They introduced legislation to reduce printing, cut the House compost program, voted against an automatic 5 percent pay raise, and agreed to cut back on office budgets all in the name of curbing spending. But one thing Congress hasn’t discussed is doing away with a pension program that an analysis by Roll Call finds is costing taxpayers $26 million a year.
The figure comes from Congressional Research Service data that tracked payments to 455 former members as of October 2009.
“Along with the franking privilege, pensions represent a valuable perk to both political parties that lawmakers don’t want to touch,” National Taxpayers Union spokesman Pete Sepp told Roll Call.
While $26 million isn't that much in the grand scheme, the new Congress, especially the GOP, has made a big show of making symbolic cuts. Doing so has been an important way to demonstrate to constituents, especially those influenced by the tea party movement, that they are serious about changing the way things are done in Washington.
Two Illinois Republicans who rode in on this tea party wave, Reps. Bobby Schilling and Joe Walsh, have each said they would not participate in the pension program, but it’s not clear whether they have the option, since the last time lawmakers were able to opt out of the program was in 2003. They also have not proposed any legislation to stop the program, which has not seen any real opposition since the mid-1990s.