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Can you make a wealthy person do something by temporarily withholding a relatively tiny part of his or her income?

America is about to find out, after the Senate approved a bill on a 64-34 vote Thursday to suspend the nation’s debt limit until mid-May, enabling the federal government to continue to borrow money to pay its bills.

In exchange for the ability to raise the debt ceiling without a fight over spending cuts, the House of Representatives-authored bill contains a provision that requires the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass a budget, something it hasn’t done in four years, or see members’ pay withheld in escrow. The House passed its bill last week. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the measure into law.

While having their paychecks in financial purgatory might strike fear into the wallets of most Americans, questions abound as to whether the “No Budget, No Pay Act” will spur senators – who had an average wealth of $13.9 million in 2011, the last year analyzed by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics – to quake in their shoes. Most members of the Senate and House earn $174,000 a year.

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