Should New York Rep. Anthony Weiner bow to Democratic pressure and quit his House seat because of his lurid sexting to several girls, his budding family would be hit with a devastating blow, slashing their income by over half. Worse for he and his newly pregnant wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff: Weiner’s years away from being eligible for a congressional pension.
Currently, he earns $174,000 annually, and his wife, Huma Abedin, serves in a job that the Plum Book of federal jobs says pays at the GS-15 level, or $123,758 to $155,500.
That puts their combined income in a range of $297,758-$329,500. Eliminating his salary cuts their family income significantly at a time when the congressman could be facing legal fees to fend off a congressional ethics inquiry into his sexting, and while the newlywed couple is getting their house ready for their first baby. [Read: Little Evidence Weiner Broke Law in Twitter Photo Scandal.]
House officials say he would be eligible to continue receiving health benefits.
But he won’t be allowed to cash out his election war chest. OpenSecrets.com reports that he has $312,266 in his campaign account from contributions, but rules prohibit him using that for personal expenses. He does not appear to have a leadership political action committee, which is easier to put to personal-seeming use.
The lack of an immediate pension may come as a surprise to Weiner. Because he has served just 12 years, according to the Office of Personnel Management, he is barred from tapping his pension until he turns 55, though it will be reduced by a complicated OPM calculation. The government prefers lawmakers to apply for retirement payments at 62 and older. Weiner is currently 46, and his wife is 35. [Vote now: Should Weiner resign over lewd photos?]
But he might fall under another provision that calculates total federal service, allowing members with 20 years to tap benefits at age 50. From some time in 1985 to 1991, he was an intern and then aide to then House Rep. Charles Schumer. That’s shy of six years. His House service is about 12 years and five months, potentially putting him on the edge of being eligible to receive pension payments at age 50, depending on how the government looks at his intern and staff time with Schumer, now a New York senator.
If he leaves with less than a full 20 years service, he could expect a pension at age 62 of $35,496 a year, or about one-fifth of his current salary. If he does end with the full 20 years, that jumps to $59,160 at age 50.
Withdrawing money from his retirement fund, called the Thrift Savings Plan, would be painful. Withdrawals prior to age 59 1/2 are subject to a 10 percent tax penalty, according to a Janaury 2011 Congressional Research Service report. [Read Whispers: Weiner's Sassy Twitter Pals.]
Unlike many lawmakers, Weiner isn’t a lawyer and has always been in politics. He was mulling another bid for New York mayor before the scandal dashed those hopes.
As a result, there isn’t an obvious next job for him, though few expected another New York sex scandal figure, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, to end up at CNN.