For the vast majority of Americans who work hard and play by the rules, paying the bills may be hard some months but it's something we always do. So it's no wonder that the vast majority of Americans are frustrated and angry when Congress fails, time and again, to do the same. If Americans struggling to make ends meet can make tough decisions to balance their books, why can't Congress?
This Congress has not adopted a budget in over 1,000 days, and Congress has only passed an appropriations bill on time four times since 1952. Out of frustration -- a frustration shared by the majority of Americans -- Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN) has partnered with Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) to introduce a bi-partisan No Budget, No Pay bill. The bill is as straightforward as its name -- if Congress doesn't do its job, then Congress members don't get to collect a paycheck. Who could possibly disagree with forcing Congress to play by the same set of rules as the rest of us? (If you failed to do your job for 1,000 days, would your boss keep giving you a paycheck?)
Unfortunately, as with most things in this Congress, this commonsense idea is being blocked, because House Administration Committee Chairman Dan Lungren (R-CA) refuses to hold a hearing on the bill. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced recently that for the third straight year the Senate would not pass a separate budget resolution. It's an outrage, an affront to the American people whose taxpayer dollars fund those wasted salaries. And especially to the millions of Americans who help keep our country safe and secure. For our troops, our healthcare professionals and our businesses owners, we cannot recover and thrive unless we pass a budget that reflects our values as Americans. As a nation we have hard choices to make, but that is at the core of leadership. It is time that Congressman Dan Lungren and Senator Harry Reid began to lead.
Sometimes as a parent you have to give your child that doesn't do his or her chores some tough love and withhold the allowance. Or as a business owner, if your supplier doesn't complete his or her contract, you might withhold payment. So while it is unfortunate that we have to resort to measures like the No Budget, No Pay bill, more reasonable approaches have not worked. It is time that Congress realized that it works for us, the American people, and if they can't do their job, they don't deserve their pay. It's just common sense.
Ami Bera, MD is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at UC Davis School of Medicine and Candidate for Congress in California's 7th District.