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The U.S. Congress has recently passed something they call “No budget, no pay.” The bill (which became part of HR-325), which was signed by the president as a part of the debt ceiling suspension, is an effort to ensure that a budget is passed every year as is supposed to be the case.

Unfortunately, it does nothing of the kind.

Instead, it creates an escrow account for the full pay amount that is paid out either when the budget is finally passed, or, if a budget is not passed, paid out on the last day of 113th Congress (Jan. 3, 2015).

Despite what you read in the press or on the websites of our representatives and senators, everyone in the Congress will be paid no matter what.

At the very worst, it will be delayed. Despite the language in the bill that officially calls the provision “No budget, no pay,” there is no way that the members of Congress won’t get their salaries.

The following is a verbatim excerpt from Section 3 of the bill that was signed by the president:

(a) Holding Salaries in Escrow-

(1) IN GENERAL- If by April 15, 2013, a House of Congress has not agreed to a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2014 pursuant to section 301 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, during the period described in paragraph (2) the payroll administrator of that House of Congress shall deposit in an escrow account all payments otherwise required to be made during such period for the compensation of Members of Congress who serve in that House of Congress, and shall release such payments to such Members only upon the expiration of such period.

(2) PERIOD DESCRIBED- With respect to a House of Congress, the period described in this paragraph is the period which begins on April 16, 2013, and ends on the earlier of —

(A) the day on which the House of Congress agrees to a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2014 pursuant to section 301 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974; or

(B) the last day of the One Hundred Thirteenth Congress.

To be fair to those members of Congress who might have wanted to pass a “No budget, no pay” bill, it is prohibited by the 27th Amendment of the Constitution.

The 27th Amendment specifically prohibits either increasing or reducing the pay of a sitting Congress. So no Congress can change its own pay only that of Congresses elected in future elections.

So the next time someone mentions “no budget, no pay” as an example of making Congress do its job, ask about the escrow account.

Ask if the escrow account bears interest. Ask if they forgot that “no” should mean “no.” Ask them about the 27th Amendment.

Suggest Congress work on legislation that will actually solve a problem. Suggest Congress use words accurately and correctly. Ask Congress to say what they mean.

Rob Porter