Do you think that Members of Congress get too many lifetime perks? Apparently some in Congress do.
Congressmen Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Ralph Norman (R-SC) have introduced the Stop Congressional Retirees’ Accessing Perks (SCRAP) Act (H.R. 4981) in an effort to pare back on some of the perks.
It would end many of the benefits awarded to lawmakers after they leave office, including:
- Death gratuities for spouses and family;
- Participation in the Federal Employees Retirement System, but still able to maintain their TSP accounts;
- Healthcare benefits;
- Access to House and Senate floors, and member gyms and dining rooms;
- Free parking on Capitol grounds and at DC-area airports;
- Access to House and Senate document rooms; and
- Use of collections in the House Legislative Resource Center and Senate Library without borrowing privileges.
Norman said in a statement:
Members of Congress are elected to serve their constituents, not to reap numerous perks for the rest of their lives once they leave office. Most Americans do not have similar lifetime benefits when they leave their job. For example, retired members still have the same amount of access throughout the Capitol complex, and over 430 former members of Congress are now lobbyists, representing special interest groups – giving them special, direct contact to sitting members writing legislation. Lifetime access to this exclusive circle keeps them in that circle, and distances former members from the experiences of everyday Americans.
Khanna added, “Former members of Congress should play by the same rules as every day Americans who work for a living before retiring. It is time to end the luxuries that former members of Congress still receive after they leave office at the expense of Americans’ tax dollars. These lifetime perks have to go in order to clean up a Congress under the influence of special interests.”
Some Benefits Persist, Even in Jail
Sometimes, Congressional benefits extend into retirement even if the former lawmaker is sitting in jail.
Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) recently began serving a five year prison sentence for, among other things, fraud and filing false tax returns related to a “purported charity for poor students that she used as a personal slush fund” as the Orlando Sentinel describes it.
Despite the conviction and prison time, she still receives a taxpayer funded pension as a retired federal employee under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).
What about FOIA?
The Office of Personnel Management would not disclose how much Brown’s annuity payment is since this information is shielded from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
One Congressman thinks it is wrong for this information to be hidden from the public. Last year, Congressman Ron DeSantis (R-FL) introduced a bill to make the pension information of retired federal employees public information subject to FOIA requests. To date, it has not advanced.
He probably had situations such as Corrine Brown’s in mind when introducing the bill.
In an editorial, he wrote, “Former IRS chief Lois Lerner used her authority to infringe the rights of American citizens and consistently obstructed congressional investigations. Wouldn’t it be nice to see her pension information? Her pension is estimated to equal nearly $2 million in lifetime payout.”
He also said it would empower citizens to “hold their government accountable like never before.” For details, see Legislation Would Make Retired Federal Employee Pensions Public Information