Most of state's congressional delegation will forgo pay during shutdown

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, left, announced via Twitter that he would be donating his salary during the shutdown to the Wounded Warrior Project. Rep. Joe Courtney, center, said he will donate an unspecified "portion" of his salary and Sen. Chris Murphy says he'll be keeping his salary
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, left, announced via Twitter that he would be donating his salary during the shutdown to the Wounded Warrior Project. Rep. Joe Courtney, center, said he will donate an unspecified "portion" of his salary and Sen. Chris Murphy says he'll be keeping his salary The New York Times and The Day file photos

Washington — As the list of congressmen who have decided not to keep their salaries during the federal government shutdown grows, a majority of Connecticut’s delegation has decided to join in.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., last week announced via Twitter that he would donate his pay to the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that provides services to severely injured military veterans.

At least three other members of the state’s House delegation — Democratic Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Elizabeth Esty and Jim Himes — also plan to donate their salaries to charity. And a spokeswoman for Rep. Joseph Courtney, D-2nd District, said Thursday that he will donate an unspecified “portion” of his salary to an unspecified charity if federal workers do not receive retroactive pay at the end of the shutdown.

However, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said he would continue to accept his salary during the shutdown.

“Every senator is making a different decision here,” Murphy said. “Everybody has different reasons and is making their own decisions about how to treat their pay and their staffs’ pay.”

Federal workers — both those who are furloughed and those who remain on the job because they have been deemed essential — are not receiving paychecks for the duration of the shutdown. But a constitutional mandate requires that members of Congress continue to be paid.

Members of the House and Senate currently each receive an annual salary of $174,000. While many members of Congress are independently wealthy and can afford to forgo their salaries during the shutdown, other legislators are in a situation similar to the thousands of furloughed federal workers who may be unable to pay their bills without a regular paycheck.

Murphy appears to be among the latter group.

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics’ most recent analysis of financial disclosure forms filed by members of Congress, Murphy’s assets as of 2011 rank him 96th among the 100 senators in terms of wealth. Murphy reported a net worth of somewhere between $80,000 and $95,000.

His disclosure forms indicate that he is still paying his student loans, a fact that he also noted at a recent Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing. His wife also has student loan debt.

In contrast, Blumenthal is among the wealthiest senators: The Center for Responsive Politics in 2011 ranked him third among his peers in terms of wealth, with a net worth between just under $80 million and just above $120 million.

Of his decision to donate his salary to the Wounded Warrior Project during the shutdown, Blumenthal said: “It’s a great cause. I felt personally that it was the right thing to do.”

Courtney’s wealth ranks him in the middle of the House in the 2011 analysis, 291st in the 435-member House. He reported net worth in a range of $127,000 to $680,000.

DeLauro, Esty and Himes are each millionaires, according to the 2011 filings analysis. The wealthiest of the three, DeLauro, ranked 35th in the House with a net worth between $5.38 million and $26.49 million. Esty ranked 69th among House members in wealth, with Himes in 111th place.

As of Wednesday, about 200 members of Congress had decided either not to take their salaries or to donate them to charity. While most appear to be taking the charitable donation route, others have placed their compensation in escrow pending a decision on whether federal workers will receive back pay once the shutdown ends.

The trend has been bipartisan: Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Susan Collins of Maine, the only two Republicans in the New England congressional delegation, have decided to forgo their salaries during the shutdown.

“Any days that federal workers do not get paid, Sen. Ayotte will donate her salary to a New Hampshire charity,” an Ayotte aide said.

Collins said, “Members of Congress should lose pay if federal employees who also work during the shutdown are not compensated.” Collins said she will donate her pay to charities if federal workers do not receive back pay.

Last weekend, the House unanimously approved legislation to ensure back pay for furloughed government workers once the shutdown ends; Courtney was a co-sponsor of the bill. The legislation, which President Obama has indicated he would sign, has yet to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.

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