In the ongoing federal government shutdown, one fiscal fact has raised some eyebrows. Despite the furlough of many federal employees, members of Congress are staying at work—with pay. One congressman, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), answered a question about this from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer last week by noting, “There is a bit of a constitutional issue … when you are dealing with the paychecks of members of Congress.”
One generally shouldn’t trust politicians to know what they’re talking about when it comes to the Constitution, but the congressman got this one right. The reason is the 27th and latest constitutional amendment, which 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.”
The 27th Amendment was originally drafted and proposed in the late 1780s to address a criticism of the Congressional Compensation Clause in the Constitution’s Article I. This clause was ratified to ensure that members of Congress would be paid and thus less easily corrupted, and that they would be paid out of the federal treasury so that they wouldn’t be beholden to the states.