Senator Joe Manchin: Don't pay us if government shuts down

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) sits by himself in the House of Representatives on March 9, 2011 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) sits by himself in the House of Representatives on March 9, 2011 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Updated 5:12 p.m. Eastern Time

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is circulating a letter today asking his colleagues to return any pay they receive during a government shutdown. If a deal is not worked out soon, a shutdown will begin Saturday.

"While millions of American families will be impacted by a government shutdown - whether they are serving our country's military, whether someone in their family is furloughed or whether they are unable to use critical government services - elected officials are the one group who will not be impacted," he wrote. "Just the opposite, in fact: we still get paid. How does that make any sense?"

Manchin called on his colleagues to pledge to either donate their salaries to charity or return them to the Treasury until the government reopens. Senators are paid $174,000 a year.

National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Communications Director Brian Walsh derided Manchin's appeal as "pure political posturing by multi-millionaire Joe Manchin to cover up for the fact that he and his fellow Washington Democrats have failed to do their jobs." Walsh complained that Manchin missed important votes in December to attend a Christmas party and said that if he is serious he should return his pay from that period as well.

In his letter, Manchin preemptively rebutted some of the criticism, writing: "some in Washington will deride this as an empty gesture. To those naysayers, I say that the American people expect more of us. They expect us to lead by example and share their pain until a budget resolution is reached that reflects our values and priorities as a country."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Thursday he agrees with Manchin and pledged to return any shutdown pay to the Treasury.

The Democrat-led Senate passed a bill on March 1 mandating that members of Congress not be paid during a government shutdown, but the GOP-led House did not take it up.

House Speaker John Bohener, who backed the successful effort to institute the 27th amendment, told ABC News Wednesday that members should not be paid during a shutdown. The 27th amendment mandates that laws changing compensation for members of Congress cannot go into effect until the following Congress begins.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told troops in Baghdad Thursday that they can expect a temporary halt in their pay.

UPDATE: Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has cosponsored a bill mandating that members of the military get paid on time during a shutdown, made a similar pledge Thursday afternoon.

"Unfortunately, current law prevents our military men and women from receiving their paycheck on time if government services are interrupted," she said. "Because of this discrepancy between the pay of our troops and Members of Congress, I will personally be donating my pay to a non-profit organization serving our military families."

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