Only in Washington: Our elected representatives are threatening an across-the-board, indiscriminate cut in federal spending because they have drawn lines in the sand and refuse to communicate with each other. TSA, ICE, NSA, NIH, USDA-- every program is fair game, with one exception, of course: Congressional compensation.
They can’t cut that. The 27th Amendment prevents Congressional salaries from going down as well as up during anyone’s term in office: "No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened."
That amendment, by the way, was part of the twelve that were drafted as part of the Bill of Rights (only ten passed at the time, but there was no sunset law, so this one was ratified two centuries later). Most states approved it, thinking that this way, members of Congress could not vote themselves a raise without standing for re-election before it took effect. But there is also no cutting salaries for non-performance. The best we can do is vote them out.
And Congress has come up with a name for this indiscriminate budget cut that bears no relation to reality. What does “sequester” mean to the rest of us? The primary dictionary definition (dictionary.reference.com) is “to remove or withdraw into solitude or retirement; seclude.” It’s a verb that usually means “to isolate.”
Leave it to Congress to use the verb as a noun and change its meaning. No one ever accused them of transparency when they can get away with obfuscation.
Perhaps they intended the legal meaning (still a verb): “to remove from the possession of the owner until claims are satisfied.” This would be pretty much akin to putting something in escrow. But they don’t have any claims to satisfy, unless they are talking about their own (Congressional salaries and benefits cannot be cut, remember? It’s in the Constitution.)
In international law, the word (still a verb) means to control enemy property. Is that how Congress sees the people of the United States? As the enemy? While we're paying them?
Although the Constitution forbids the reduction of Congressional salaries until after the next election, nothing in it says they can’t give the money back until they actually do their work. Perhaps if enough people wrote them to suggest that, they might do it.