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Duckworth Returns Portion of Income to Treasury

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Duckworth Returns Portion of Income to Treasury

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Illinois Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth this week became the latest lawmaker to refund a portion of her pay in a show of shared sacrifice.

"I'm sending off my check to the treasury today," Duckworth, of Hoffman Estates, told attendees at a morning round-table on Social Security and Medicare in Elk Grove Village on Wednesday, according to the Daily Herald.

The 8th District congresswoman pledged in February to take the pay cut if Congress failed to reach a compromise to avoid the federal budget cuts known as the sequester. A deal didn't happen, and Duckworth said she'd cut a check for $1,218 to the U.S. Treasury Department.

A full 8.4 percent reduction of Duckworth's annual $174,000 congressional salary -- the same percentage many federal programs were slashed -- would be $14,616.

She's not alone.

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said President Barack Obama would return a portion of his salary -- 5 percent, or $20,000 -- to the Treasury.

Wednesday's notice followed a similar move a day earlier by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who committed to taking a salary cut equal to 14 days' pay — the same level of cut that other Defense Department civilians are being forced to take. As many as 700,000 civilians will have to take one unpaid day off each week for up to 14 weeks in the coming months.

Obama isn't the first president to give up part of his paycheck. Herbert Hoover put his salary in a separate account, then divvied it up, giving part to charity and part to employees he felt were underpaid, according to an interview he gave in 1937. John F. Kennedy donated his presidential salary to various charities, according to Stacey Chandler, an archivist at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

George Washington refused pay during the latter part of his military career, according to researchers at Mount Vernon. He tried to refuse a presidential salary, but Congress required that the position pay $25,000.

Among lawmakers, Sen. Mark Begich, an Alaska Democrat, said Wednesday that he, too, would return part of his income to the Treasury, although he did not specify how much of his $174,000 salary he would give up. Begich said his office started furloughing staffers in mid-March and more than half of his staff will have their pay cut this year.

A number of lawmakers have from time to time taken steps to show they're not immune as the federal government looks to tighten its belt. An aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said McConnell returns a substantial part of his office budget to the Treasury every year. The Senate this month adopted by voice vote a symbolic amendment permitting -- but not requiring -- senators to give 20 percent of their salaries to the Treasury as part of the Democrats' budget resolution. Also in March, as the spending cuts started bearing down, the GOP-controlled House imposed an 8.2 percent reduction on lawmakers' personal office budgets.

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