Unlike 800,000 furloughed federal workers, Rep. Renee Ellmers needs her paycheck.
If you deprive hundreds of thousands of people of something they need, without giving them any say in the matter, then announce that you yourself are keeping that thing because you need it, you just might be an asshole. Of the congressional Republican variety, specifically. Some Republicans who voted to shut down the government, furloughing 800,000 federal workers, delaying paychecks even for the essential employees who are at work every day (like, say, Capitol police), and closing many needed government programs are now coming forward to explain why they won't be donating their paychecks to charity as others are doing. Take Rep. Renee Ellmers, Republican of North Carolina:
"I need my paycheck. That's the bottom line. I understand that there may be some other members who are deferring their paychecks, and I think that's admirable. I'm not in that position."
Oh, well, as long as you neeeed
it, I'm sure that makes you very different from all the janitors and secretaries and accountants and Head Start teachers and workplace safety inspectors you voted to furlough without pay. Ellmers is, in fact, close to the bottom
of the House wealth rankings. It probably would be uncomfortable for her to go without her paycheck! Which is where maybe she should think about all the people who make a fraction of what she's paid as a member of Congress, people who didn't get to vote, as she did, on taking their damn paychecks away.
Similarly, Rep. Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota:
"I'm staying here, and I'm working," said Cramer in an interview with Valley News Live on Wednesday. "My office is open, we're taking phone calls, I'm voting every day, I'm debating every day, I'm going to countless meetings. I'm working to earn the salary that the people pay me to do the job. I don't get into those sort of stunt-y things, and I'm not going to do it."
"I will continue to earn it, and I will continue to collect what I earn, yes," he added.
Again, let's refer to the Capitol police and other essential government workers who are showing up every day and will not get paid until Cramer and his party end this damn shutdown. Cramer makes a fair point about members of Congress donating their salaries when he says "If you want a Congress that's full of millionaires and doctors' spouses, this is a great little trick." But if you're delaying or denying paychecks for people making a fraction of what you make, all of whom are either working now or wishing they were allowed to come back to work, you need to share the damn pain. Maybe it would provide a glimmer of insight into what you're doing to the country.
If, as a person who actually does need your paycheck, you can't bring yourself to care about all the people who also need their paychecks and don't get the choice, people over whom you have power, then you may suffer from a deficit of empathy that is in a way even worse than that of people like Sen. Ted Cruz, who don't really need their piddly little $174,000 congressional pay.