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Cut pay for Congress? Sounds appealing, but .

Published March 17, 2013 6:43 pm

• The Kansas City Star
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Taking a populist approach, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill is leading an effort to cut congressional pay during the sequester.

Taxpayers are fed up with elected officials who have failed miserably to deal with the country's tough fiscal problems. So whacking the $174,000 a year salaries for senators and representatives has plenty of public appeal.

(Psst: It's also probably unconstitutional, but more on that later.)

McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, calls a bill she introduced last week an "accountability act."

Yes, it would be great to find a good way to hold Congress accountable for the mess it has made in Washington. The members haven't cut enough spending or tax loopholes. They dithered before and after the "fiscal cliff."

They currently aren't acting reasonably to solve problems caused by the looming sequester cuts on defense and social programs.

Oh, and a government shutdown could be coming in late March.

No wonder some social media comments have been tilted in favor of McCaskill's efforts. "This do-nothing Congress is the worst in history," read one, while another complained, "Congress doesn't work anyway, at least for majority of the American people."

Still, the forecast for McCaskill's measure is rather cloudy.

First, Congress may not pass it.

Second, the bill likely violates the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, according to legal scholars. That amendment says no law varying pay for Congress can take effect until after the next U.S. House election.

In other words, anything Congress passes in 2013 would become law only after the November 2014 federal elections.

Some supporters of slashing congressional pay think it might be worth the fight to see whether courts would rule in favor of McCaskill's measure. There's also hope that members of Congress at least could be cowed into donating a portion of their salaries to charities if heavy-duty furloughs hit other parts of the federal government.

Unfortunately, that would be expecting a lot of this Congress, based on its actions on important matters in recent months.

The bill to cut congressional pay is only a drop in the bucket when it comes to federal spending and is an attempt to make an end run around the Constitution.

But along with many Americans, we sure love its symbolism.