WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- March 1st could be a very bad day for the region's workforce. Without a deal on Capitol Hill, sequestration will force deep federal spending cuts. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers and private employees could be furloughed.
The threat got one WUSA 9 viewer so mad, she made this proposal: " ... Congress should step up to the plate and take 1 furlough day each week until they actually make some decent decisions about how to make the economy better." We decided to take her proposal to our four local Senators; would they be willing to accept furloughs, if federal workers were forced to?
All of the democratic lawmakers have spoken out against sequestration and have expressed their opposition to furloughs for any workers. But none of them answered our specific question, would they be willing to personally accept furloughs?
Here is the response Maryland Senator Ben Cardin's office gave to WUSA 9:
"Senator Cardin has repeatedly said that Congress should not allow sequestration to occur. It will have a devastating impact on our economy and we cannot let it happen. He is working with his colleagues on the Finance Committee and Senator Mikulski, who is chair of the Appropriations Committee, to work toward a resolution that will not put our economy and American families at risk. Senator Cardin has been a staunch defender of federal workers, repeatedly reminding Senators, the White House and the Republican House about the great sacrifices they have made through a multi-year pay freeze and cuts to agency resources under the latest continuing resolution that funds the government. Furloughs are an extreme measure that should be avoided at all costs due to the demoralizing effect they will have on our economy, especially here in Maryland, and particularly middle income families."
Senator Cardin also granted us an interview. His answer was very similar:
"We don't want furloughs. I don't want it for the federal workforce. It is the wrong thing to do. It will cause major disruptions of services. It will impact wrong on individuals. We need to eliminate the possibility of that type of action."
The office of fellow Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski also provided a written statement that did not directly answer our question. Here is the entire response:
"I'm against furloughs. Federal employee furloughs threaten community and national safety and threaten our economy. They are one of severe and significant consequences of recent budget conflicts that cycle through ultimatum, delay, and crisis. Sequester is the latest of these conflicts. I'm focused on using every tool within my reach to fight sequester and stop downgrades, shut downs, or furloughs."
The office of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine provided this comment: "Paycheck or no paycheck - Senator Kaine will continue to do everything he can to avert the devastating impacts of the sequester on the federal workforce."
Senator Mark Warner's office offered this statement in the same vein: "Senator Warner will report for duty and continue working for a bipartisan solution whether the lights are on or not."
Technically, the 27th amendment of the Constitution does not allow members of Congress to change their own pay in a current session, essentially banning the type of pay cut that would come with a furlough. But lawmakers have options. For example, they could voluntarily pay extra income tax to help pay down the national debt.
All four Senators did vote in favor of the "No Budget, No Pay" act. It dictated that if Congress fails to pass a budget by April 15, they lose their paychecks, temporarily. The income goes into an escrow account and is paid back when the current Congress ends, even if a budget doesn't ever pass.
So, what do you think? Should Congress be penalized If federal workers are furloughed due to sequestration? WUSA 9 has created a petition with our partners at POPVOX.com, helping you speak out on this issue (http://on.wusa9.com/YsYbch). So far, hundreds have written letters in support of financial penalties for lawmakers. We are receiving responses from across the country including Texas, Colorado, Arizona, California and Hawaii. The number of people opposed as of 8:00 AM ET Monday morning. Zero.
We've all been following the sequestration driven furloughs because it will impact our region more heavily than most. One WUSA 9 viewer has suggested that Congress "get a taste of their own medicine."
Unless Congress acts by March 1st, "sequestration" - a series of automatic, across-the-board cuts - will take effect.
While some federal spending cuts were made as part of the deal to avoid the Fiscal Cliff at the beginning of the year, Congress must once again consider whether to take action to reduce the deficit or allow the deep, automatic cuts.
The Office of Management and Budget indicates that "there's no way to implement the sequester without significant furloughs of hundreds of thousands of federal employees."
Some have suggested that if federal workers are furloughed because of those automatic cuts, Members of Congress should also be furloughed one day each week or not receive pay until they come to a decision on cutting federal spending and reducing the deficit.
By supporting, you'll be telling Congress that should the automatic cuts occur, and federal workers are furloughed, then Members of Congress too should be furloughed or not receive pay. By opposing, you'll be telling Congress that you oppose furloughs or pay cuts for Members of Congress.