Congressional hawks — watching out for themselves — have ensured an obscure perk benefiting their own families that is the gift that keeps on giving — even after death. Politico reports that the must-pass spending bill pending in the Senate includes a provision that will pay the family of the late Sen. Robert Byrd the salary he would have received had he lived to serve during the next fiscal year.
Rank-and-file members of the House and Senate receive $174,000. The Majority and Minority Party Leaders are paid $193,400 and the Speaker of the House takes home a cool $223,500. Cost-of-living-adjustments (COLA) automatically kick in annually, the same as at your job — if you still have one. Are you laughing yet?
The Congressional handbook states that upon the death of a senator who had been serving in office, “in the next appropriations bill, an item will be inserted for a gratuity to be paid to the widow(er) or other next- of-kin, in the amount of one-year’s compensation.” Benefits include pay, retirement, life insurance, and health insurance. There are even provisions for taxpayers to pony up for the burial expenses.
The pending bill calls for “equal shares” of the late West Virginia senator’s $193,400 salary to be split between Byrd’s seven children and grandchildren. America’s longest serving senator, Byrd died June 28, 2010 at age 92. He served an unprecedented nine terms beginning in 1958.
As Mel Brooks so famously said, “It’s good to be King.”