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Lawmakers call for cuts to their own retirement benefits

A group of Republican House members this week touted bills that would scale back federal retirement benefits for members of Congress themselves.

After a initial panel of witnesses provided House lawmakers at a Jan. 25 hearing with reasons why the federal retirement system should or and should not be changed, witnesses on a second panel—this one consisting of six Republican House members—promoted various bills the panelists had introduced or cosponsored that would scale back federal retirement benefits for members of Congress themselves.

The testimony came at a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform federal workforce subcommittee.

The bills touted by the second round of panelists outlined a range of proposed measures. One bill, for example, H.R. 2652, requires that members complete 12 years of creditable service to be vested in an annuity under the Federal Employees Retirement System. Another, titled the Congress is Not a Career Act (H.R. 981), allows a member to opt out of the system entirely.

Opponents of the ongoing GOP-led effort to trim federal employees’ benefits and pay immediately characterized the raft of legislation that the lawmakers aimed at themselves as a subterfuge for their main offensive to trim back the benefits provided to the rest of the federal workforce.

But at least one bill got more directly to the point. The day prior to the hearing, the subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), introduced a new bill of his own, dubbed the Securing Annuities for Federal Employees (SAFE) Act (H.R.3813), which calls for changes to the system not only for members of Congress, but also for federal employees.

But that blanket approach drew the same sort of reaction from employee groups.

“It is laughable to suggest that the SAFE Act is intended to preserve the viability of the federal retirement system,” National Federation of Federal Employees National President William R. Dougan said in a statement. “You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who agrees that reducing federal workers’ pension benefits by 40 percent would somehow improve their retirement security.

“Rep. Ross argues that these benefits are unaffordable and must be curtailed to alleviate the deficit,” Dougan said. “But don’t be mistaken – this proposal is driven more by ideological politics than sound public policy.”

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