Cut Congressional Pensions?

Another member in Congress believes it is time to eliminate congressional pensions.  On August 24, Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO) announced his plan to introduce legislation to end the defined benefit retirement plan that is currently available to Members of Congress.  “I’m a Marine Corps combat veteran and I was taught that you should never ask others to do anything that you would be unwilling to do,” Coffman said.   “These are extremely difficult economic times and Congress needs to set an example and lead the way for the country.   I think this is a good start.” 

Lawmakers who have been in Congress at least five years receive annual benefits equal to 1.7 percent of their salary for every year served up to 20 years, and 1 percent for each additional year.   Members contribute 1.3 percent of their paychecks to the pension plan and also are eligible for Social Security and a 401(k)-type account. Under Coffman’s legislation, Members of Congress would still receive any retirement benefits already accrued and could continue to contribute to Social Security and the 401(k)-style Thrift Savings Plan if they choose to do so.  The defined plan currently in place would be eliminated.  It is not clear how much Coffman’s  proposal would save, but a recent study by Roll Call, a newspaper specifically focused on government-related agencies found  congressional pensions could  cost American taxpayers $26 million this year alone. 

Congressional salaries and benefits have been the source of taxpayer unhappiness and myths over the year’s thanks in part to a slew of false or misleading emails routinely floating around the internet.  A good example is the email that claims Members of Congress don’t pay Social Security taxes–Not true.  Members of Congress pay into Social Security at the same amounts as they would if they were employed in the private sector.  It is true that prior to 1984, Members of Congress, the President, Vice President, etc., did not pay into Social Security.  However, the Social Security Amendments of 1983 (PL 98-21) changed that.  And for the past 27 years they have been paying into the program just like the rest of us. 

Representative Coffman plans to file his bill shortly after Congress returns from the summer recess.    He joins three other Members of Congress who have already introduced legislation that would alter the current retirement system for lawmakers: Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA), Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

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