The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, February 13, 2019 1:00 am

Braun proposes end to congressional pension

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Freshman U.S. Sen. Mike Braun announced Tuesday he has introduced legislation that would eliminate congressional pensions.

Braun, R-Ind., was joined on the bill by freshman Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. They have named their proposal the End Pensions in Congress Act.

“It's time we make Washington more like the private sector and the best place to start is to end taxpayer-funded pensions – like Nancy Pelosi's six-figure annual pension – that senators and congressmen are entitled to in retirement,” Braun said in a statement, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calf.

“If we remove the luxurious perks from Congress, we'll get better leaders: that's why I'll never accept my Senate pension and, if forced to, I pledge to donate every penny to Hoosier charities,” he said.

Karen Friedman, policy director for the nonprofit Pension Rights Center, said Braun's bill “is a terrible idea.”

“We should be ensuring that people have good pensions, not getting rid of pensions,” Friedman said in a telephone interview.

“We should be using the congressional pensions as a model for what everybody should have, not try to make congressional pensions worse,” she said.

Congressional pensions by law cannot top 80 percent of a lawmaker's salary at the time of retirement. Pension amounts are determined by length of service, salary level and retirement age.

Most federal lawmakers earn $174,000 a year but are not eligible for pensions until they have served at least five years.

Braun's EPIC Act would have members of Congress retain their Thrift Savings Plan, which is similar to 401(k) retirement savings plans to which employees and their employers contribute money.

Braun said Pelosi, who has been in Congress for 33 years, would receive an annual pension of more than $102,000 if she were to retire immediately.

“Our job in Congress is to serve the American people, and not enrich ourselves with special taxpayer-funded benefits.

By ending congressional taxpayer-funded pensions, we will take one more step toward draining the swamp in Washington,” Braun wrote in an opinion piece for Fox News. 

A Republican member of the House from Kansas introduced legislation in 2015 to eliminate congressional pensions, but it never received a hearing or a vote.

“I would imagine it's not going to be taken particularly seriously,” Friedman said about Braun's bill. “There's many other things we should be doing. We should be ensuring that people get their pension promises protected, like the people who are having their benefits cut under multi-employer plans.

“That should be the priority of Congress. Coming up with a better system to ensure that all Americans who don't have retirement savings get savings.”

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