On Tuesday, Republican U.S. Sens. Rick Scott and Mike Braun introduced a bill that would end taxpayer-funded pensions for congressional members.
The End Pensions in Congress Act would nix the current congressional eligibility requirement, which allows members their pensions after five years on Capitol Hill. The amount is determined by averaging a member's three highest-paying salaries, their years in office and the set accrual rate.
A former member must either be age 62 with five years in office, or be at least age 50 with 20 years in office to be eligible. Currently, most members of Congress receive a salary of $174,000 per year, plus benefits.
The push by some of Congress' richest members to cut pensions follows recent scrutiny of congressional salaries during the weeks-long partial government shutdown that lasted from December to January.
"When Congress failed to do their job and created the longest government shutdown in history, hardworking Americans were forced to go without pay while members of Congress were still collecting paychecks," Scott says in a statement. "Americans should not have to foot the bill for generous salaries and pensions for members of Congress."
Easy for him to say.
After all, we are still talking about the same Scott whose net worth was $232.6 million at the end of 2017. It's a healthy loot considering he once headed a company that paid $1.7 billion in fines for health care fraud.
The same goes for Braun, a former businessman from Indiana who's worth between $35 million and $96 million, per his campaign disclosure forms.
The argument against the legislation goes back to the idea of "if you want something of quality, you have to pay for it." Otherwise, in this instance, you run the risk of ending up with a Congress full of modern day aristocrats.
As if many of them don't resemble that very prototype as is.
That was the reason our Founding Fathers enacted reasonably high salaries for congresspeople in the first place – to safeguard the fairness of who could afford to hold office, and to keep the power in the hands of normal people.
Emphasis on normal people – folks who didn't work in the cash-heavy private sector prior to their time in office, such as U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Naples, who's worth a staggering $22.6 million.
As John Adams, the future second president, once put it: If "you make it law that no man should hold an office who had not a private income sufficient for the subsistence and prospects of himself and family ... all offices would be monopolized by the rich, the poor and the middle ranks would be excluded, and aristocratic despotism would immediately follow."
So for once, it's actually a good idea to keep money in politics.
But only in this instance.
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