If the Senate can hold out until May 18, the Democratic-controlled body will have gone four years without passing a budget.
This is a big deal to House Democrats, who regularly pass a budget even though it goes nowhere. When not much else is going on, the House Republicans go into high dudgeon and berate the senators for shameful dereliction of duty.
If anybody noticed, it might cause a great hue and cry among the good-government types, but the fact is, it goes largely unnoticed, even, one suspects, by many senators.
The House Republican leadership feels that by voting this week to put off a potential default by the U.S. government for four months, it deserves at least a little something — say, a budget from the Senate, preferably one that they can tear apart and ridicule.
The new chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Patty Murray, promises that she’ll “try” to have a budget passed by the May deadline, even though the senators are badly out of practice at this sort of thing.
The House thought this assurance a little weak and that the Senate needed bucking up on the budget, so this week it added an amendment that the senators will not get paid unless and until they pass a budget.
The senators are paid $174,000 annually. Since this represents a nice chunk of change for most of us, the 98 percent who aren’t hedge-fund managers, losing that amount of money could hurt. But don’t forget that this is Congress we’re dealing with.
According to the newspaper Roll Call, over half the senators are millionaires, and others are just a few dollars short of that mark, and could get by quite nicely without their senatorial pay.
Unfortunately, as so often happens with Congress, the Constitution appears to have thwarted the House plans. The 27th Amendment, passed in 1992, another great year for political mischief, says, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until the election of Representatives shall have intervened.”