JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In an exclusive Action News investigation, we followed up with local members of Congress who vowed to stand with Americans by giving up their pay during the shutdown in October. Did they stay true to their word? We spent the past month asking lawmakers for proof.
During the 16-day partial government shutdown, veterans were barricaded from memorials, vacationers were booted out of national parks, and 800,000 federal workers were sent home without pay.
Many lawmakers said they'd give up their shutdown salary in solidarity. We asked Jacksonville-area members of Congress what they'd do. Most of them did not get back to us at that time, including Senator Marco Rubio (R). Senator Bill Nelson (D) did not say what he'd do with his shutdown salary.
Congressman Ron DeSantis (R-6th District) told us he'd have his pay withheld during the government shutdown. But we found out the 27th Amendment of the Constitution requires lawmakers get paid.
It's up to members to decide whether to keep the pay, donate it, or give it back to the treasury.
"It's hard to know whether it's ignorance or deliberate deception," said Melanie Sloan, executive director for the nonprofit, Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington. "But either way, it's unacceptable."
We tried for weeks to follow-up with his staff, but we did not hear back as to why DeSantis thought he could have his pay withheld. We tracked him down at a congressional hearing earlier this month.
"What I did was say everyone should get paid before us. We shouldn't be treated better than anybody. And so that was what I did," said DeSantis. "They ended up getting paid in mid-October, and I think we didn't get paid until November, so my view is Congress shouldn't be treated better than the federal employees."
Members of the House of Representatives get paid on the first of each month for the prior month's work. So, they did get paid when the shutdown began on October first. Members who said they wouldn't get paid during the shutdown left something out. Their next pay wouldn't be affected as long as the government reopened before november first -- which it did.
"It's so disingenuous," Sloan said. "This is exactly the kind of thing that makes Americans so suspicious of lawmakers."
Congress was paid a combined $4 million for the 16-day shutdown they caused. Congress voted to give furloughed federal workers back pay for the shutdown.