Karen Fratti
January 20, 2018 12:12 pm
Al Drago / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Because life is just totally unfair sometimes, members of Congress and President Donald Trump will continue to be paid during the government shutdown, while members of the military and most other government employees will have their paychecks delayed.

In case you missed it, the government shut down at midnight Friday after Democrats and Republicans failed to reach a deal on spending. Republicans refused to pass anything that didn’t include money for a border wall. Democrats insisted any temporary funding measure include a long-term DACA replacement. But despite attempts to keep the government running, party leaders on both sides of the aisle refused to blink.

That means national parks and “nonessential” government offices will be closed for an indefinite period of time. “Essential” employees — such as military service members and some congressional staffers — will continue to show up to work, but most likely will remain unpaid for the duration of the shutdown. Other nonessential employees will be furloughed, which means they won’t work or get paid on time.

The last time a government shutdown happened, anyone who had to work was paid retroactively, which isn’t so bad. Unless they’re the kind of underpaid government employee or military family living paycheck to paycheck, of course, in which case the shutdown could seriously affect their livelihoods.

The gross part is that Congress and Trump’s paychecks won’t be affected during the government shutdown.

According to The Washington Post‘s government shutdown FAQ, the Constitution “forbids the salary of the president to be reduced while he or she is in office, thus effectively guaranteeing the president of compensation regardless of any shutdown action.”

The same goes for members of Congress, whose salaries are written into permanent law rather than paid through congressional appropriations.

The rule was supposed to prevent them from giving themselves raises, but it also means they can refuse to compromise on important policy issues without being denied pay during a government shutdown.

What a great way to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration, right?

Back in 2013, noting the terrible optics of the situation, many members of Congress pledged to donate their shutdown salaries to charity. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) has already gone on record saying he would donate his pay this year. As of right now, Congress is still in session, trying to work this thing out.

At the beginning of his presidency, Trump said he planned on donating his presidential salary, a promise he’s followed through on. Most recently, he donated his third-quarter salary to opioid efforts at the Department of Health and Human Services. So eventually, any money he earns during the shutdown will likely go to another cause, for better or worse.

But make no mistake. Just because Congress or Trump donates their pay doesn’t mean they’re not putting politics before the well-being of American people, whether they’re immigrants or furloughed government employees.

Hopefully, someone will step up and end this nonsense as soon as possible.

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