by David Jackson and Susan Davis, USA TODAY
April 4, 2013 (TSR) – President Obama plans to take a 5% salary cut in support of federal workers who are going to be furloughed, officials said Wednesday.
The decision comes a day after a similar move by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Obama’s move is retroactive to March 1, the first day the ongoing $85 billion in budget cuts known as the sequester began to take effect.
The president’s base salary is $400,000 a year; 5% adds up to $20,000.
Because Congress sets the president’s salary by law, his actual paycheck cannot be reduced; Obama will have to honor the voluntary pay cut by returning money to the Treasury.
Hagel and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter have announced plans to give up part of their pay because about 700,000 civilian workers face mandatory furloughs this summer.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones will also forgo some of his salary, their office said.
Two administration officials discussed Obama’s plans on the condition they not be named while discussing the president’s personal finances.
Said one official: “The salary for the president, as with members of Congress, is set by law and cannot be changed. However, the president has decided that to share in the sacrifice being made by public servants across the federal government that are affected by the sequester, he will contribute a portion of his salary back to the Treasury.”
A few members of Congress also have announced self-imposed pay cuts. Lawmakers’ salaries are exempted from the sequester, so any reductions in pay are voluntary.
Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, who is up for re-election in 2014, said Wednesday that he will return a portion of his $174,000 salary to the Treasury. “We need to be making responsible cuts wherever we can, and there is no reason that members of Congress shouldn’t feel the pinch like everyone else,” he said in a statement.
More than half of the senator’s staff will take a pay cut this year, he said, and his office began furloughs in March.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., also said she will give up a portion of her salary.
The Senate approved an amendment last month authored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to establish a reserve fund to lessen the sequester’s impact by allowing members of Congress to donate 20% of their salaries to it. However, it was a non-binding vote to the budget resolution and does not have the force of law.
Congress returns next week from the two-week spring recess. Begich said he intends to work with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to cut “billions” more in federal spending, and “I hope my colleagues come back from the holidays ready to get to work.”
Prior to adjourning for the spring recess, the GOP-controlled House approved reduced funding levels for the chamber’s 21 committees, but not for lawmakers. The approximate 11% reduction in spending from 2012 is mandated under the sequester.
House Administration Committee Chairman Candice Miller, R-Mich., said the cuts were necessary and “will undoubtedly challenge each committee to do more with less.”
First published in USA Today.