Federal employees, senators rack up high salaries by not retiring

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The average retirement age in the U.S. hovers around 65 — but some federal employees and members of Congress continue to work long after their 65th birthday, continuing to collect their government salaries.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Sen. Don Young, R-Alaska, and many others have continued to work past 80.

Fauci, 80, leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and earned more than the president in 2019 with a salary of $417,608, according to OpenTheBooks.com.


In fact, Fauci was the highest-paid federal government employee in 2019. Fauci has earned more than $3 million since 2010, according to OpenTheBooks.com.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., listens during a confirmation hearing for Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen before the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Washington. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times via AP,

Young, 87, is the oldest member of Congress (he is a few weeks older than Feinstein). Young was first elected to Congress in 1973 at the age of 39.

Feinstein, 87, has been in the Senate since 1993. She is among the wealthiest members of Congress with a net worth of more than $50 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Members of Congress currently collect a base salary of $174,000, which can be higher for members of congressional leadership. For example, the Senate president pro tempore receives a salary of $193,400, according to the Congressional Institute.


Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, passed the title of president pro tempore to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., this year. Both men have been in the Senate for decades — Grassley, 87, since 1981, and Leahy, 80, since 1975.

Grassley told The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier that a life of congressional work does not affect his ability to relate to Iowans.

“I worked 40 hours a week, six years to get a B.A. and M.A. from UNI by working at Rath Packing from 3 to 11:30 five nights a week,” Grassley said in 2015.

In this Jan. 31, 2017 file photo, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

"I think I can tell you I've been there,” he continued. "As a person who was an active farmer, who was a factory worker, who worked his way through college … whatever you want to say I’m worth, I don't think it affects my ability to represent people."

Being a member of Congress comes with perks too, like federal pensions that vest after five years of service, according to OpenTheBooks.com. Members of Congress can pay into and draw from Social Security as well.


Some members of Congress harp on the idea of term limits to no avail. However, in January, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, joined five other Republicans in moving to restrict the number of times members of Congress can be reelected.

The legislation revives Cruz's earlier idea for a constitutional amendment on term limits. If ratified, the measure would prevent senators from serving more than two six-year terms and House members from serving more than three two-year terms.


"It’s no wonder that the vast majority of Americans from every political stripe – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – overwhelmingly support congressional term limits," he wrote. "The rise of political careerism in today’s Congress is a sharp departure from what the Founders intended for our federal governing bodies. I have long called for this solution for the brokenness of Washington, D.C., and I will continue fighting to hold career politicians accountable. As I have done in the past, I urge my colleagues to submit this constitutional amendment to the states for speedy ratification."

Fox News' Edmund DeMarche and Sam Dorman contributed to this report.

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