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House just gave $174,000 ‘death gratuity’ to millionaire senator’s wife

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There is a strong belief by many Americans that Congress is out of touch with the folks, and one provision tucked into the resolution the House passed to keep government’s doors open may add to the outcry.

Included in the last-minute legislation passed Friday is a $174,000 gift to the widow of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J. According to Roll Call:

“Sec. 134. Notwithstanding any other provision of this joint resolution, there is appropriated for payment to Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg, widow of Frank R. Lautenberg, late a Senator from New Jersey, $174,000.”

The provision is known as a “death gratuity,” a long-practiced, little-known, unofficial perk of office that has been a staple after deaths of members of Congress, according to Roll Call. The article said the “gift,” paid to the widow, widower or surviving children, is equal to the member’s annual salary at the time of death.

It is also taxpayer money, assuming it was not borrowed from the Chinese.

As for the well-being of Lautenberg’s widow, the senator prior to his death was No. 8 on Roll Call’s list of the 50 richest members of Congress, with a net worth of at least $56.8 million.

“The self-serving attitude that the death gratuity embodies places members of Congress above the public they are elected to serve,” policy director Daniel Schuman wrote for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “The last place this giveaway belongs is in legislation intended to contain only the essential measures to keep the government open.”

Can I get an amen?

Tom Tillison

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