ABC News’ Devin Dwyer reports: Keith Fimian, a Republican U.S. House candidate running in northern Virginia, desperately wants Congress to balance the federal budget –- and he’s proposing the unusual idea of tying representatives’ salaries to whether they get the job done.
“Stop spending. I don’t care what you’ve got to do – stop spending,” he said in a presentation to a group of George Mason University students earlier this month. “And look – I’m okay with this: Cut my salary in Congress to 50,000 bucks, ‘till I balance the budget. But when I balance the budget, I want a $250,000 bonus. If every congressman had that incentive, what do you think would happen?”
The idea of giving “bonuses” to members of Congress hung like ripe fruit for Fimian’s Democratic opponent, Rep. Gerry Connolly, who pounced on the comments and turned them into an attack ad. “Keith Fimian’s plan to balance the budget? Give himself and Congress a bonus, costing taxpayers $133 million,” the narrator says. You can watch the full ad HERE .
But Fimian says the ad is unfair and has called his comments a “quip,” a hypothetical taken out of context in his attempt to show how he’d affect change if elected. His spokesman Tim Edson told the Washington Post’s Ben Pershing that Fimian supports pay cuts, not bonuses.
But when we caught up with Fimian yesterday and asked him to clarify his remarks, he didn’t seem to back away from the idea of incentives for members of Congress.
“I'm ok with cutting $50,000 out of every congressman's salary until the budget is balanced - and by balanced I do not mean borrowing money. I’m totally in favor of cutting all of our salaries until we balance the budget,” he said.
“Look, I’m not advocating giving a $250,000 bonus if I balance the federal budget. But penalize me if I don’t, but if there’s going to be a penalty if I don’t, give me a carrot so that I will and if I do.”
It’s unclear just how big Fimian’s “carrot” would be.
“He's quite serious. There's no humor in it, no laughter in the audience,” said Connolly. “It's not a quip. It represents I think his philosophy which is a distorted philosophy of public service. We don't run for these offices to get rewarded with bonuses when we do our job.”