Are members of Congress being paid during the shutdown? Curious Texas finds out

January 17, 2019
In The News

WASHINGTON — About 800,000 federal employees are still going without pay as the government shutdown drags into a fourth week.

But members of Congress are still receiving their paychecks.

A reader asked us if that was the case through Curious Texas, an ongoing project from The Dallas Morning News that invites you to join our reporting process.

The shutdown began in late December over President Donald Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. He has proposed declaring a national emergency to sidestep Congress or diverting federal funding for military construction, flood control and disaster relief. A bipartisan group of Texas leaders said Tuesday that funding for Hurricane Harvey recovery should be off the table.

But as in other shutdowns, some members of Congress have decided to forgo their $174,000 annual salary as a sign of solidarity with federal employees.

“We’re just trying to show we are with federal workers,” Houston Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw told The Dallas Morning News. “I’ve been a military member and I’ve been in government shutdowns. I understand the worry that might take place. ... I’m empathetic to that.”

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, introduced a bill when Congress returned Jan. 3 to freeze congressional pay when any federal agency undergoes a shutdown because of a lack of funds.

“The American people expect Congress to do its most basic job: pass a budget and fund the government. If we can’t, then we shouldn’t get paid,” he told KSL Newsradio in Salt Lake City.

Some members have submitted letters to House Chief Administrative Officer Phil Kiko to withhold pay, while others announced they would donate their checks to a charity or particular cause.

Kiko’s office declined to provide a list of members who asked for their paychecks to be withheld. The Dallas Morning News collected the information based on various media reports and public statements released by members.

So far, 132 members of Congress — 110 representatives and 22 senators — have asked for their paychecks to be withheld. Some are taking pay but have said they would donate it to a particular cause or charity.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted on New Year’s Day that she would donate her paycheck to a nonprofit that helps refugees.  

Eleven Texas representatives, 10 Republicans and one Democrat, announced during the shutdown that they would not take a check.

Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, shared on Facebook a letter he sent to Kiko asking for his pay to stop when the shutdown started at midnight Dec. 22.

“There’s no good reason why Members of #Congress should continue to receive pay during a needless government #shutdown while other federal employees suffer,” Hurd wrote. “That’s why I also plan to ask that my salary be withheld while we work to restore government funding.”

Other Texans who have announced they’re not taking a paycheck include:

Brian Babin, R-Woodville, submitted a letter last week, the Baytown Sun reported. 

John Carter, R-Round Rock, released a statement this week

Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, released a statement this week

Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, submitted a letter last week

Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, submitted a letter Jan. 3. 

Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, submitted a letter Jan. 2.

Chip Roy, R-Austin, tweeted that he notified Kiko's office last week.  

Van Taylor, R-Plano, submitted a letter Jan. 3.

Roger Williams, R-Austin, told the DailyTrib of Central Texas that he is donating his paycheck to a Copperas Cove war museum.