Congress members get some lifetime benefits that virtually no other job in America offers to retired employees. Should that practice no longer continue?
Unbeknownst to most of the public, former members of Congress continue to receive certain benefits for life, even decades after their congressional service ends.
These include: free parking at the U.S. Capitol Building, access to the actual floors of the Senate and House where legislation is debated and voted upon, and access to Congress member dining rooms and gyms.
But many worry that such perks have more nefarious effects on public policy when 428 former members of Congress are currently lobbyists.
What the bill does
The Stop Congressional Retirees’ Accessing Perks (SCRAP) Act would stop those lifetime perks, as well as others including lifetime healthcare benefits and payments after death to a member’s spouse or family.
The two main party leaders of the House, the Speaker and the House Minority Leader, can waive these prohibitions on a case by case basis if they both agree.
The bill was introduced in February by Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC5), numbered H.R. 4981 in the House.
What supporters say
Supporters argue the bill would do something to “un-grease” the wheels of the revolving doors, which currently allow special interests represented by former members of Congress nearly unfettered access to current members of Congress.
“Members of Congress are elected to serve their constituents, not to reap numerous perks for the rest of their lives once they leave office. Most Americans do not have similar lifetime benefits when they leave their job,” House lead sponsor Norman said in a press release.
“For example, retired members still have the same amount of access throughout the Capitol complex, and over 430 former members of Congress are now lobbyists, representing special interest groups — giving them special, direct contact to sitting members writing legislation,” Norman continued. “Lifetime access to this exclusive circle keeps them in that circle, and distances former members from the experiences of everyday Americans.”
GovTrack Insider was unable to locate any direct statements of opposition from any member of Congress, likely due to the poor optics of such a statement.
Odds of passage
The bill has attracted two House cosponsors, a Democrat and Republican: Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA17) and Greg Gianforte (R-MT0), for a total of two Republicans and one Democrat. It awaits a possible vote in either the House Administration, Rules, or Oversight and Government Reform Committees.