Stop-gap spending bill would give senator's widow $174,000


For federal agencies, the current sequester-related budget crunch is unprecedented. Congress, however, isn’t letting go of one venerable tradition: Paying a year’s congressional salary (currently at a base level of $174,000) as a death benefit to the spouse of a lawmaker who dies in office.

No across-the-board cut here: The fiscal 2014 continuing resolution unveiled yesterday authorizes the full payment to Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg, widow of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.

Frank Lautenberg died in June at age 89. After rising from childhood poverty to lead the Automatic Data Processing payroll management company, Lautenberg was numbered among the Senate’s wealthiest men, with a net worth of at least $57 million, according to his most recent financial disclosure report.

A spokeswoman for the CR’s sponsor, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., did not respond to emailed questions.

To be clear, Bonnie Lautenberg is not getting special treatment; Congress has been providing this brand of survivor benefit since long before World War II, said Pete Sepp, spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, a watchdog group.

But it started in the days before members of Congress could get federally subsidized pensions or life insurance, he said. Now, a deceased lawmaker’s surviving spouse can not only receive a payout from the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance Program, he or she can receive a survivor’s annuity under the Federal Employees Retirement System, he said.

“It’s hard to kick a widow or widower when they’ve just lost their loved one,” Sepp said when asked his view on whether the benefit should continue. “Still, it wouldn’t be inappropriate to examine whether it’s necessary in light of the other benefits that now exist.”


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  1. You cannot be serious! After going for three years without pay raises, being treated like the scum of the earth, Congress has the nerve to continue this tradition. I doubt very seriously if the widow or widower needs the money. These representatives are millionaires and to pay out the salary plus the pension and insurance benefits is insulting to the taxpayers and federal employees. My spouse would not receive my salary plus insurance and pension, why on earth would the taxpayers allow this.

  2. One would think she could get by on her $57 million dollar inherritance proves corruption is alive and thriving in congress among its members bet the $174,000 is also tax free.

  3. WOW REALLY? As Linda said, federal employees don’t get that benefit. While I bet that the aides to Congress probably does. I can see providing this benefit for active duty service members, but Congress? They already get so many benefits and are exempted from so many different budget issues, it’s mind boggling. Congress (and their aides) should have their budget and funds under the same accounting codes that federal employees fall under. Really-Congress’ pay come from a separate fund? Not too sure about the retirement pay (if they get paid even after one term)- I hear so many things – that it’s true or not true. They probably get tax free housing allowances and per diem while working in DC. I’m sure that most of them get allowances for traveling back to their state of residence and really – they can travel overseas under the claim that they are “doing research to find out if the countries they visit will do business with business’ in the United States”? Congress needs to seriously look at themselves before slashing the federal budgets of all of the departments.

  4. Paying a year’s congressional salary to the spouse of a lawmaker as a death benefit may be a venerable tradition but with the addition of Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance Program, and the Federal Employees Retirement System it’s just another piece of pork on the plate.
    With everyone (except politicians) being forced to cut back it would seem reasonable to ask our elected representatives and their staff to relinquish a few of the entitlements they have granted themselves.
    If they can not justify its necessity to do their job and the average working citizen does not have access to it they should find the courage to eliminate it.

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