Senators propose legislation to end Congressional pensions

Two freshman Republican senators are trying to end taxpayer-funded pensions for members of Congress.

Senators Mike Braun of Indiana and Rick Scott of Florida announced the End Pensions In Congress Act on Tuesday.

“Pensions are kind of an archaic thing,” said Braun in an interview with Yahoo Finance. “Here in government, I think it’s a great example of where it’s a remnant of the way things used to be. Most people [outside of Congress] don’t get them anymore.”

According to a 2017 report from the Congressional Research Service, members of Congress are eligible for a pension at age 62 if they have served for at least five years. Members qualify for a pension at age 50 if they’ve completed 20 years of service, and members of any age can receive a pension after 25 years of service.

The size of the pension depends on years of service and the average of the highest three years of salary.

“I think it’s time for that to go, especially when you look at the performance that both Congress and senators have provided over the last few decades. It’d be not only symbolic – it just shouldn’t be a perk that’s there in anymore,” said Braun.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., speaks to reporters outside his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. Scott took questions on Venezuela and the government shutdown. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The CRS report said 611 retired members of Congress were receiving federal pensions based at least in part on their Congressional service, as of October 2016.

Braun argues U.S. representatives and senators should use their Thrift Savings Plan to save for retirement, which is similar to a private sector 401(k). (All Congressional members are eligible for a pension plan as well as the Thrift Savings Plan). Defined contribution plans like 401(k)s have become the predominant retirement saving vehicle for the private sector, with 47% of firms offering them, compared with 8% of companies offering defined benefit plans, or pensions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Florida Gov. Ron Desantis introduced similar legislation under the same name when he was serving in Congress, though it did not become law. Braun said he expects it will be difficult for his bill to make it to the president’s desk.

“It’s got a long journey ahead of us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to get the discussion going,” said Braun.

Braun has also introduced a bill that would prevent members of Congress from being paid if they fail to pass a budget on time.

Jessica Smith is a reporter for Yahoo Finance based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter at @JessicaASmith8.