Sen: Sherrod Brown: Congress Should Have Same Retirement Age As Public In Spirit Of 'Shared Sacrifice'

Every time I suggested something like this, fellow progressives told me it was right-wing, anti-government populism. I didn't agree then, and so I think Sherrod Brown's idea is a good one:

Washington (CNN) -- Should members of Congress cut their salaries or raise the age at which they can draw a congressional pension when many Americans are making personal sacrifices during the country's prolonged economic crisis?

Sen. Sherrod Brown thinks so.

In April, the Ohio Democrat introduced the Shared Retirement Sacrifice Act of 2011, which would require lawmakers to wait until the age of 66 to collect their pensions. Currently, lawmakers can retire as early as 50 with a full pension depending on how long they served.

"The reason I introduced my bill ... on this shared sacrifice in terms of retirement age is I hear lots of members of Congress, especially, particularly conservative members of Congress, say we should raise the retirement age for Social Security," Brown said on CNN's "American Morning."

Brown points to the fact that a member of Congress who gets elected at 35 and retires at 55 can draw a pretty good pension then while other Americans can't draw Social Security benefits until they reach 66.

"So, my thought there was that members of Congress should not be able to get their pension, no matter how many years of service they had; they should get no pension until any earlier than a Social Security beneficiary should get theirs," he said.

In 2009, there were 455 retired members of Congress drawing a federal pension based fully or in part on their congressional service in 2009, according to a Congressional Research Service report released in January.

Of that number, 275 were in office before 1984 and did not pay into Social Security nor can they collect benefits. They received an average yearly pension of $69,012 in 2009.

Amendments to the Social Security Act in 1983 required members of Congress to pay into Social Security after January 1, 1984. The other 180 retired members are covered by both the old and new pension plans and collected an annual pension of $40,140 in 2009.

Under both systems, members of Congress are eligible for a pension at age 62 if they have completed at least five years of service, according to the Congressional Research Service report. Members are eligible for a pension at 50 if they have 20 years under their belt, or at any age after completing 25 years of service, the report added.

Brown said it's important that lawmakers "sort of align as much as possible their lives with the people who we represent, so we understand things better and, you know, we still make more money than most people, of course."


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