The federal government's shutdown, or at least whether members of Congress should accept their pay while it lasts, has become an issue in the Democrat-on-Democrat battle for the South Bay's 17th Congressional District seat.

Former Obama administration official Ro Khanna, of Fremont, says if he were a congressman, he wouldn't accept his paycheck during the shutdown. But Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, has decided to take the money.

The Washington Post reported Friday that at least 138 members of Congress -- including Reps. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton; Ami Bera, D-Rancho Cordova; John Garamendi, D-Fairfield; and Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, as well as Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein -- have said either they won't accept their pay during the shutdown or they'll donate it to charity.

Ro Khanna (L) and Mike Honda (R)
Ro Khanna (L) and Mike Honda (R) (Bay Area News Group Archives)

"There ought to be consequences for Congress's inability to do its job. Members ought to be accountable to the taxpayers who pay their salaries," Khanna wrote to Honda on Thursday, urging him to skip his paycheck. He noted that California voters approved a 2010 ballot measure to deny state lawmakers their pay if they fail to pass a budget by the June 15 constitutional deadline.

Refusing to accept pay or pension contributions during the shutdown "would be a show of good faith to your constituents here in the 17th District who expect better from Congress and their own representative," Khanna wrote.

Honda had issued a statement Wednesday saying "the next pay period for House members and staff is October 31st, and I will continue doing the work that the people of the 17th District sent me to Washington to do. Right now I am working with my colleagues in both parties to end this Tea Party-caused budget crisis."

Asked Thursday whether Honda will reject or donate all or part of the Oct. 31 paycheck, spokesman Anthony Kusich replied, "He's taking his paycheck."

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law declined to comment on whether Khanna was blasting Honda for not compromising with Republicans who want to defund or delay Obamacare. But Khanna's campaign website says he's "a strong supporter of President Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That law already is expanding health care services to the vast majority of Americans. We need to keep moving forward, however, until care is universally available, with a higher assurance of quality and with more control on costs."

Several local lawmakers who agreed to reject or donate their pay during the shutdown -- including Swalwell, Garamendi, Boxer and Feinstein -- are staunch Obamacare defenders, too. But so are Reps. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; George Miller, D-Martinez; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, all of whom are keeping their pay.

More than 551,000 MoveOn members have signed online petitions demanding that members of Congress give up their pay during the shutdown.

Josh Richman covers politics. Contact him at 510-208-6428. Follow him at Twitter.com/josh_richman. Read the Political Blotter at IBAbuzz.com/politics.