House spending bill includes $174,000 payment to deceased senator's widow

The short-term spending bill passed by the House today includes a $174,000 payment to the widow of former Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who died in June at the age of 89.

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"Notwithstanding any other provision of this joint resolution, there is appropriated for payment to Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg, widow of Frank R. Lautenberg, late a Senator from New Jersey, $174,000," the resolution states in Section 134.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) highlighted the inclusion of the language in a Friday post on its website, which asked why Congress would be "throwing money at a multimillionaire."

CREW said Lautenberg's assets were estimated to exceed $57 million in 2011. "How is this a top funding priority?" the group asked.

Congress typically pays out a "death gratuity" to surviving family members in an amount that equals the salary of the member, which is now $174,000.

"The self-serving attitude that the death gratuity embodies places members of Congress above the public they are elected to serve," CREW wrote. "The last place this giveaway belongs is in legislation intended to contain only the essential measures to keep the government open."