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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 12:13 PM


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