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Who gets paid if there's a shutdown? Members of Congress still will

From NBC's Luke Russert
On the eve of a possible government shutdown, hundreds of thousands of federal workers and members of the military are at risk of not collecting a paycheck until after Congress reaches a deal to fund the government.

But as of now, the people directly involved in bringing about a shutdown -- members of Congress -- will still continue to receive their pay as scheduled even if scores of other workers are furloughed.

Stand-alone legislation has been proposed -- but not passed in both the House and the Senate -- that would prohibit members of Congress from receiving their pay in the event of a shutdown. Members of Congress make, on average, $174,000 per year.

On March 1, the Senate unanimously passed a bill that would bar members of Congress from receiving a paycheck in the event of a federal funding gap. That bill was sent to the House but has not been scheduled for a floor vote.

That has drawn the criticism of sponsors of the Senate legislation,  including Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner this week, Boxer told the House leader “you have failed to schedule a vote on stand-alone legislation that would treat Members of Congress and the President no differently from other federal employees during a government shutdown.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., announced Thursday that he will return his salary to the U.S. Treasury in case of a shutdown -- and he has urged his colleagues in the Senate to do the same.

Republicans included language similar to Boxer's bill in a measure that passed the House last week, but the no-pay language was attached to a provision which said if the Senate failed to act on passing a budget for the rest of fiscal year 2011, the House GOP budget would be the law of the land.

As expected, Democrats in the Senate declined to pass the overall bill, which would have allowed Republicans' desired $61 billion in total cuts to federal spending.

In an interview with ABC News yesterday, Boehner claimed he favored legislation that would bar member pay in the event of a shutdown.

“No, they shouldn’t be getting paid," he said. "Just like federal employees shouldn’t be getting paid."

But when asked today by NBC News whether or not House Republicans would bring forth a bill that simply contained language prohibiting members of Congress from being paid in the event of a government shutdown without being attached to other measures, Boehner demurred.

“We passed a bill similar to the Senate and we’re hoping they’ll act on it,” he said.

The reality is that the Senate will not act on the House GOP language because it is attached to legislation that would limit its institutional power.  So unless a “clean bill” that bans Congress from being paid in the event of shutdown is brought to the House floor before 11:59pm ET on Friday, members of Congress will keep collecting paychecks even as the lights in other federal offices go out.

Msnbc.com's Carrie Dann contributed to this report.