They’re Federal Workers, Too: Obama, Begich to Give Up Some Pay

Posted April 3, 2013 at 2:38pm

President Barack Obama will give up 5 percent of his salary in solidarity with federal employees facing furloughs, joining Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and a few members of Congress, according to a senior administration official.

In a Wednesday news release, Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, also trumpeted that he will voluntarily return a portion of his salary to the Treasury. He noted that he has been furloughing members of his staff since March.

Hagel set the ball rolling Tuesday when a spokesman told the press that the Defense secretary would write a check covering the equivalent of 14 days of furlough, the same amount faced by the DOD’s civilian employees.

Several other lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have in recent weeks pushed for members of Congress to give up pay during the sequester.

Under the Constitution, the salary of members of Congress and the president cannot be changed during their current term in office. But they have the option to voluntarily send a check to the Treasury.

In Begich’s announcement that all his staffers would be forced to take mandatory furlough days, he also said that more than half of his workforce would see cuts to their paychecks.

He is not the only lawmaker who has chosen to meet the strains of sequestration by making his employees play a role in saving money. Members of both chambers are calling upon their staff to share in sacrifices necessitated by the automatic spending cuts, particularly in the House, where members have been dealt office expense accounts that are nearly 20 percent lower than 2010 levels.

In numerous interviews with CQ Roll Call about how they are managing reduced spending levels, members of the House and Senate were honest about the difficult choices they were having to make — which, in some cases, involved reducing staffing and freezing salaries. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, is one such lawmaker who admitted last March that he has had to let employees go.

But Begich, one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in 2014, is perhaps the first lawmaker who has gone so far as to put out a press release all but advertising his decision to furlough and cut the pay of his staff, a move that might play well in his home state.