Pollak: Withhold Congressional Pay Until They Pass Unemployment Benefits

Trump Mnuchin (Doug Mills-Pool / Getty)
Doug Mills-Pool / Getty

President Donald Trump should instruct Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin to withhold the salaries of members of Congress until they can pass a bill determining the extension of federal unemployment benefits to millions of Americans.

The $600-per-week federal boost to unemployment benefits expired last week after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) failed to reach a deal with Republicans. Even the mainstream media are reporting that Pelosi and the Democrats are to blame for the lack of compromise.

Democrats are sticking to the HEROES Act — a $3 trillion, 1,815-page monstrosity passed by the Democrat-controlled House in May that includes a number of purely political provisions.

As Breitbart News reported at the time, the HEROES Act was so radical that it was opposed by moderate Democrats. It provides massive giveaways to the “green” energy industry; provides $10 million in pork to the National Endowment for the Arts; requires national mail-in voting and “ballot harvesting“; and lifts the cap on the SALT deduction — providing a massive tax cut for the rich in blue states. Democrats hope that Republicans will eventually be forced to accept the bill.

Republicans have proposed a $1 trillion alternative, focused more narrowly on immediate economic relief. They have also insisted on protecting employers from lawsuits related to coronavirus — a key concern for small businesses and non-profit organizations as they contemplate reopening. The GOP has also proposed reducing the additional federal unemployment aid from $600 per week to $200 per week, so workers have an incentive to seek new jobs rather than staying on relief.

There is room for compromise, as well as for a solution that helps state and local governments that are facing massive cash crunches — without bailing out profligate blue states like Illinois and California. But talks have been deadlocked.

Democrats even rejected a one-week extension at the $600 level. The result is that millions of Americans will experience a sudden drop in income. Pelosi is taking her sweet time: maybe there will be a deal this week, and maybe there won’t.

Evidently the politicians on Capitol Hill believe that the real deadline is November — that they can dawdle on renewing federal assistance and then blame the other side (i.e. Republicans) for the pain being experienced by American families, and for the sudden reduction in consumer spending that has, thus far, been keeping the economy afloat. There is only one way to force Congress — mainly Pelosi — to take action, and that is to withhold pay to members of Congress themselves.

The Constitution states: “The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.” Mnuchin should withhold their paychecks, on the argument that Congress is not actually providing a service.

Congress would sue, and would probably win, but the point would be made that politicians are unwilling to endure the hardship that they are, by their inaction, imposing on others.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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