As the garbage piles up at national monuments and parks; as TSA agents and other federal security personnel go to work without a paycheck; as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s minions cut favors for their banker friends; Trumpworld spins out of control in all sorts of ways. This is all very unsettling, but probably makes Trump pals in Moscow very happy.
With all that is going on with Trump, it’s not hard to overlook some lesser political issues that are serious, but have been pushed out of the limelight by bigger developments. So that you don’t forget the less shiny objects, Congressman Chris Collins has come to the rescue.
The Buffalo News reported last week that Collins (Trump Party, Clarence) has proposed that, for as long as the government shutdown continues, members of Congress should not be paid. “I believe it’s unfair for me to receive pay while the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep our country safe are seeing their paychecks delayed. I’ve requested that my paychecks be withheld until essential federal employees, like our Border Patrol and TSA agents who work to protect the safety and security of American citizens, are fully compensated for their duties during this partial government shutdown.”
It is a heck of a proposition for a politician who is reportedly worth more than $50 million and isn’t living paycheck to paycheck. Hold off on a “Go-Fund-Me” drive or a basket raffle for Chris.
Congressman Brian Higgins, in the same News story, pointed out that the 27th Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits cutting the pay of members of Congress. The Amendment states: “No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”
Fellow Western New York Republican Congressman Tom Reed describes Collins’ proposal as a publicity stunt.
I can say that for one of the few times since Chris Collins became an elected official, I think he is right –about not getting paid. But I think that he should not get paid because he is less than a real Congressman at this time.
Sure, technically he is a member of the House of Representatives, representing the 27th District of New York. He has one of those lapel pins so indicating.
But in the words of former Congressman and convicted felon Michael Grimm, a member of Congress who is under felony indictment is a pariah among fellow members. No one wants to be associated with an indictee. No one wants to co-sponsor bills. In the minority for the first time, having been stripped of his committee assignments with few friends left, Collins serves no useful purpose. Collins has lost all of his committee assignments because his felony indictment related to insider stock trading. His trial is scheduled for February 2020.
Being banned from committee assignments is a serious matter. It means that he has no influence whatsoever on legislation. Collins is joined in the Republican pariah caucus by fellow federal indictee Duncan Hunter of California and most recently by bigoted Iowa congressman Steve King, who has also lost his committee assignments. Why did it take so long for the Republican House leadership to criticize King’s racist rants?
Collins says that he will for the moment be providing services to constituents, but to whatever extent that is being done, it is being done by staffers without the need of oversight of a House member. Chris has never been the sort of people person who would be directly of assistance for folks trying to navigate the federal bureaucracy. His loyally to Trump makes any sympathy for furloughed federal workers ring hollow. What does his office staff tell the federal employees such as border patrol and TSA agents about when they will get paid?
The thing is, being under indictment, spending time with his lawyers preparing his defense, and having nothing really to do in Congress, Chris Collins is a non-essential federal employee. He will remain so long after the government shutdown is over.
Collins is right, he should not be paid. But then he has the 27th Amendment protecting him from that happening.