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Rep. Coffman Wants to Cut Congressional Pensions

Rep. Mike Coffman is proposing an end to the cushy pensions ex-Members of Congress receive.

The Colorado Republican announced Wednesday that he plans to introduce legislation after the recess that would end the defined benefit retirement plan available to Members of Congress.

Coffman’s office could not immediately produce an estimate of how much his legislation would save, but a Roll Call analysis published earlier this year found that the pensions for former Members are likely to cost taxpayers at least $26 million in 2011 alone.

The pension is invariably an issue when Members resign under an ethical cloud because they can keep their pensions as long as they are not convicted of a federal crime. Roll Call reported in June, for example, that former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who resigned after sending lewd pictures of himself over Twitter, might still collect more than $1 million in pension.

Coffman, who was elected in 2008 after serving almost a decade as Colorado’s secretary of state and state treasurer, is one of several lawmakers who have proposed changes to Congress’ internal spending as a way to cut federal spending while showing that lawmakers are willing to suffer along with average Americans. 

GOP Illinois Reps. Bobby Schilling and Joe Walsh, both freshmen, have publicly announced they will not participate in the pension program, but current law bars Members from opting out. Schilling, however, introduced a bill in June that would delay Members’ access to federal pensions from age 62 to 65, the Social Security retirement age of their constituents.

Members elected after 1984, like all other federal employees, are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System, which comprises Social Security payments, a monthly pension based on tenure and pay history and the Thrift Savings Plan, which is similar to private 401(k) accounts.

The program gives Representatives and Senators who serve at least five years a percentage of their annual salary, currently $174,000, for every year they serve in Congress.

For example, according to Coffman’s office, if a Member of Congress served for 20 years and is at least 62, he or she would receive 34 percent of their salary, or $59,160 per year based on the current salary.

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