No Paychecks for Senate Staffers if Shutdown Continues

Senators will get paid regardless of the government's operating status, but their employees who have been working through the shutdown won't.

By: Benjamin Freed

Members of the US Senate will be paid on Friday. But if the shutdown is still going then, their employees won’t. The next scheduled paychecks can’t be cut because they cover a two-week period for which the government has no funding.

In a memorandum to Senate staffers that was first reported by Politico, the chamber’s financial clerk, Christopher J. Doby, writes that he has “no authority to pay salaries until new spending is approved.” Each individual senator has the authority to furlough his or her employees, whose salaries can range from around $30,000 for an entry-level clerk to $170,000 for a chief of staff or top policy adviser.

While some senators have pledged to “donate” their salaries as long as the shutdown lasts, the Constitution requires that they be paid regardless of the government’s budget. Most senators earn $174,000 per year, while party leaders get $193,400.

And though Doby tells Senate staffers that they will still receive their health insurance benefits (during, of all things, a shutdown caused by one party’s opposition to a health care reform law), other details of his memo suggest some employees could be facing some hardships. Payments on student loans and other obligations like mortgages and car payments will not be transmitted, forcing affected staffers to “make alternate payment arrangments.”

Those payments will be made, and all Senate staffers—about 5,000 total—will get the money they’re owed if the Senate passes a back-pay act previously adopted by the House. That bill passed the house unanimously, but some Senate Republicans have hesitated about voting on it.