With his phone ringing off the hook from upset federal employees in Utah, Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, called on Congress Wednesday to cut its own salary if it forces federal workers to take time off without pay.
Such unpaid furloughs could result from automatic, across-the-board spending cuts required by the Gramm-Rudman budget balancing law if Congress is unable to adopt a budget by Oct. 1. Budget talks have been stalled for months.Rick Guldan, Hansen's press secretary, said notices were recently sent to employees at Hill Air Force Base, the Internal Revenue Service center in Ogden and other large federal agencies in Hansen's district warning that employees could face furloughs of up to 22 days spread over many weeks.
"One group of federal employees not affected by sequestration are members of Congress. That's just not right," Hansen said in prepared comments for a speech on the House floor.
"I have notified members of my staff that they will take the same cuts as every other federal employee in Utah's 1st District," he said. "Additionally, I myself will return to the Treasury the same percentage of my pay as that lost by furloughed employees in my district if sequestration goes into effect, and I call on every member of Congress to do the same.
"If we are to furlough our constituents, we should furlough Congress as well," Hansen said.
He added that he believes the budget negotiators will reach an agreement before "the nightmare has become a reality" but urged Congress to work harder to ensure that.
He pledged in a separate statement to go head to head with "those members of Congress who treat federal employees as little more than expendable pawns in a giant game of political chess."
Hansen's speech was one of several by House members whose districts have high percentages of federal workers - such as districts in the suburbs around Washington, D.C. - who called for action to avoid furloughs.
While Hansen pledged to return some of his pay if other federal employees are given furloughs, he and other House members received large pay raises earlier this year.
The House voted to hike its pay from $89,500 to $96,600 this year, and it should jump to about $125,000 on Jan. 1 under pay raise plans approved last year - nearly a 40 percent raise in two years.
Hansen and Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, voted against the raise but accepted it. Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, voted for the raise but refused to accept it this year, offering the extra money as scholarships to Utah students.