During the U.S. government shutdown, "essential personnel" are required to work, but everyone else has been furloughed. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) defines who is and who is not "essential".

Is the President of the United States considered essential? Does he still get paid?

And what of the various members of Congress?

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    at Stack Exchange, we hate fun – user4012 Oct 1 '13 at 17:46
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    Congress and the President are the only ones who can eventually pass legislation to end the shutdown. So if they are not allowed to work, we're stuck like this for good. – DJClayworth Oct 3 '13 at 15:11

It is irrelevant whether the OPM designates the President or members of Congress (or Supreme Court Justices) as essential or not. The Constitution provides clauses which protect their salaries. They may or may not actually receive any checks during the shutdown, but they must not be docked any pay.


Article I, Section 6. Clause 1

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.

Amendment XXVII

No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.


Article II, Section 1, Clause 7

The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected...

Supreme Court:

Article III, Section 1

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

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    @user1873 - True, but it is related. More information is never a bad thing, so long as it doesn't obscure the point. – Bobson Oct 2 '13 at 4:04
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    @Bobson The Constitution says they are owed compensation for their services, but if they aren't performing their services, why couldn't they pass a law that they can't be paid while they aren't working? Obviously not for the current congress though since they can't affect the current congresses pay, only future ones. – Brooks Nelson Jan 14 '19 at 21:08
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    @BrooksNelson Hrm. That's a really interesting point. The amendment just says that the law wouldn't take effect until the next election, it doesn't provide any protection against an already-existing law impacting the amount (unlike the President and SCOTUS). I'm pretty sure it's against the intent of the amendment, but I don't see it as being outright unconstitutional. That said, until such a law is passed, withholding pay would be. – Bobson Jan 15 '19 at 17:24
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    @Bobson: If I recall correctly, the intent of what eventually was adopted as the 27th Amendment was to keep congresspersons from increasing their own pay without having to win an election in the meantime, not to keep them from being docked pay for failing to provide "their Services". – Sean Jan 17 '19 at 0:36
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    @Sean Primarily, yes, but it also prevents punishing someone (or a group) by lowering their salaries unexpectedly. I would be surprised if that wasn’t at least considered when it was proposed, even if it wasn’t the primary reason. – Bobson Jan 17 '19 at 1:00

Congress needs to pass a bill to appropriate spending, and the President needs to sign it. I cannot think of anything more essential to running the government, considering that if they don't pass a spending bill, the shutdown cannot end. Yes, they continue to get paid. See questions 54./57..

54) Would the president be paid during a shutdown? Yes. The president's $400,000 salary is mandatory spending. If furloughs begin to affect the government's ability to process payroll, his paycheck could be delayed.

57) Would Congress continue to be paid during a shutdown? Yes. The 27th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1992, holds that "No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened." Intended to prevent Congress from voting itself a raise, it also protects members from a pay cut.

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    What you deem essential and what OPM deems essential don't necessarily line up. It is actually a serious question - and the case could be made equally as well that neither the President nor the Congress would want the political fallout from being paid while the rest of the government is shutdown. Is the question funny? Sure. But it actually is answerable – Affable Geek Oct 1 '13 at 16:15
  • @AffableGeek, I ididn't say it wasn't answerable, I said ridiculous. I would lookup and provide evidence that the OMB or other official source supports my position if the question wasn't so ludicrous. – user1873 Oct 1 '13 at 16:25
  • I've been trying (it's not easy). Unfortunately, with the government shutdown, they are also shutting off many websites. OPM's isn't being co-operative. – Affable Geek Oct 1 '13 at 16:28
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    isthegovernmentopen.com (couldn't resist ;) – yannis Oct 1 '13 at 17:34
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    @YannisRizos - that website is lacking a cat. Clearly inferior to Youtube. – user4012 Oct 1 '13 at 17:46

The question is irrelevant to the President and members of Congress because they are not "personnel". They are elected officials. As such, they receive compensation as required by law regardless. They cannot be fired, furloughed, or even compelled to show up for work each day in the same sense that government employees can.

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