As the effects of sequestration ripple through communities nationwide, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) announced Wednesday that she has returned a portion of her salary to the Treasury Department and will continue to do so until Congress reaches a solution to reducing the national deficit.
The suburban Chicago Daily Herald reported that Duckworth told constituents at a roundtable discussion on Wednesday morning that she had written a $1,218 check to the Treasury and would be sending it later that day.
According to Duckworth's staff, $1,218 constitutes 8.4 percent of the congresswoman's monthly pay. She specifically chose the 8.4 percent rate to reflect the average percentage cut that most discretionary programs are facing due to the sequester.
Duckworth said she moved forward with her decision despite reservations expressed by Democratic House leaders.
"I spoke with leadership. They said, 'Well, we generally don't think that's a good idea, people work hard and it becomes a gimmick,'" Duckworth told the Daily Herald. "I said it's important to people in my district. And then they said, 'Well, you go ahead and do it.'"
Federal lawmakers' salaries are exempt from this year's sequestration cuts -- a total of $85 billion in reduced spending by federal agencies in fiscal 2013.
Although Duckworth is believed to be the first member of Congress to have written a check to the Treasury in response to the cuts, a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers have pledged to forfeit portions of their annual $174,000 salary as a symbolic gesture toward those affected by sequestration.
In a survey of senators conducted by The Hill, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) indicated that they would forgo some portion of their pay.
On Thursday, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) also announced his intention to give up 5 percent of his salary, but said he will donate the money to local charities in his home state rather than return it to the federal government.
"Sequestration's indiscriminate cuts are causing furloughs and jobs losses as well as cutting funding to many important programs in our communities, yet the salaries of members of Congress have not been affected," Murphy said in a statement. "That is why I am going to take a portion of my salary each month to support local charities who continue to go above and beyond to provide vital services to those in our community."
Others, including Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and McCaskill, have proposed cutting congressional salaries in future years as part of sequestration -- a move that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she opposes.
"I don't think we should do it; I think we should respect the work we do," Pelosi told reporters in February. "I think it's necessary for us to have the dignity of the job that we have rewarded."
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that President Barack Obama planned to return 5 percent of his salary to the Treasury, a move Carney characterized as a shared sacrifice.
"The president has decided that to share in the sacrifice being made by public servants across the federal government that are affected by the sequester, he will contribute a portion of his salary back to the Treasury," Carney said.
Members of Obama's Cabinet are also joining in. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Tuesday that he will return the equivalent of 14 days' pay -- roughly $10,750 -- to the Treasury. Roughly 800,000 of the Pentagon's civilian employees are being forced to take 14 days of unpaid leave due to the sequester.
Secretary of State John Kerry said that he will volunteer a portion of his salary as part of the government-wide spending cuts. On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland announced that Kerry will turn over 5 percent of his salary to a charity for department employees.
Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have also indicated that they are willing to give up part of their salaries if employees in their respective departments receive furloughs.