While Minnesota taxpayers are on the hook for approximately $200,000 to pay for its 62-day U.S. Senate race recount, that long process, and Norm Coleman's subsequent court challenge, is saving taxpayers' money nationwide as Minnesota's Class II Senate seat remains unoccupied.
Last month Smart Politics documented how the 'non-vacant' vacant seat is likely to cause the longest gap in representation in state history. Now, at a gap of 36 days and counting, the unoccupied seat is currently the third longest in Minnesota history, and, in one more week, will become the second longest - surpassing the gap that occurred after the death of Senator Ernest Lundeen in August 1940.
However, because Senator Coleman or Al Franken, if either had been seated on January 3rd, would have been drawing a per annum salary of $174,000 (up from $169,300 in 2008), the federal government is now saving nearly $500 per day while the seat remains unoccupied.
Members of Congress earn what amounts to $476.71 per day, and, at 36 days through Sunday, the federal government has now saved $17,161 on the would-be Minnesota Senator's salary alone, excluding benefits. With the Coleman challenge likely to draw on for several more weeks, Minnesota's too-close-to-call Senate race will likely save the federal government more than $30,000 in salary, and much more in benefits and staff and office expenses.
Understandably, in a month in which D.C. is preoccupied with multi-hundred billion dollar stimulus legislation, it is little wonder that this savings to the taxpayer is not headline news.