(CNSNews.com) - Senators and Representatives who take time away from their jobs to run for higher office should refund part of their salaries, a taxpayer watchdog group insists.
"If the average American skipped days of work in order to look for another job, they wouldn't be paid," said John Berthoud, president of the National Taxpayers Union. "Why should Members of Congress be treated differently?"
According to NTU, an obscure federal statute still on the books requires lawmakers who are absent from Congress to forfeit their pay unless they or a family member are ill.
In a press release, the NTU said it has sent letters to 13 lawmakers who are running for higher office, to let them know of the statute that requires them to forego pay for days missed due to campaign appearances or other unexcused absences -- a book tour, perhaps?
House and Senate leaders also received copies of the letter.
In the letter, NTU cites federal law, chapter and verse.
According to 2 U.S. Code 39, "The Secretary of the Senate and the Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives, respectively, shall deduct from the monthly payments (or other periodic payments authorized by law) of each Member or Delegate the amount of his salary for each day that he has been absent from the Senate or House, respectively, unless such Member or Delegate assigns as the reason for such absence the sickness of himself or of some member of his family."
Under 2 U.S. Code 48, the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House are responsible for certifying the salary accounts of Senators and Representatives, and so must make a good faith inquiry into whether Section 39 deductions are in order.
NTU says if congressional leaders won't enforce the law, then those running for higher office should do so on their own, by voluntarily requesting a salary deduction or by writing a check to the Treasury equal to the cost of campaign-related absences.
The NTU suggests that an amount of $616.33 per day is appropriate (reflecting the annual Congressional salary of $154,700 divided by 251 workdays, not counting 10 federal holidays).
NTU describes itself as a non-partisan citizen group working for lower taxes, less wasteful spending, and accountable government at all levels.