Representative Joe Heck (R-NV3) introduced a plan to “save taxpayers money” by allowing members of Congress to forgo benefits from the Federal Employees Retirement System. [LVSun] Congressman Heck’s office is pleased to announce that “Congressman Joe Heck (NV-03) has introduced legislation that could potentially save taxpayers millions of dollars by allowing Members of the House of Representatives to opt-out of the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS). Since 1984, Members of Congress have been automatically enrolled under FERS, but could choose to opt out of the program. ” (H.R. 5951) Wait a moment please. This tune is sounding familiar.
Congressman Joe Heck may have introduced legislation on this subject, but it’s not like he’s the first one with the idea. A very similar bill, H. 981, was introduced by Representative Richard Nugent (R-FL5) on March 9, 2011. [GovTrack] Congressman Nugent’s bill garnered three co-sponsors and still sits in the House Administration Committee. The House Administration Committee has not yet scheduled a hearing, much less a mark up session, on H.R. 981, [Thomas] which tends to imply that H.R. 5951 will meet a similar fate. There is no Congressional Budget Office scoring of H.R. 981, so those “savings” remain securely in the “potential” category.
If Representative Heck wanted to score points bashing public employee retirement programs — such as the one from which his Democratic opponent draws his pension after 20 years of service as a firefighter — then some symbolic bill like H.R. 981/H.R. 5951 might be appropriate. As serious legislation, the idea hasn’t even secured enough support to make it to a committee hearing in the 112th Congress since March, 2011.
Congressman Heck may also want to dim the spotlight on public employee benefits since his own record has a bit of a blip. His Democratic opponent, John Oceguera, points out that when Heck went to Congress he dissolved his company, putting his wife out of work — the Heck’s then reported unemployment benefits for his wife, thus supplementing the family income. [Oceguera]
Skirmishes such as this leave Rep. Heck within the confines of Dunsinane Castle — with a bill that “struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.” (MacBeth Act V)