Government Shutdown Trump

President Donald Trump speaks from the Oval Office of the White House as he gives a prime-time address about border security Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Washington. (Carlos Barria/Pool Photo via AP)

Last year, when state lawmakers wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on pointless special sessions to discuss budget issues they could have resolved much earlier, we suggested that they shouldn’t collect their paychecks for the special sessions because they bungled their duties.

The same principle should hold true for members of Congress, including those who represent Louisiana, as an ongoing government shutdown causes misery for federal workers and those they’re supposed to serve.

About a fourth of the federal government has been shut down for weeks as President Donald Trump bickers with Capitol Hill over billions of dollars in funding for a border wall with Mexico. Security is important, but key parts of the border already have a wall, and as a presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly promised that Mexico would pay for such a wall. Despite all the hoopla about a so-called crisis, illegal crossings at the southern border have been trending downward for years.

The real crisis involves the ongoing incompetence in Washington, where the president and members of Congress can’t even agree to fund basic services of government. Meanwhile, key federal employees like air traffic controllers, members of the Coast Guard and airport security staffers are working without pay.

Trump has been donating his paycheck to various government initiatives since taking office.

As of last week, four Louisiana House members — Republicans Garret Graves, Clay Higgins, Mike Johnson and Ralph Abraham — said they’ve sent letters asking that their paychecks be withheld until after the shutdown is resolved. The other House members haven’t publicly indicated whether they’ll follow suit.

A spokesman for Louisiana’s Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy said the senator plans to continue taking his pay, arguing that the senator is working hard at his job. Too bad that thousands of government employees, like Coast Guard members also working hard and risking their lives, don’t have a choice about whether they’ll get paid. For the moment, they’re stuck with nothing.

Louisiana Republican U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, who’s seldom at a loss for words about anything, was unusually reticent when asked last week if he’d decline taking his pay during the shutdown. “I don’t have an answer for you,” Kennedy told a reporter last Thursday. “I’m still thinking it through.”

Spokespeople for House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, a Jefferson Parish Republican, didn’t directly answer questions about what Scalise would do about his paycheck while the stalemate drags on. Instead, a spokeswoman offered the usual partisan blather about those pesky Democrats.

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans, Louisiana’s only Democratic member of Congress, was noncommittal on the issue of his pay, too, suggesting that he’ll decide later.

As of last week, more than 70 members of Congress had pledged to refuse their paychecks until the shutdown is over, according to a tally from CNN.

All the members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation, regardless of party, should decline getting paid while the shutdown continues.

If members of Congress have such a direct stake in reaching a resolution of the stand-off, maybe this will speed an end to a political fiasco that never should have happened.