Three of the four members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation are now working for free under a U.S. government that has been shut down.

Effective Tuesday, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is returning her salary to the U.S. Treasury. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz are donating theirs to a Hawaii charity.

They are not alone.

On the first day of the shutdown, a number of other lawmakers around the nation are following suit, including Sen. Ted Cruz, the Republican from Texas whose quixotic 21-hour filibuster to kill Obamacare helped assure that any budget agreement would be impossible.

Gabbard’s spokeswoman, Heather Fluit, confirmed that her boss would work without pay “for as long as our troops, law enforcement, and federal employees are not paid,” as Gabbard put it in a Sept. 27 press release.

President Barack Obama signed a bill late Monday that protects military pay during the shutdown. But only so-called “essential” federal employees are being paid.

Hanabusa’s press secretary, Ashley Nagaoka Boylan, said Tuesday that the congresswoman will donate income during the shutdown to a Hawaii charity, though one hadn’t yet been identified. And staff in Schatz’s office said he would do the same.

It’s not pocket change. Members of both chambers each make $174,000 per year, and for some of the leaders another $20,000. American taxpayers spend a total of $10,600 per hour to pay for the work of members of both chambers.

It isn’t clear whether abstaining from taking home their salaries might create internal pressure that helps to resolve the House-Senate dispute over the budget.

But, given that some 800,000 federal workers were given unpaid furloughs Tuesday and others are working without pay, some lawmakers felt it was appropriate to forego their own pay, if only to show solidarity with their “nonessential” staff.

Civil Beat was not able to learn what Mazie Hirono intends to do with salary that she will earn during the shutdown.

Hirono, however, is a co-sponsor of legislation introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in January that would prevent lawmakers from receiving salaries during a government shutdown. But that bill has gone nowhere.

Hawaii’s senators also voted in January for the “No Budget, No Pay” Act, which called for placing salaries into escrow until Congress ensures “the complete and timely payment of the obligations of the United States Government.”

Interestingly, Hawaii’s representatives voted against the same act in the House.

Hanabusa said at the time that the measure had a deceiving title: “It’s shibai, a sham, to say that House members’ pay will be withheld until the House and Senate separately pass any budget resolution; House Republicans know they have enough GOP votes to pass the dangerous Ryan Budget, which guts Medicare and undermines the middle class, so the salaries of House members will never be withheld.”

Regardless, in addition to trying to end the shutdown, Congress now faces an Oct. 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling or risk a first-ever default. Should that occur, Congress may face a far greater crisis then going without a paycheck. Unfortunately, so will the rest of the nation.

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