U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper's proposal to stop lawmakers' paychecks if the United States defaults on its debt was approved by a large majority of House members today.
But Cooper and every other House Democrat then voted against his plan by opposing the Republican-backed debt ceiling bill it was attached to. That was approved by a much smaller margin, largely along party lines.
Cooper's "Stop Pay for Members Act" was an amendment to the debt ceiling bill. A news release from Cooper's office said he opposed the bill "because, in the event of default, it orders the Treasury Department to pay Chinese and other foreign bondholders first before paying seniors, veterans and members of the military."
"It's unimaginable that Republicans are already making plans to default on our debt," Cooper said in the release. "Default would be a disaster for America, and this bill would make it worse by rewarding Chinese creditors while punishing innocent Americans."
The Nashville Democrat said the amendment he first introduced in 2011 - similar to a bipartisan plan he introduced that will keep members of Congress from getting paid if they fail to pass a budget this year only - would punish Congress for failing to do its job. It passed with 340 votes.
"Defaulting on our debt is not an option, but if we do, then a paycheck for members of Congress also shouldn't be an option," Cooper said. "The last time we played 'chicken' with the debt ceiling, our credit rating was downgraded as a result. Congress should be paid for performance, not failure."