Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks (R-IN) introduced a bill today precluding members of Congress who commit felonies during or after their time in office from receiving federal pension benefits for their elected service. The Respecting the Institution of Congress Act is the first piece of legislation authored by the freshman Congresswoman and former United States Attorney.
"As controversies swirl around Washington and fuel a growing trust deficit between government and the citizens it serves, Congress must play a fundamental role in bridging that divide," Brooks said. "But doing so requires more than strong oversight of other federal branches and their agencies. Restoring confidence requires a firm commitment to self-accountability and the highest professional and ethical standards."
Under current law, a sitting representative who commits a felony not directly related to the performance of official duties can still receive taxpayer funded pension benefits for the time he or she served in office. A former representative engaging in any type of felony -- even lobbying related criminal activities -- is also able to collect pension funds. The Respecting the Institution of Congress Act closes these loopholes.
"Tradition allows that my colleagues and I will be called "Congressman' or "Congresswoman' even after we leave office," Brooks said. "It's a title that comes with tremendous responsibility during our time of service and after. A member of Congress who has failed to live up to his or her responsibilities should face additional penalties."
The legislation would apply to members of the 113th Congress and future Congresses during and after their time in office. The new requirements would also extend to current and future presidents and vice presidents.
Before taking office, Brooks promised to help restore confidence in Congress by supporting legislation that increases accountability and transparency. Since her swearing in, she has cosponsored several pieces of legislation that would do so. These include:
House Resolution 440, the Stop the Revolving Door in Washington Act: extends the period of time former members of Congress are banned from lobbying their colleagues on behalf of clients.
House Joint Resolution 26: Institutes term limits for the House of Representatives and Senate.
House Resolution 1735, the In It All Together Act: requires the President and his cabinet secretaries to join the health care exchanges set up by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
House Resolution 2010: Closes current loophole exempting committee staff and leadership staff in the House of Representatives and Senate from health care plans created under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or offered through the Exchange.
Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks serves on the Education and the Workforce, Homeland Security and Ethics Committees. She is a former Deputy Mayor of Indianapolis and former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. Prior to serving in Congress, she was the Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Ivy Tech Community College where she led statewide workforce development and job training efforts.