The freshman Senator from Nevada, Republican Dean Heller, has proposed legislation aimed at encouraging Congress to pass a complete government budget each year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has held up budget legislation for 3 years and Congress has passed continuing resolutions, which keep the government running at the current funding level.
Sen. Heller’s legislation would withhold Congressional paychecks if a yearly budget is not passed as required by the Constitution. I support this legislation as a matter of principle. As a Heller campaign ad notes, the rest of us do not get paid if we do not do our work.
But aside from making a statement, passing this legislation would not hurt the vast majority of our legislators since most of them have plenty of money in reserve.
According to 2010 Congressional finance disclosure forms, 250 of our 535 Congressional representatives have a net worth over $1 million. Fifty-seven (33 in the House, 24 in the Senate) are among the wealthiest 1% of Americans that are being targeted by President Obama and other Democrats to pay more taxes. Less than 2% of Congress come from the working class. (Additional taxes on the 1% would not affect those 57 members of Congress because there is a different tax code for Congress.)
Congressional salaries of $174,000 per year may not be much in comparison to Representatives’ and Senators’ assets. But the average American earned $49,445 in 2010, and Congressmen would be far better off than most of us even if their salary was all they had to live on. When any member of Congress claims to understand the financial situation of the majority of Americans, we should be skeptical.
Congressmen disclose their assets within a range, so the net worth listed for each is the average of the low and high ends of the range, not an exact amount. They are not required to include the value of their home(s), government retirement accounts or personal property that is not considered an investment (such as vehicles or artwork). Interestingly, the Census Bureau includes all real estate holdings when calculating the net worth of other Americans.
(For the record, in 2010 President Obama’s net worth was $7.3 million.)
http://www.usatoday/news/washington/story/2011-11-15/congress-wealthy-1/51216626/1 (Includes a chart where you can look up your own legislators’ net worth.)