SAVANNAH, Ga. - Two weeks after Rep. John Barrow rolled out a campaign ad telling voters he wants a law ensuring members of Congress don't get paid if they fail to pass a budget, his Republican opponent fired back Monday with a TV spot saying the congressman voted against that very idea last year and is "lying to stay in office."
GOP challenger Rick Allen's campaign is sharpening its attacks against Barrow, an Augusta Democrat, with barely three weeks left until Election Day. To win a sixth term in the U.S. House, Barrow has been working hard to win over conservative and independent voters in east Georgia's 12th District, which was redrawn a few years ago to give Republicans an edge. The seat covers 19 counties and includes Augusta, Statesboro, Dublin and Vidalia.
So who's telling the truth about Barrow's position on the idea known as "no budget, no pay" in Washington?
Since 2012, Barrow has co-sponsored a bill to withhold pay from Congress if lawmakers can't pass a budget each year by Oct. 1, the start of the federal government's fiscal year. However, he also voted against a version of "no budget, no pay" on Jan. 23, 2013, that House Republicans attached to a deal to temporarily avert a debt crisis.
Allen's campaign says Barrow's "no" vote on the House floor proves he's not serious about passing a law that could force him to forgo his own paycheck. An announcer closes Allen's new campaign ad with the tagline: "John Barrow, lying to stay in office so he can keep spending - and keep getting paid."
However, Allen's ad ignores substantial differences between the "no budget, no pay" proposal that Barrow supports and the one he voted against. For instance, only the bill Barrow has endorsed would actually require the House and Senate to agree on a final budget for the president to sign.
The version House GOP leaders brought for a vote in January 2013 only required the House and Senate to pass their own versions of a budget each year. There was nothing requiring the two chambers to compromise and pass a final budget. Also, the pay-forfeiture language was written to be temporary, lapsing in January 2015. In a statement explaining his vote at the time, Barrow dismissed the proposal as hollow, calling it "still no budget and still get paid."
"It's absolutely unfair and it's deceiving," Barrow spokesman Richard Carbo said of Allen's ad.
The Allen campaign's attack ad doesn't say whether the Republican candidate, who owns an Augusta construction firm, would support tying his own congressional pay to passing budgets if he's elected Nov. 4. Spokesman Dan McLagan said Allen supports a requirement that "both houses pass a budget and the president signs it or none of them gets paid."