Dem congressman says end death pay to lawmaker spouses

Dem congressman says end death pay to lawmaker spouses

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) this week proposed legislation that would ban the practice of paying “death gratuities” to the survivors of deceased members of Congress.

Cooper’s bill comes just weeks after Congress approved legislation paying a $174,000 gratuity to the widow of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). That payment rankled deficit hawks, as Lautenberg was worth something north of $50 million.

Cooper told The Hill on Saturday that regardless of the financial situation of the deceased member, Congress should no longer be in the business of making these payments.

“The death gratuity became customary starting in 1918 before the birth of modern life insurance (1924), the creation of Social Security (1935), the establishment of civil service pensions (1942), and health benefits under Medicare (1965),” Cooper said. “A lot has changed since 1918, and the gratuity custom should have been abandoned a long time ago.

“Members should choose the death benefit they want by buying life insurance like regular citizens. No special treatment for Congress.”

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