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As government shutdown drags on, some in Congress see fit to donate their pay (+video)

With federal workers furloughed, a growing number of lawmakers say they'll forgo or donate their pay. Such gestures, however, are not expected to tame public anger at Congress over the government shutdown.

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“There’s no effective way of monitoring” if they follow through on their pledges, Mr. Holman says.  Only if Congress members release their tax forms will people be able to verify charitable donations. “We have every reason to be very suspicious of the sincerity of these statements,” he says, since most of them have occurred only after the media started highlighting the fact that their pay was continuing unaffected by the shutdown.

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But Professor Zelizer says he believes legislators would follow through, assuming that if they don’t, someone could easily expose it.

As of early Thursday afternoon, a list on the Washington Post website included 120 lawmakers (60 Republicans and 60 Democrats) who were planning to forgo or donate their salaries.

A spokesman told the Post that House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio would forgo his salary, while a spokesman for Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada said he’s putting his earnings in an escrow account.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina announced his intention to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project in a brief YouTube video.

One public comment below the video sums up a view many Americans perhaps share: “I appreciate the thought, but I'd much rather spend the time and effort to pass a budget and create a charity that directly supports the government employees affected by the loss of pay.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas, who pushed hard for tying government funding to defunding the Affordable Care Act, said last Friday that he would not forgo his salary, but on Monday announced in a statement that it would go to charity, the Associated Press reports.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) of Ohio has lived through a shutdown before, as a member of the House in 1995. He donated his salary to charities then, pledged to so again in 2011 if there were another government shutdown, and said in a statement he will do so this time around, the Washington Post reports.

Not everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) of Florida, in an interview on MSNBC Thursday morning, said she’d continue to take her salary and work to get the government to reopen.

Rep. Gwen Moore (D) of Wisconsin said in a statement e-mailed to the Monitor late Thursday morning, “I am speaking, voting, and working diligently to help my constituents through the shutdown and speak on their behalf in Washington to reopen the government. I will not be donating or forgoing my salary.”

Some members of Congress may be very much like constituents who live paycheck to paycheck. Representative Wasserman Schultz and Representative Moore are both among 17 US lawmakers listed by Roll Call as having significant debt or no assets.

For the charities on the receiving end of salary donations, every little bit helps.

“Donations from anyone, particularly a leader, are very important, especially as we move into the holiday season,” says Bruce Wilson, director of operations at the New Hampshire Food Bank. He says Senator Shaheen’s donations should be available within 10 days, and they’ll help offset the loss of 600,000 pounds of food that used to be donated by 12 grocery stores that recently shut down.

Demand for food bank assistance has grown 6 percent since this time last year, Mr. Wilson says.

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