WHYY.org: Philly-area congressional reps refuse pay during shutdown

Originally published on Whyy.org on January 8, 2019

By Dave Davies

At least four members of Congress from the Philadelphia area say they don’t want a paycheck as long as the partial government shutdown continues.

Democrats Chrissy Houlahan of Chester County, Mary Gay Scanlon of Delaware County, and Dwight Evans of Philadelphia are joining Bucks County Republican Brian Fitzpatrick in asking House administrators to withhold their pay for now.

Evans said he was moved by the plight of a woman who worked in air traffic control for the FAA whom he met on an Amtrak train.

In a video of their conversation on Evans’ Facebook page, she says she has “two little ones” to care for and asks members of Congress and the Trump administration to “come together and not use us as pawns.”

“The workers are caught in the middle of this, and it doesn’t make any sense,” Evans said in a phone interview, “so we need to lower our voices, stop pointing fingers and find a solution.”

President Donald Trump has said he’s prepared to endure a long shutdown to get $5.6 billion in funding for a border wall, while Democrats are opposed to the idea. The president plans a televised address Tuesday evening on the issue.

Houlahan said members of Congress need to feel the urgency that 800,000 workers who are furloughed or working without pay feel.

“I felt it was important that while people are being asked to not work and to receive no pay and in some cases to work with no guarantee of pay that I share that experience and that anxiety while we work to get the government open,” Houlahan said.

Dan Weiser, communications director for the Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives confirmed that several members have requested their pay be withheld, but couldn’t say how many.

The publication Roll Call posted a list on Friday showing 46 U.S. representatives and senators who had requested their pay be withheld, including Evans and Fitzpatrick.

Neither Weiser, nor Reps. Evans and Houlahan could say whether the representatives would get back pay when the impasse is resolved.

Fitzpatrick said that he wouldn’t accept a salary for the period of the shutdown, and would write the Treasury Department a check for whatever he’s ultimately paid.

Several elected officials planned to join furloughed federal workers in a rally Tuesday outside the Liberty Bell, one of the facilities that is closed during the shutdown.