WASHINGTON – Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s resignation date may have been strategic to maximize his congressional pension benefits.
In early December, Franken announced his resignation, saying he would be leaving the Senate “in the coming weeks.” Some assumed the senator would officially resign before the holiday recess. The week before Christmas, Franken cast his last vote in the Senate and gave his final speech from the Senate floor, leaving no unfinished business besides his resignation. However, the senator headed home for the holidays without resigning.
Franken was set to fly back into Washington D.C. to officially resign Jan. 2. The timing raised questions about whether the senator financially benefited from resigning in the new year. An understanding of congressional retirement benefits reveals Franken’s resignation date may have been strategic.
According to a Congressional Research Service report, members of Congress are eligible for a pension at age 62 if they have served five or more years. The size of the pension is determined by how many years the member was in office and a percentage of the average of their three highest years of pay. The only way a member of Congress can be denied a pension is if he or she is convicted of a felony while in office–resignation, regardless of the circumstance, does not take away retirement benefits.
Despite leaving the Senate in disgrace, Franken, who is 66 years old and has served in the Senate since 2009, will still be able to collect his pension.
Resigning in January allows Franken to claim nine years of service rather than eight years. Using the formula provided by the Congressional Research Service report, Franken should receive $26,622 per year for his nine years in the Senate. Had Franken resigned in December, thus eight years of service, he would have received $23,664–a difference of almost $3,000.
Franken has not offered any explanation for his choice of resignation date.