Few House members use salary payback plan

March 29, 2011 at 10:32 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 29 (UPI) -- A little-used U.S. House salary payback program has been called a "gimmick" by one member who says the budget crisis needs solutions, not a publicity stunt.

So far, only two House members -- one Democrat and one Republican -- elected to dock their pay to help reduce the federal debt. Together, they donated slightly more than $2,600 each quarter, The Washington Post reported.

Because of the enormity of the federal debt -- $14.2 trillion -- some congressional members are shying away from the program, saying it is, basically, ineffective.

"Even if all members of Congress returned their full salaries in order to pay off the debt," it would barely scratch the surface, Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, told the Post.

Cuellar, a Blue Dog, or fiscally conservative, Democrat, has called for a balanced budget and for rooting out ineffective federal programs.

He doesn't give his salary back, saying, "We need real solutions, not gimmicks."

Last year, records show, two House members donated a "Gift to the United States for Reduction of Public Debt" every fiscal quarter. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., gave $414.39, and Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., gave $2,196. Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo, R-N.J., gave $4,782 in the first quarter and nothing since.

House and Senate leaders are meeting to try to craft a spending bill for the current fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. The latest continuing resolution keeping government operations funded expires April 8, and there are other fiscal issues expecting to generate disagreement and debate -- such as next year's budget and raising the nation's legal debt limit -- all underpinned by a bipartisan worry over the debt.

For the year, the House's donations totaling $15,233.56 were given to the federal Bureau of the Public Debt, where it was combined with gifts from the public, the Post said. Last year, Americans gave $2.8 million.

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