CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | The great government shutdown of 2013 lasted 16 days. While the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party obstructed the budget process in a bid to scuttle Obamacare, federal employees went without a paycheck last October. Over half of the House of Representatives, including the East Bay’s Rep. Eric Swalwell, pledged solidarity to government workers and said they would refuse their own paychecks until a new spending bill was approved.
However, KTVU reported Wednesday, Swalwell was actually paid roughly $4,700 earned during the shutdown, despite an attempt a day before the impasse to express sympathy for public workers. Conversely, South Bay Rep. Mike Honda did not make such a claim, reasoning he was still earning his pay while working for a resolution to the contentious budget fight.
In a letter sent last Sept. 30 to the Office of Chief Administrative Officer, Swalwell said, “I believe it is simply wrong and unfair for me to receive my salary while Americans working hard across the country as part of our federal workforce receive nothing until this appropriations crisis is resolved. Therefore, I ask that until federal employees who must work during a federal government shutdown are paid, I not be given my paycheck.”
According to the report other local politicians claimed to have donated their salary to charity. However, Swalwell is not one of the wealthiest members of Congress and may not be able to afford such philanthropy. In fact, upon election to Congress in January 2013, Swalwell, 34, told the San Francisco Chronicle he would maintain a roommate in both the Washington, D.C. area and Dublin.
Was the letter and pledge to withhold his salary simply a publicity stunt? Likely, since according to the 27th Amendment, congressional pay cannot vary. Swalwell even acknowledges it in his letter, saying, “However, it is my understanding that I, as a Member of Congress, will continue to receive a paycheck.” Meanwhile, it was incumbent on Swalwell to either give it back his pay to the U.S. Treasury or donate it to a charity of his choice. Instead, it went straight to personal bank account.