Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott responds to a question during a gubernatorial debate against Democrat Charlie Crist on Oct. 10, 2014, in Miramar, Fla.
Photo by Lynne Sladky/AP

Rick Scott’s new ‘reform’ measure comes with an unintended consequence


I have good news for voters who see pensions for retired members of Congress as a problem in need of a solution. The Washington Times  reported yesterday:

Two Republican senators on Tuesday introduced legislation that would eliminate pensions for retiring members of Congress.

Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana and Sen. Rick Scott of Florida introduced their “End Pensions in Congress Act” in the hopes that it will make Washington more efficient. […]

Currently, pensions are calculated by averaging a member’s three highest paying salaries, their years in office, and the set accrual rate.

I don’t seriously expect this legislation to pass, but the fact that the two new Republican senators – Braun and Scott both reached Capitol Hill for the first time last month – would even propose such a “reform” measure is rather amazing.

For those unfamiliar with the GOP duo, Rick Scott and Mike Braun are both very wealthy, with each senator enjoying a net worth of tens of millions of dollars. I wouldn’t ordinarily draw attention to this, but in this case it’s directly relevant: if federal lawmakers can no longer receive pensions, it’s likely to discourage less-wealthy people from running in the first place.

Or put another way, we’d likely see a whole lot more members like Mike Braun and Rick Scott.

But ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser raised an equally important observation. Referring to the Florida Republican, Millhiser wrote, “This is a man with a nine-figure net worth bragging about how he’s going to force his colleagues to become corporate lobbyists when they leave Congress if they want to eat.”

The name of the bill is the “End Pensions in Congress Act,” but in practice, it might as well be called the “Encourage Politicians to be Become Lobbyists Act.” If retiring lawmakers know they can’t have a pension, and they don’t have vast wealth to rely on after their congressional careers, the odds of them turning to K Street are strong.

Postscript: Rick Scott announced just this week that he will no longer keep his vast wealth in a blind trust. I’m not usually preoccupied with political “optics,” but the Floridian probably should’ve spaced these two stories out a bit more.