Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper Calls for End to Death Benefits for Congressional Spouses

When the Senate finally passed a bill to reopen the government last month, one of the provisions was a $174,000 death benefit for Bonnie Lautenberg, widow of the late New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg. It raised some eyebrows and some questioned why death benefits were given to the widow of one of the wealthiest members of Congress. Now one Democratic congressman has come forward with a proposal to just end the practice altogether.

Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper told The Hill on Saturday that members of Congress should be treated just like any other person when they die, and not get special treatment for their families.

“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.”

If Cooper follows through with the proposal, he may very well receive bipartisan support, since in 2011 some House Republicans pushed the very same idea.

[h/t HuffPost]

[photo via screengrab]

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Follow Josh Feldman on Twitter: @feldmaniac

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