Taxes & Spending

Time to Kill Congressional Pensions and Cut Pay

To demonstrate to the American people that we in Congress have skin in the game when it comes to reducing deficit spending and that we intend to lead by example on this matter, we must put an end to pensions for members of Congress. I served my country in both the U.S. Army and in the Marine Corps and I was taught from the beginning of my military career that a fundamental tenet of leadership is to lead by example. I learned that leaders should never ask others to do anything that they themselves would be unwilling to do.

Today, our nation is mired in debt and we in Congress have to make tough decisions to find a way out of this crisis. This will involve asking the American people to make sacrifices related to their reliance on a government that has grown much larger than our economy will ever be able to support. In these extremely difficult economic times, Congress needs to set an example for the country and I think that ending our pension plan would be a good start.

If members of Congress are to be servants of the people, they must not receive a benefit that is now generally unavailable to the average American citizen. It is my belief that our founding fathers envisioned Congress as a citizen legislature comprised of members who were successful on a career path outside their elected federal office and who would not be dependent upon their service in Congress to provide them with a retirement income for the rest of their lives once they leave office.

In September I introduced legislation (House Resolution 2913) that will put an end to the pension plan now available to members of Congress. I am steadily gathering co-sponsors for my bill and I am confident that I will eventually assemble enough support from my colleagues in Congress, given the demands by their constituents for change, to enact this important reform.

We in Congress must vote to end the pension plan and demonstrate to the American people that their elected representatives in Washington understand they are servants of the people and not a political elite exempt from the challenges felt by most Americans today.

The current congressional pension program is a defined-benefit pension plan that pays U.S. representatives and senators 1.7% of their current $174,000 annual salary for every year they serve in Congress for up to 20 years, and an additional 1% for each year served after passing the 20-year mark. Members of Congress are required to pay 1.3% of their annual salary into the pension plan.

Members of Congress can’t participate in the pension plan until they have served at least five years. They are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. For example, if a member of Congress retired after serving for 20 years, he would receive 34% of his salary, or $59,160 per year and, if the had served for 30 years he would receive 44% of his annual salary, or $76,560.

Under my bill, members of Congress will still be required to pay into Social Security and may participate in the defined contribution Thrift Savings Plan (401K), available to all federal employees. My legislation would also honor any retirement benefits already accrued by members of Congress prior to its enactment. In addition, it would reimburse members who will have served for less than five years when my legislation becomes law, for the 1.3% of salary contributions already paid into the pension plan from which they will never collect.

My legislation to end congressional pensions is only one part of my efforts to reform Congress and the federal government. In January, I introduced House Resolution 270 that would cut congressional pay by 10%, reduce congressional office budgets and require federal civilian employees to take a non-consecutive, two-week furlough in 2012. An exception is provided in the legislation for federal employees involved in national security or for reasons related to public safety including law enforcement. The reduction in congressional office budgets was adopted in the debt ceiling agreement in August, but I’m not confident that either of the other two provisions will ever be enacted.

Unlike the prospects for H. R. 270, I am very optimistic about the chances that my proposal to end the congressional retirement system will pass because it clearly addresses part of the overall need to reform the culture of Congress. I believe that the issue of the congressional pension system will be easily understood by the voting public and will rise to a level where members of Congress will be questioned about their position on this legislation in town hall meetings across the country and by challengers during their upcoming re-election campaigns.

My bill also enjoys the support of three prominent taxpayer advocacy groups: Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens Against Government Waste and the National Taxpayers Union have come out to publicly support my legislation. I welcome their efforts to raise awareness about this important issue.

Ending the congressional retirement plan may be little more than a symbolic move toward fiscal responsibility from a leadership perspective, but it will be viewed as important by the American people as a step forward changing the culture of Washington, D.C.

This story was printed as the cover story in December 12, 2011 issue of HUMAN EVENTS newspaper.

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  • Bigdog007

    This is more show legislation like the House
    vote to repeal Obama Kill the Sick and Old care. They did it real soon after
    all the new House Republicans showed up to just get it over with knowing that
    it would not go anywhere in the Senate. Then the House continues to fund Obama
    Kill the Sick and Old care and build the one time 2009 stimulus into the base
    line budget so it is an every darn year pillage of the 50% of Americans who pay
    income taxes.

    Coffman voted Yes for the the debt deal in
    August which built the stimulus into the annual budget and a contiuing
    resolution to fund Obamacare.

    So now he proposes a token gesture that he
    knows will go no where. Even if he gets the votes in the House to pass it -
    Will John Jellyfish Boehner allow a vote? If Jellyfish does and it passes in
    the House, it will go no where in the Senate.

    So lets see, he probably voted against the
    one time stimulus in 2009 but then voted for the August debt deal to make it
    part of every years spending into the future. But he is concerned about how
    much Congress gets paid. It is a concern …and should be changed. But dont
    vote for trillions of dollars in spending and then pick some issue to take a
    stand on that does not come near to what he voted to spend and knows it will
    never pass. After all, the last thing this and the previous Congress cared
    about was what the American people want….they cant be bothered with that.

    I admire Coffman’s service in the military.
    But he is just a Boehner Yes man…..and has given up respresenting the people
    of Colorado. He represents Boehner….

    He may not be reelected as the Dems are
    changing his district so that his chances of being elected again are lower.

    But this piece of legislation gives him
    something to go back to Co and talk about how he is trying to reduce spending
    and government benefits that are better than most private industry workers.

    After all that is better than having to
    explain why he voted to fund Obama Kill the Sick and Old care and voted to make
    the one time stimulus into an annual event. Because if he has to talk about
    what he really voted to do…he would end up back in DC working as a lobbyist,
    think tank wonk, or possibly in one of the 159 new departments to be created under
    Obama Kill Care as a bureaubutt (after all he voted to fund it.) Not with as
    much power as he has now.

  • GomeznSA

    True – but sometimes even small victories are better than losing ground.

  • Hominid

    Never do an enemy a small injury.  - Nic Machiavelli

  • Stratosaurus

    Please name a government department which has actually provided goods and/or services which did not become so laden-down and obfuscated with regulations that they became non-functional…..

  • fiddlerbob

    What if we cut their pay and benefits to zero as long as our budget remains unbalanced?

    What if we fine them personally for every day our accounts are in arrears?

    What if we limit their ability to accept campaign contribution only from their constituents?

    What if demand that they do only the 18 things they are empowered to do in our Constitution?

    What if we cut their staffs to the size necessary to perform only their legal duties?

    What if we limit the time they can be in session? Three to four months per year should be more than enough time for them to do what they are empowered to do. It’s been over 250 years! And they could be quickly called in for emergency sessions when absolutely necessary.

    What if we, as suggested above, provide that all of their compensation come from the state or district that sent them to Washington?

    What if we require full disclosure of their contacts and quarterly audits (auditors selected at random) of their accounts?

    What if we impeach them and send them to jail should they violate their oath of office?

    What if we hang them should they commit treason?

    We will get the best representation possible when we elect people who really don’t want the job. There are people who would be proud to sacrifice and go to Washington under the above conditions. They would serve one or two turns and eagerly return to their homes. Every district and state would be wise to double their pay in exchange.

  • Guest

    rarther pay somebody good the regular rate…..