Politics is full of deja vu.
Last October, on the day the New Jersey voters went to the polls to elect Newark Mayor Cory Booker to fill the Senate vacancy caused by the death of Frank Lautenburg, Congress appropriated $174,000 to Lautenberg's widow in a bill that ended a partial government shutdown.
Tuesday, as Floridians voted in a special election to fill a House of Representatives vacancy caused by the death of Republican Rep. C.W. Bill Young last October, congressional appropriators designated $174,000 to Young's widow as part of the 1,600-page omnibus spending bill to keep the federal government running through September 2014.
The money to his wife, Beverly, is a death gratuity that's an unofficial practice provided to the spouses of deceased members of Congress. The Senate Handbook indicates that '[i]n the next Appropriation Bill, an item will be inserted for a gratuity to be paid to the widow (er) in the amount of one year's compensation.'
The handbook states that the gratuity is considered a gift. Young, 82, served in the House for 43 years and was the longest-serving Republican in Congress.
A recent story in the Tampa Bay Times pushed Beverly Young back into the spotlight, revealing that Bill Young had been married before, and kept his first family at a distance -- including sealing his divorce records -- after marrying Beverly, his former secretary.
The Hill notes that Beverly Young is portrayed in a "less-than-positive light" in the story, which the Hill says "threatens to tar the late congressman’s legacy in the state," as well as hurt Young’s chosen candidate, David Jolly.