This week, the Republican Study Committee’s (RSC) Sunset Caucus is targeting for elimination the death gratuity, or payments to the survivors of Members of Congress who die in office.
The RSC Sunset Caucus is a subset of the RSC with a mandate to reduce government spending by cutting foolish and/or unnecessary programs. According to Florida Republican Rep. Bill Posey, the sponsor of legislation to get rid of the program, the death gratuity fits that bill.
Posey told The Daily Caller that this program first came onto his radar and into his crosshairs when Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. John Murtha died, at age 77, and his family got a $174,000 payment.
“Everybody’d like it. I’d like it if I died too, but if the public doesn’t get it, Congress ought not get it,” Posey said.
The death gratuity is equal to one year’s salary and was at one time meant to act as a form of life insurance for the families of Members who met an untimely demise, but with Members of Congress increasingly eschewing retirement well past their eighties and even nineties, many congressional deaths appear evermore less untimely.
The payments are not small either. When West Virginia Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd died, at age 92, his family received $193,400. When Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy died, at age 77, taxpayers footed the bill for $174,000 in payments to his family.
“We’ve got soldiers dying that don’t get customary benefits like that,” Posey continued. “That is not right so we are going to see if we can repeal it.”
Posey said that the bill likely will not come up for a vote this session, but that taxpayers should be on the look out for a vote in the coming Congress.
“Nobody knows about this program. It is not that the public is demanding that something be done about this, but if they did know about it, then they would be demanding it,” he concluded.