KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — With some 800,000 federal workers missing their first paycheck Friday in a partial government shutdown that's set to be the longest ever in U.S. history, the lingering thought resting on many peoples' minds is that the many lawmakers responsible for the impasse will still get paid.
Dr. Richard Pacelle, the head of the Political Science department at University of Tennessee, is one of those that has this on his mind.
"Members of Congress, the President and cabinet officials get paid even though the workers under them don’t get paid," he said.
That fact opens a spotlight on the many other laws Congress sets that apply to everyone but those workers, according to Pacelle.
"If we got rid of healthcare, they would still continue to have healthcare. Their retirement and pensions are much greater than the average. They also are exempt from many forms of prosecution and libel laws," he said.
Some members of Congress have refused to accept their paycheck until the shutdown ends, including Tennessee lawmakers Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and Rep. Tim Burchett, the former mayor of Knox County who recently took over the long-held Duncan house seat.
As far as what can be done to even the field between lawmakers and those they make the laws for, Pacelle said options are limited.
“Some of that’s built into the Constitution, and some of it has good reason for being there. You want to protect legislators, you don’t want a situation where the President could cut their pay," he warned. “But people are protesting, people are writing to members of Congress. There’s no quick solution to this, but at some point, the middle parts of each party are going to have to come together and take back control of their parties.”