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Should Congress get lifetime health care, more? Rock Hill lawmaker aims to end ‘perks’

February 9, 2018
In The News

U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman of Rock Hill and another legislator are looking to end lifetime health care and other benefits for themselves and hundreds of other members of Congress.

Norman and U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna introduced the Stop Congressional Retirees’ Accessing Perks — or SCRAP — Act. The bill would end some lifetime benefits to members of Congress, from health care to legislative access.

Norman is a South Carolina Republican, represending the 5th Congressonal District. Khanna is a California Democrat. Both were elected to their respective first terms since last summer.

“Members of Congress are elected to serve their constituents, not to reap numerous perks for the rest of their lives once they leave office,” Norman said in a statement. “Most Americans do not have similar lifetime benefits when they leave their job.”

Lifetime benefits aren’t just about the fiscal cost, according to Norman.

“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,” he said.

Norman said: “Lifetime access to this exclusive circle keeps them in that circle, and distances former members from the experiences of everyday Americans.”

Norman’s office could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.

Khanna released a statement calling out the “luxuries” granted to former legislators.

“Former members of Congress should play by the same rules as every day Americans who work for a living before retiring,” he said. “It is time to end the luxuries that former members of Congress still receive after they leave office at the expense of Americans’ tax dollars.”

Khanna, too, expressed concern about former legislators impacting current work.

“These lifetime perks have to go, in order to clean up a Congress under the influence of special interests,” he said. “By ending the access currently allowed to current members, like access to the House and Senate floors and member gyms and dining rooms, we can build a stronger democracy for and by the people, not former electeds.”

The legislation, H.R. 4981, was introduced in the House on Thursday.

It was referred to committees on House administration, rules and oversight and government reform. The House speaker will determine how long it remains in those committees.

The new rules would have to pass House and Senate votes, then get a signature from the president, to become law.

As of Friday, a cost estimate for the bill hadn’t been determined by the Congressional Budget Office.