It has come to this: Later today, esteemed members of the U.S. Congress, the nation’s premier deliberative body, will vote on a proposal to stop paying themselves a salary if they cannot get their act together. Section 2 of H.R. 325 is called, “HOLDING SALARIES OF MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IN ESCROW UPON FAILURE TO AGREE TO BUDGET RESOLUTION.” In some ways, this is an improvement over recent practice. For years, Congress has threatened calamity for the country, via the debt ceiling, sequestration and the fiscal cliff, if they failed to act. Now the nation’s elected leaders are now threatening calamity upon themselves.
The only potential problem is the U.S. Constitution, which states in the 27th Amendment, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.” In other words, if Congress wants to change its pay, it has to wait until the next election for the change to take effect. House Republican leaders think by holding the pay in escrow they are not “varying the compensation,” but that is not really something for them to decide. Assuming a lawsuit, the question would go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But this is America, the land of the free, home of the brave, birthplace of the silly putty. Surely there must be a better way for Congress to self-flagellate without raising constitutional questions. To this end, we at Swampland would like to get the conversation going. So we now present a few other ways Congress can punish itself without violating the 27th Amendment.
1. BAN SMOKING WITHIN 500 FEET OF THE U.S. CAPITOL Okay, this one would mostly just punish one member of Congress. But he is a powerful one.
2. TAKE AWAY THE FREE CONGRESSIONAL PARKING AT DULLES AND REAGAN AIRPORTS Both of the airports nearby Washington have free Congressional parking lots. Denying this perk would be worse than torture for many members.
3. TURN OFF CLIMATE CONTROL AND BAN FOOT COVERINGS IN U.S. CAPITOL COMPLEX The windchill in Washington D.C. today is well below freezing. So turn off the heat in the U.S. Capitol complex and ban the wearing of shoes or socks.
4. REPLACE THE HOUSE GAVEL WITH A RUBBER CHICKEN Enough said.
5. SERVE ONLY ENSURE PLUS DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS IN THE CONGRESSIONAL CAFETERIA The Central Intelligence Agency fed this stuff to its high-value detainees undergoing harsh interrogation. Many of those prisoners cracked under the pressure. It might work again.
Don’t like these suggestions? Please make your own in the comments below.