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Thursday, Oct 23, 2014
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Sen. Nelson’s bill to cut congressional pay stalled

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TAMPA -

A month ago, with fanfare, Sen. Bill Nelson announced legislation to cut the pay of members of Congress if federal employees were forced into furloughs by the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.

Nelson said at the time he had the backing of congressional leaders to force a floor vote on the bill, but it now languishes in committee, apparently dead.

Instead, the Senate recently passed a measure by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., urging members to donate up to 20 percent of their salaries to charity or to the U.S. Treasury.

Only a handful have said they would do so, including Democrat Claire McCaskill of Missouri, co-sponsor of Nelson’s legislation, according to the Washington political journal The Hill. Nelson was not one of them.

The Orlando Democrat didn’t have much to say this week about the outcome of his proposal.

“It’s before the Budget Committee right now, after leadership asked that it not be offered as an amendment to the recent spending plan Congress passed,” Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin said. “Instead, lawmakers backed Sen. Graham’s resolution.”

Nelson’s bill would have cut congressional pay by the same amount as the maximum any federal employee is losing through sequestration furloughs.

McLaughlin didn’t respond to questions about whether Nelson is satisfied with the Graham resolution as a substitute.

When he announced his bill at a news conference in Tampa on March 1, Nelson expressed frustration at the impending failure of Congress to avoid the automatic cuts.

He invoked the conservative Republican tea party movement in saying “unintended consequences” of the sequestration deal have occurred “because ridiculous, arrogant people are insisting on their own way. … They’re afraid they’re going to get tea-partied in their next primary elections.”

The automatic cuts passed in 2011 were intended to be so punitive that Congress would be forced to reach a long-term solution to the nation’s budget issues so they would never take effect.

But with Congress’ failure to reach a deal, they are.

The results have included layoffs at defense contracting firms, closure of airport control towers and cutbacks at national parks.

Furlough notices started going out within days of Nelson’s news conference, and have now gone to employees of federal agencies including the Department of Agriculture, the Justice Department and the White House.


wmarch@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7761

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