials and a dereliction of one of Congress’s most sacred duties.

In fact, I felt so strongly about the negative impact of the CRs that, as ranking member on the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia, I asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the detriment CRs had on our federal government.

GAO completed its report in September 2009, and its findings were startling. Beyond the uncertainty the CRs created, they also resulted in delays to federal contracts and grant applications, some of which were responsible for updating our prison system and Veterans Affairs hospitals. 

Additionally, GAO found that each CR that was passed caused federal agencies to waste hundreds of hours on administrative tasks, like issuing and re-issuing short-term contracts, rather than on core agency missions.

Of course, the ultimate failure of the budget process has been realized in the form of a shutdown, which has now been going on for a week. This failure, Voinovich argues, brings into question the fairness of Members of Congress continuing to get paid, while many federal employees may wait weeks to receive paychecks.

Quite simply, the actions of this Congress are cutting its own legs out from under it, all while members of Congress continue to receive their paychecks from the taxpayers.

It is criminal that after forcing these continual debt debacles on the American people, members of Congress are still able to cash their paychecks. It is unjust and unconscionable that Congress should continue getting paid while hard-working federal employees such as FBI and DEA agents, border patrol agents, National Park Service employees and other federal workers are either being furloughed or given IOUs on their paychecks.

We've been saying for months now that lawmakers should act quickly to resolve this fiscal hurdles so they can turn their attention to passing a comprehensive deal that would include entitlement and tax reform. Writes Voinovich:

The American people deserve better than they are getting from Washington. I will continue to hope and pray that our elected officials – OUR Congress – can come together, pass a budget, and begin anew to instill the confidence in our elected officials that once existed. The future of our nation depends on it.

Click here to read the full op-ed.

"My Views" are works published by members of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, but they do not necessarily reflect the views of all members of the committee.