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New House bill would block pay for members of Congress if the U.S. defaults

The bipartisan legislation by Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., comes amid growing fears about a debt ceiling breach ahead of a June 1 deadline.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va.Nathan Howard / AP file

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan bill set to be announced Thursday by Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., would block members of Congress from getting paid if the U.S. enters debt default or if the government shuts down.

The No Pay for Congress During Default or Shutdown Act, shared in advance with NBC News, would withhold lawmakers' pay for the duration of a debt limit breach or a lapse in federal funding, an attempt to motivate legislators to prevent either situation.

Fears are growing that the divided Congress may not meet the June 1 deadline set by the Treasury Department to raise the debt limit or risk a catastrophic default on U.S. obligations. The proposal, from two politically vulnerable members in competitive districts, represents a populist move to channel voter anger toward Congress, which is strong among both parties’ bases.

"If Congress can’t fulfill basic obligations tied to the strength and security of our country, lawmakers should not be rewarded with our salaries until we do our jobs," Spanberger said.

Fitzpatrick, an ally of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is supporting his demands for spending cuts in a debt limit bill, said, "Our bipartisan legislation is a no-brainer — lawmakers should not be paid if we irresponsibly default on our nation’s debt."

Notably, the Spanberger-Fitzpatrick bill would not permanently prevent lawmakers from getting paid, which would run afoul of the 27th Amendment. Instead, it would withhold pay for the length of a shutdown or a default — at least until the end of the session.

If either a default or a shutdown persists, Spanberger's office said, "congressional payroll administrators — such as the Chief Administrative Office (CAO) in the U.S. House — would release withheld payments at the end of the 118th Congress."