The 27th Amendment and Suspending Congressional Pay
Count me among those who think that the provision in the new debt ceiling extension that would suspend congressional pay if the Senate does not produce a budget in a timely manner is unconstitutional. The Twenty-Seventh Amendment says:
“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”
This is pretty clear, but one might say “Sure, they said ‘varying,’ but they only cared about ‘raising.” Not true. One of the innovations in the Constitution was that members of Congress were paid. In Parliament, by contrast, they were not. Paying congressional salaries was seen as a way of opening these positions to people who were not rich. Consequently, voices were raised during the original debate on Madison’s draft that Congress should not be allowed to decrease salaries and thereby make it harder for people of modest means to serve.