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Originally published April 9, 2013 at 4:09 PM | Page modified April 9, 2013 at 5:22 PM

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Editorial: Suzan DelBene makes right decision to return part of paycheck

U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene’s decision to return 8.2 percent of her monthly paycheck is a symbolic gesture others should emulate.

Seattle Times Editorial

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PRAISE goes to U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., for making a bold statement Monday that others in Washington’s congressional delegation should also consider.

The freshman lawmaker has pledged to return 8.2 percent of her monthly paycheck to the U.S. Treasury so long as across-the-board federal budget cuts — better known as sequestration — are in effect.

“It’s only fair that elected leaders are affected as well,” DelBene announced in a statement.

Well said.

DelBene gets it. Congress’ inability to function or cooperate is the reason sequestration cuts occurred in the first place.

Thousands of federal employees in Washington will take unpaid furloughs. Services like Meals on Wheels and Head Start are also getting cut.

So far, no other congressional delegate from this state has indicated he or she will follow DelBene. Each legislator makes $174,000 in annual salary.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., wrote, “Well-meaning as it is, returning one’s Congressional salary won’t stop cuts to government employees’ salaries or save any of the 700,000 jobs that are currently threatened by these unwise and unnecessary cuts.”

Or perhaps the reality is not every lawmaker can afford to take a reduction in pay.

DelBene is independently wealthy. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, she and her husband are worth between $23 million and $83 million.

Personal success shouldn’t diminish the importance of her latest gesture, though.

Across the country, federal officials from President Barack Obama on down have offered to return or donate portions of their pay to charity.

DelBene is the first member of Washington’s delegation to show she’s making a real sacrifice. It may be symbolic, but it sends a powerful message.

Other elected officials should follow her lead.

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