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By Phil Piemonte

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Congress targets its retirement benefits--or maybe not

“When are members of Congress going to cut their own benefits?!?”

That has to be just about the favorite rant on this blog.

Well, this month, a bunch of House lawmakers – a half dozen in fact – reminded us that they want to do just that. Or at least give the appearance of wanting to.

A whole passel of them—or rather, a panel of them—provided testimony on how their retirement benefits should be cut or restricted, and hyped bills they have proposed that would do those things. They did it at a Jan. 26 hearing on the federal retirement system held by House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform federal workforce subcommittee.

If you want to take a look at what they had to say, click on any of the lawmakers’ names below to pull up their testimony:

Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.)

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.)

Rep. Robert J. Dold (R-Ill.)

Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.)

Rep. Richard B. Nugent (R-Fla.)

Rep. Robert T. Schilling (R-Ill.)

Some of the lawmakers seem to think their measures are just common sense. But then some may not need a federal retirement, or even a salary. Others, on the other hand, while they want reforms, do want to grandfather long-timers.

And one, to make his point from the git-go, has named his bill the Congress is Not a Career Act (H.R. 981).

The catch with some of these bills in which members of Congress target themselves is that although the sponsor or sponsors offer to bite the bullet on retirement, they also want the entire federal workforce to bite that bullet, too. The Securing Annuities for Federal Employees (SAFE) Act (H.R.3813), introduced Jan. 24 by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), is one of those bills.

Luckily, feds can take comfort in the fact that most bills that are introduced in Congress never make it very far. And some of the bills cited above have been around for a while, or are retreads of earlier efforts. A person might even posit that a secondary—or perhaps even primary—motivation behind some of this legislation is its PR value back home.

Nonetheless, many who represent the interests of federal employees probably would agree with Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who told The Washington Post that he believes that the real GOP agenda behind these bills is to use them as a “portal” into cutting back retirement benefits for the whole federal workforce.

So, if you are asking the question, “When are members of Congress are going to cut their own benefits?”

Maybe the answer is: “Be careful what you wish for.”

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Jan 27, 2012 at 4:02 PM

Reader comments

Thu, Apr 5, 2012 Morgan Florida

From my point of view by equalizing the tax is the best option as it will make rich and poor equal and no body will feel insecure.

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Thu, Feb 23, 2012 John Nolan Hawaii

Regarding the "Tax the Rich" comment I read in this blog, forget it. How about tax everyone equally. Flat tax for Fed and State, no further "allowance" from the tax payers. Rich or poor pay the same rate. That is the only fair thing to do. Will that make everyone happy? No, and to bad. Fair is fair. Penalizing success and hard work with higher taxes is not a motivator. For those about to beat me with your comments, I am not rich, never have been, never will be. I only hope I can scrounge together enough to pay my 2011 taxes. So, end the tax the rich whine.

Sun, Feb 12, 2012

Even though this appears to lump congress and federal employees in the same basket, the benefits are VASTLY different. Congress has some very luxurious benefits that no federal worker ever sees. They are blowing sunshine up your skirt by saying they will take a hit. Read the details, congress doesn't see much of a hit, they've laid it all on the federal workers whose benefits are far more modest. This equates to a major take from federal employees. Shame on them for this disingenuous gesture!

Sun, Feb 12, 2012

Reference the comment on outsourcing - the federal government has already done major outsourcing by privatizing large program initiatives. This does not necessarily equate to saving money, it just changes who gets your tax dollars. In my experience, the actual dollar outlays increase dramatically after a program goes contract.

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