Lawmakers say they'd take pay cut, but they can't

    Just Watched

    Will Congress share the misery?

Will Congress share the misery? 00:02

Story highlights

  • Members of Congress also preparing for potential sharp cuts in federal spending
  • But lawmakers will not see any change to their annual salary of $174,000
  • Some staff let go, office budgets reduced with sequester looming

Pain from forced spending cuts is a week away and lawmakers are preparing their aides for the fallout that could hit them like other government workers.

"We've actually budgeted with a 10% cut in mind," Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Illinois, said last week.

Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Florida, reorganized his office in December.

"We had to let people go then because we were anticipating at least a 16% cut," he said.

Pentagon: Furloughs for civilian workers if forced cuts go into effect

But members of Congress, the very people who voted to put the automatic spending cuts in place, won't see any change to their annual salary of $174,000.

    Just Watched

    Budget woes: Been there, done that?

Budget woes: Been there, done that? 04:45

    Just Watched

    Forced time off with no pay

Forced time off with no pay 03:30


    Because Congress can change its pay only by passing a law to do so.

    Before Congress left town for a week's recess, CNN took an informal survey and asked lawmakers whether they were willing to take a pay cut if the so-called sequester was set in motion on March 1.

    Most lawmakers in both parties said yes.

    "Well, certainly. I mean, we're all in this together. We're all suffering together," said Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina.

    "Absolutely. Let's make sure that we're doing our part as well," said Rep. Ben Lujan, D-New Mexico.

    "Oh, sure. Yeah, I mean, that's called leadership," responded Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Florida.

    But cutting lawmaker pay isn't so easy. The 27th Amendment prohibits members of Congress from changing their compensation until after the next election.

    Still, they can get creative by writing checks to charity or the U.S. Treasury.

    Ironically, some tea party-backed lawmakers who campaigned on slashing federal spending are reluctant to give up their pay.

    Poll: Deficit is essential issue for Congress to tackle

    Rep. Billy Long, R-Missouri, was elected in 2010 to cut Washington spending.

      Just Watched

      Forced spending cuts deadline approaches

    Forced spending cuts deadline approaches 03:20

      Just Watched

      Rand Paul to Obama: Do the right thing

    Rand Paul to Obama: Do the right thing 05:02

      Just Watched

      The impact of forced budget cuts

    The impact of forced budget cuts 01:35

      Just Watched

      Obama: People will lose jobs over cuts

    Obama: People will lose jobs over cuts 02:04

    "Do you think members of Congress should take a pay cut?" CNN asked.

    "I don't think so," he responded. "I mean, I don't think we should raise our pay."

    But what about the fact that congressional aides may be furloughed?

    "It's such a miniscule part," Long said.

    Former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann answered the question about whether she personally would take a pay cut -- asked several times -- by talking only about her staff.

    "We'd like to keep everybody on the payroll if we can, but they'll have to work fewer hours. So, we're looking at reductions in our staff, and that's what we need to do," said the Minnesota Republican.

    CNNMoney: Biggest problems with forced budget cuts

    Two members of Congress returned part of their office budgets to the Treasury this week.

    Standing in front of an oversized check for $600,000 -- or 20% of his budget -- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said his office treated funds "like it's our money, or your money, and we look at every expenditure."

    Rand Paul returns more money to Treasury

    Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-South Carolina, said he would return $160,000 to the federal government, or 12% of his office budget.

    One of the biggest opponents of Congress cutting its pay is one of the wealthiest, Nancy Pelosi.

    The House Democratic leader says she knows other members of Congress are not as financially fortunate.

    "Most of my colleagues are the breadwinners in their families, said Pelosi. "A pay cut, to me, doesn't mean as much."

    CNNMoney: Federal worker furloughs could start in April

        Forced Budget Cuts

      • United States Marines are being told to preserve ammunition and gasoline as a deal softening the impact of automatic spending cuts continues to elude leaders in Washington.
      • The political bickering over the automatic spending cuts has done little but cloud the public's understanding of what's going on and why. So we'll try to set the record straight on at least a few oft-repeated misconceptions.
      • sequester impact acosta pkg_00001719.jpg

        We've had enough of the Beltway's wacky terms. Using fancy-pants words to dramatize and complicate otherwise simple concepts is becoming a habit of lawmakers.
      • Here we go: A new round of confrontation between the White House and Congress over the federal budget is in the offing, this time in a new attempt to avert the looming "sequestration" process.
      • Most Americans will feel the impact of forced budget cuts when their lives intersect with government -- trying to get through airport security to make a flight, visiting a national park, or using federal programs or assistance.
      • WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech before a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol February 12, 2013 in Washington, DC. Facing a divided Congress, Obama concentrated his speech on new initiatives designed to stimulate the U.S. economy and said, 'It's not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth'. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

        Forced budget cuts aren't the only fiscal headache facing Congress. On March 27, the so-called continuing resolution that funds federal programs runs out and the government could shut down.
      • Two days after a Federal Aviation Administration official told contractors that steps were being taken to shut down 168 air traffic control towers on April 1, the agency gave the towers an unexpected reprieve Friday, saying the official's comments were "unauthorized."
      • The US Capitol dome and it's reflection are seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on December 29, 2012. As the fiscal cliff deadline looms, Congress and the White House have still not reached a compromise. If no deal is struck by December 31 at midnight, taxes will automatically go up on both high earners and the middle class, and across-the-board spending cuts will go into effect. AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

        From military training to educational grants to border patrols to hurricane relief, federal agencies face $85 billion in automatic, government-wide spending cuts this year.
      • The sequester would touch many, many government programs and services. These 57 are a somewhat random sampling of what could happen.