“I don’t expect a freshman to expect to do all this and especially a freshman from Eric Cantor’s own state,” says Rep. Jim Cooper (D) of Tennessee. “He’s extraordinarily brave to deviate an inch from party doctrine.”
Facts, members of Congress like to say, are stubborn things. And American disdain for Congress is a fact. The legislative branch’s approval rating verges on single digits. The 112th Congress is, statistically, the least-productive session since World War II. underperforming even the the infamous “do-nothing” Congress reviled by President Harry Truman.
About midway through his first term, Rigell noted that his were constituents expressing “fear, angst, and anger” about Congress. “And so I went, as best as I could tell, to the root of the problem," he said.
Rigell approached Representative Cooper with what one of the last Blue Dog Democrats described as a “very inquiring mind and a distressed conscience.” After adding Rep. Reid Ribble (R) of Wisconsin and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D) of Oregon to the mix, the Fix Congress Now caucus was ready to roll. The caucus, now supported by some dozen members, has a single signature piece of legislation: no budget, no pay.
The concept is simple: If Congress fails to pass a budget and all 12 appropriations bills by Oct. 1 of each year, legislators go without pay until they’ve achieved passage of every bill. Lawmakers can’t recoup lost pay, either.