WASHINGTON — Rep. Ben McAdams has spent his first few weeks in Washington, D.C., crashing with friends because he doesn't have a place to live.
He's bouncing around because he gave up his salary during the federal government shutdown.
"I’m not able to get into an apartment until I have a pay stub," the Utah Democrat explained. "It’s a minor inconvenience compared to what other people are going through."
McAdams said he and his wife, who remains in Utah with the couple's four children, have talked about what they're going to do if the government shutdown continues and he doesn't get paid for a couple of months. U.S. House members make $174,000 a year.
"It causes some stress for the family, but I think it’s the right thing to do," he said.
McAdams said it brings uncertainty but also empathy for the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who are going without pay and struggling to pay bills.
"Congress should be in the same position as everybody else when they're causing these problems," he said. "I think it’s only fair to be treated just like every other employee of the federal government."
The newest member and only Democrat in Utah's congressional delegation has found the start of his service a "bit of a wild ride" with the shutdown, which he calls "inexcusable."
McAdams said he and other freshmen he has talked to are frustrated about entering Congress in the middle of a shutdown. He said they were elected to get something done and fix a broken Washington.
"And yet, here we sit with no progress. I think there is some blame to go on both sides," he said.
McAdams isn't the only Utah member of Congress who isn't collecting a paycheck.
Republican Rep. John Curtis had his salary withheld when the shutdown started more than three weeks ago.
On Tuesday, Curtis responded to a viral change.org petition calling for the docking of congressional pay during the shutdown.
"Thank you for sharing your thoughts about congressional pay during government shutdowns. You may be pleased to learn that I agree with you. In fact, when the partial government shutdown began in December, I immediately sent instructions to the clerk of the House to halt my pay," he wrote.
"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."
Curtis also introduced a bill that would prohibit Congress from being paid during government shutdowns.
McAdams said there will always be issues where Democrats and Republicans disagree — today it's border security — but governing by crisis doesn't work.
"If we're always going to go into shutdown mode until somebody gets their way, that’s not a healthy way to govern. It’s not a great way to build consensus," he said. "Let's have an adult step into the room. … I think there's a lot of common ground on both sides."
Newly elected Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney said he's among a group of lawmakers working behind the scenes to move President Donald Trump and Democrat leaders to a win-win. He said the gap between the White House and the Democrats isn't that wide on substance.
"Unfortunately, the politics have become very divided. It’s more of a political battle than it is a substantive battle. I’d like to see the egos put aside and see if we can’t find some common ground," he said.
Romney said the government shutdown, which he called "absurd," should have never happened.
"Shutting down the government for something of this nature, in my opinion, is a mistake," he said, adding that people across the country and in Utah are suffering.
As for when he thinks it might end, Romney said, "You’ll have to ask the president and Democratic leadership how long this will go on."