Mar 22, 2023 - Politics & Policy

First look: New legislation threatens pensions of convicted lawmakers

Illustration of a stack of money as the bait in a bear trap.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Senators Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Rick Scott (R-Fl.) have introduced a bill which would bar members of Congress from collecting taxpayer-funded pensions if they are convicted of felonies related to their official duties.

Why it matters: It comes as Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) is under local and federal investigation for lying about key parts of his biography and campaign — including his resume, ancestry and education.

The details: The bill, called the No CORRUPTION Act, would strip former members of Congress of their pensions immediately following a lawful conviction of certain felonies related to their official duties, ranging from bribery and money laundering to fraud and witness tampering.

  • It would also ensure that those pardoned by a president do not receive pensions unless a court overturns their convictions, according to a copy first obtained by Axios.
  • Current law requires former members of Congress convicted of a felony to forfeit their pensions only after exhausting their appeals, which allows convicted former members to file appeal after appeal while collecting their pension.

What they're saying: “It is unthinkable that a former member of Congress could be convicted of a crime involving public corruption and still benefit off the taxpayer dollars of hardworking families," Scott said.

  • "Those who serve in Congress should be held to the highest of standards in order to instill trust and confidence in our government," said Alex Milliken, Policy and Government Affairs Manager for the National Taxpayers Union, which supports the bill.
  • "It’s past time that corrupt members of Congress are held accountable," said Rosen.

The big picture: Santos has inspired legislation at the federal and local levels.

  • House Republicans from New York signed onto a bill to stop Santos from profiting off book deals, speech commissions and television shows after leaving office.
  • Congressional Democrats have offered an expulsion resolution and a bill requiring congressional candidates to disclose more elements of their background, called the SANTOS Act.

Flashback: Just before Biden's State of the Union address. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) confronted Santos in the chamber.

Santos' office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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