OTR Interviews

Should congressional pay be sequestered?

Bill proposed to sequester do-nothing Congress' pay. Could this force progress in Washington?


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 13, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Now to sequester -- the cuts are causing pain all across the country, but not in one place, Congress. But freshman representative Ron DeSantis wants to put an end to that.

Congressman, you have a plan to make Congress feel some of the pain. What's your plan?

REP. RON DESANTIS, R-FLA.: Well, my plan is simple. I think that the sequester should simply apply to our pay. We are somehow exempted from that, so you see other members of the federal workforce, you see members of the congressional staff may have to get pay cuts, depending how those budgets work. And I think that it's just part of being a republican form of government that we're not exempting ourselves from the operation of laws. So it's a small money saver, but I think it speaks to a larger principle.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I guess under the Constitution, you can't do it in this -- you'd have to wait. You can't adjust your salaries, congressional salaries, until the next term, is that right? You could pass it now, but it would...

DESANTIS: Until the next election. So this can take effect right after the next election. And really, that -- the 27th Amendment was put in there to prevent pay increases, but we have to be a textualist and abide by the text. So I don't want to lose support for the bill by raising a 27th Amendment issue.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And what's sort of interesting is that this is bipartisan. You got -- you have a Democrat who's on board with you.

DESANTIS: Ami Bera from California. And you know, I think it speaks to frustration that people have with Congress. I mean, for example, we've talked about this whole issue of the Senate not doing a budget. They're required to do it by law and they hadn't for four years, and now finally, because we shamed them with the "No budget, no pay," they've done a budget.

And so I just think it's the idea that the American people -- they have to abide by rules. If they don't abide by rules, there's consequences. And yet us up here, what, are we just a separate ruling class that doesn't have to do this? And obviously, I think that that's wrong.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, I actually -- you know, I've been harping on sending a bad message to the American people, whether it's taking vacations and recesses without getting work done, continuing resolutions and not solving the problem, blowing off deadlines. I think your bill -- I mean, it's, like, one of the few instances where you're going to say, OK, we're asking this of the American people, so we're going to ask this of ourselves, too.

DESANTIS: Absolutely. And you know, why would you exempt yourself from this? And look, I believe we need to cut spending, so I'm not arguing against spending cuts generally. I'm just simply arguing against us getting a special exemption when other folks are going to feel the pinch.

VAN SUSTEREN: Besides the Democratic congressman from California, do you have any other Democrats on board with you?

DESANTIS: You know, I'm not sure. We're the kind of co-sponsors of the bill. We've circulated. I think you're going to see a lot of people join, particularly folks who are relatively new to Congress, either 2010 or 2012 class, because I think we have a bipartisan desire to change the way Congress functions.

VAN SUSTEREN: How -- how do you even sort of -- I mean, the reason I ask you how you sort of started the talk with a Democrat is because, you know, typically, Democrats, Republicans don't speak in this city and -- and don't -- and there isn't much bipartisanship. I mean, how did you -- how did you manage to sort of work this out so the two of you are working together on it?

DESANTIS: Well, I had asked him because we both support "No budget, no pay." You know, you're supposed to do a budget. If you don't do it, you shouldn't get paid. And so that was something that we've signed onto previously, and I thought that this was a similar congressional accountability...

VAN SUSTEREN: And he thought it was a good idea?

DESANTIS: ... congressional accountability measure. Yes. You know, we've got to hold ourselves accountable. And the thing is, you gain credibility with the public if you're willing to live by the same rules as everybody else. And guess what? Then they're willing to listen to you about your views on other things because they think you're in it for the right reason.

So I think Congress has a good opportunity to do something where the American people say, You know what? Maybe they are starting to change.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is he getting any heat from his leadership and you getting any heat from your leadership on this?

DESANTIS: I haven't gotten any heat from anybody. But you know, I just did it because I thought it was the right thing to do.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what's -- now that you're here in Washington, what do you think about this? Is this the -- I mean, what do you think about what's going on here?

DESANTIS: Well, you and I talked before the show...

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, I know.

DESANTIS: ... about just how legislation works. Like, the average person, average member of Congress can't really understand the bills that are put forward there because they're complicated. They reference all these other statutes. And I think that we've just moved away from a government where people can really participate, scrutinize legislation and offer their opinions.

So it's a little bit frustrating to see. It goes beyond just being a lawyer. I mean, you need to be a lawyer, a researcher, you need to be all these things...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the fundamental -- the underlying bill has to be something you can comprehend to begin with anyway, and the way these things are written or drafted, so -- in such a crazy fashion, they're hard to understand.

But Congressman, thank you. Good luck on your pay cut bill, your sequester bill...

DESANTIS: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... for members of Congress salaries. You're not going to be very popular though.