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US House votes to strip felon lawmakers of pensions

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] unanimously passed a bill [HR 476 summary] Tuesday to deny retirement pensions to any member of Congress "convicted of any of certain offenses," including fraud, bribery and perjury. Currently, federal lawmakers can only be stripped of their benefits for treason or espionage. The new legislation, passed by a vote of 431-0 [roll call], adds to the list the crimes of bribery, acting as a foreign agent, breaking restrictions on becoming a lobbyist, committing perjury, convincing another person to commit perjury, and conspiracy to commit one of these crimes. Some legislators even sought to go further, including Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) [official website] who failed to secure passage of an amendment that would have also put crimes such as tax evasion, wire fraud, and racketeering on the list. The House bill still needs to be reconciled with the Senate's version before a final vote can be held. Neither the House nor Senate version of the bill is retroactive.

Tuesday's unanimous vote signals House lawmakers' desire to improve their image after a year in which several bribery and influence-peddling scandals made headlines. Most notably, former US Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) [official profile; JURIST news archive] was forced to resign [JURIST report] and former US Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) [Wikipedia profile] was sentenced [JURIST report] to prison for their connections to lobbyist Jack Abramoff [JURIST news archive]. Meanwhile, former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) [Wikipedia profile] received a record sentence [JURIST report] in March 2006 for taking bribes from a defense contractor, and Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) [JURIST news archive; official website] came under investigation in a separate bribery investigation. AP has more.

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