Bartlett bill would punish Congress for red ink Unbalanced budgets would mean pay cuts

THE BALTIMORE SUN

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett introduced legislation yesterday to require members of Congress to make what he called the "ultimate" promise to voters: Take a pay cut if they fail to balance the federal budget.

"In the real world, you get paid for performance," said Mr. Bartlett, a Republican from Western Maryland. "If we, as members of Congress, continually fail to do our job, our pay should be cut by the magnitude of our failures."

Mr. Bartlett's bill is intended as an enforcement mechanism to compell Republicans and Democrats in Congress to hold strictly to any plan they reach to balance the budget in seven years.

The bill would cut lawmakers' pay in any year in which they failed to hit a deficit-reduction target. Salaries would be cut in proportion to the amount by which the target is missed -- 0.5 percent for every $1 billion of red ink.

If Congress missed its target by, for example, $100 billion in one year, salaries would shrink 50 percent -- from $133,600 to $66,800.

The congressman said his bill had the backing of Speaker Newt Gingrich and other House leaders. A Gingrich spokeswoman said she could not reach the speaker to confirm his support.

Most of the 20 co-sponsors are relatively junior Republicans, like Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of Baltimore County. By contrast, Mr. Bartlett said, his bill has met a cool response from some senior Republicans who well know the kind of gridlock that could bring the bill's sanctions into force. He would not name them.

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