“Will Congress Rest Under It?” American Sentinel 9, 30, pp. 237, 238.

THERE is upon the statute books what is known as the salary docking law, that is a law whereby a congressman absent from his seat without leave, unless on account of sickness, forfeits his salary for the time he is thus absent. July 11, Mr. Powers, of Vermont, reported to the House from the Judiciary Committee his bill repealing this salary docking law. The report ridicules the excuse for absence made by representatives in these words:—

It is apparent that the excuse of sickness is one easily made, and it is suspected that it is sometimes assigned as reason for absence without any disgnosis of ailments by medical experts. In other words, the enforcement of this section practically makes every member a pathologist on the subject of disease, which is not a qualification for service in Congress mentioned in the Constitution, and so for this reason the law is plainly unconstitutional. It is believed that each house of Congress can, by an appropriate rule, better enforce the attendance of members than by a statute operative as a penal statute and evaded by every subterfuge.

How seriously this is intended it is of course impossible to say. The idea that the law in question is unconstitutional on [238] the ground alleged is utterly absurd. This certainly could not have been meant to be taken seriously. But is the idea that because the law is evaded it ought to be repealed any better? Scarcely. If congressmen ought to be paid for neglecting their business when they should be attending to it, then ought this law to be repeated, but not otherwise. If our law-makers are so dishonest as to demand pay for work they do not do, and so utterly lost to all sense of decency as to falsify in order to get what does not in either justice or law belong to them, then indeed have we become one of the basest of nations and a hissing and a reproach to the world. Will Congress rest under the imputation thus put upon it by Mr. Powers, or will it show itself to be clear in this matter? [240]

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