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Congressional pay during a shutdown? Still looks likely

AP

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) earlier this month before a vote on the spending bill. The Senate, led by Boxer, has unanimously passed a stand-alone bill to prohibit members of Congress from getting a paycheck in the event of a shutdown.

From NBC's Luke Russert and Carrie Dann
With the threat of a government shutdown again rumbling on the horizon, federal workers may be looking nervously at their bank accounts.

But what about members of Congress?

The Senate, led by Democratic sponsor Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, has already unanimously passed a stand-alone bill to prohibit members of Congress from getting a paycheck in the event of a shutdown.

But that bill won’t become law unless it is passed independently by the House.

Today the House GOP said that their soon-to-be-approved budget bill (dubbed the "Prevention of Government Shutdown Act") would include the same language to eliminate paychecks for members of Congress during a shutdown.

But that budget bill – which has already been rejected by the Senate once – has virtually no chance of passing the upper chamber, meaning that the language about members' salaries will still not become law.

What’s more, GOP leaders refuse to bring the “clean” – or unattached – Senate-passed salary language up for a vote on the House floor.

(Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., introduced legislation akin to Boxer's in the House in February.)

Why?

There are a variety of reasons, but one that is mentioned constantly is that many newer members of Congress quit their jobs to run for office.

Quite frankly, they say they need the money.

As freshman Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) told constituents last week: "I guarantee most of you, I have more debt than all of you. With six kids, I still pay off my student loans. I still pay my mortgage. I drive a used minivan. If you think I'm living high off the hog, I've got one paycheck. So I struggle to meet my bills right now."

Financial disclosure data show that, generally, members of the Senate have much deeper pockets than their House colleagues. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the median estimated net worth of a member of the United States House in 2009 was about $732,000. Compare that to the median net worth for a United States senator for the same year: A bit more than $2.4 million.

Members of Congress who do not hold leadership roles make an annual salary of $174,000.