Heller's 'no budget, no salary' amendment targets paychecks

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., proposed an amendment on Monday that would hit members of Congress where it hurts when they fail to pass timely budgets.

Heller's "no budget, no salary" amendment would prevent lawmakers from collecting paychecks if Congress fails to finalize a budget resolution by the beginning of any fiscal year.

Heller said the proposal was a protest against the inability of Congress to pass a budget since 2009.

"If Congress doesn't do its job, its members shouldn't get paid," he said.

Heller complained the Senate under Democratic control has not passed a budget "in more than 800 days." But Republicans controlled the Senate in 1998, 2004 and 2006, other years when Congress failed to finish a budget.

In the 36 years since Congress installed its budgeting process, it has failed five times to complete a budget resolution -- in 1998, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010 -- according to the Congressional Research Service.

The budget resolution is not a binding piece of legislation. Rather it provides a framework for spending and tax committees to form specific follow-up bills. In theory, this gives Congress some control to ensure that spending and revenue bills fit into a bigger blueprint.

Under Heller's amendment, lawmakers would resume getting their salaries when they pass a budget. But the checks would not be retroactive.

Heller said he intended to introduce his amendment to a pending Senate resolution by Democrats that calls for millionaires to "make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit reduction effort." But its path became unclear when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Monday used a parliamentary procedure known as "filling the tree," which blocks amendments to a pending bill.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760.