WASHINGTON -- Members of Congress are traveling less and worrying more about meeting office salaries. Their aides are contending with long lines to get inside their offices and fewer prospects of a raise.
Such are the indignities thrust upon the men and women who brought the country $85 billion in government spending cuts this month.
There probably won't be much sympathy for a senator or congressman making $174,000 a year who is in no danger of being furloughed or laid off, at least not until the next election. Still, there has been an effort, especially in the Republican-led House, to show that no one should be exempt from sacrifice.
"As those who are charged with the care of taxpayers' dollars, we need to lead by example," Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., who chairs the House Administration Committee, said last week in promoting a bill to slash the budgets of House committees by 11 percent.
Earlier this month -- after Congress and the White House failed to come up with an alternative to across-the-board cuts in most federal programs -- the House imposed an 8.2 percent reduction in lawmakers' personal office budgets. That came on top of 11 percent cuts to members' office budgets during 2011-12.
"We've drastically reduced travel, both for myself and my staff," said Republican Rep. John Campbell, who must cross the country to visit his Southern California district. He said he tends to stay in Washington on two-day weekends rather than return home. "I'm more productive here when I'm not rushing to get home."
Campbell said other "little things" he is doing to economize include reducing the office phone bill, cutting off magazine and newspaper subscriptions, and using email, rather than letters, to communicate with voters.
Rep. Luke Messer, a freshman Republican from Indiana, said he hired fewer people when he came to Washington because "we essentially began the term knowing there was a high possibility of a sequester"-- Washington-speak for the automatic spending cuts.
So far, congressional staffers appear to have escaped the furloughs that are likely to send thousands of public servants home without pay for several workdays over the next six months and disrupt some government services.
"I hope to avoid that," said Rep Jared Polis, D-Colo., "but we will take any steps to ensure we don't exceed our budget."
Under House rules, a lawmaker must pay for excess spending out of his or her own pocket.