On Monday, CNN host Ashleigh Banfield confronted two Republican representatives — Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) — to see whether they themselves would be willing to forgo a paycheck in the event of a government shutdown, something nearly every other federal employee would be forced to do.
“So you are both paid $174,000 a year, and that is the salary,” she said, “Would you be prepared to add some rider or amendment on to a continuing resolution that would take you out of the essential services category and stop payment on your paychecks in order to get a continuing resolution through, and yes or no?”
There was a long pause before the two tried to pivot to a different topic. Eventually, Rohrabacher stepped in to say that members of Congress were treated the same as other federal employees:
BLACKBURN: We are waiting to see what they send back, and I hope that as you were running the countdown clock that you are I have two grandsons, and their share of the national debt is now over $53,000 each.
BANFIELD: No no no. I’m sorry. I asked a specific question, and there are a lot of the government workers going to stop receiving their paychecks, and a there are a lot of the military service members who are serving overseas who might be stopped being paid and veterans whose benefits will be affected. Would you —
ROHRABACHER: Let me answer that. Members of Congress should not be treated any differently than any other federal employee.
BANFIELD: Is that a yes?
ROHRABACHER: Whatever happens to us when it comes to what we get in benefits and whether it is retirement or health care and whatever happens to the average federal employee should happen to us, and that rule should not be changed.
If the government shuts down on Tuesday, all government employees who are considered “non-essential personnel” will be told to stop coming to work and, for the period they’re not working, they won’t be getting paid. Those federal employees also wouldn’t get back payment when the government resumed its work, unless Congress explicitly approved a bill saying they would. Members of Congress are considered “essential.”