To be clear, there has been chatter on Capitol Hill about congressional pay cuts for quite some time. Last year for example, Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Arizona) proposed the idea, but with her own party in charge in Washington the idea went nowhere. However, Kirkpatrick also pushed the Obamacare agenda on a less-than-agreeable Arizona electorate, while at the same time she pledged to forego the lavish healthcare plan afforded to her as a member of congress and agreed to instead participate in the President’s government-run health plan herself. While cuts in congressional salary and benefits were certainly noble ideas, Ms. Kirkpatrick nonetheless managed to get herself un-elected last November as she became one of the infamous one-termer Democratic freshmen who rode the Obama wave to victory in 2008, only to crash with him two years later.
But at the start of this year another Arizonan -and a much more moderate Democrat - Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords took up the mantle. Introducing the “congressional pay cut act” on January 6th, Ms. Giffords attracted co-sponsorship of her legislation from such diverse House members as the big-spending Rep. Jim Costa (D-California), and the always-looking-for-leaner-government Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). The Giffords bill calls for a meager 5% decrease in congressional pay, yet seems to be stalled for the time being as Ms. Giffords herself continues her miraculous recovery from her own horrific shooting that occurred two days later.
And herein lies the opportunity for Mr. Boehner. If the Speaker of the House would take the baton and move forward while at the same time making cuts in both congressional pay and benefits even steeper, he could demonstrate that American statesmanship is capable of self-sacrifice, and truly operating in the interests of the “common good.”
And imagine the impact that Speaker Boehner could have on Republican leaders at the state level. If, for example, Governors across the country were inspired to self-impose their own salary and benefits reduction, it could go a long way to demonstrate that teachers and law enforcement officers are not the only government employees that are being asked to “do more with less.”
Owing to the reality that the U.S. Senate is still controlled by the Obama Democrats, many of Boehner’s legislative achievements have been dismissed as “merely symbolic” (the Senate, for example, will never agree to de-funding National Public Radio). To this, the House Majority has rightly offered a very succinct response: “give us more Republicans in the Senate, and we’ll make our spending cuts a reality.”
But Speaker Boehner has the power, right now, to demonstrate that recipients of some of the most lavish salaries and benefits in the world (all of which are funded with our tax dollars) are capable of self-sacrifice. Mr. Boehner, this is your time -are you ready?
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.