House Votes to Give Former Presidents a Pension Cut

The bill would limit pensions of those who make a lot in the private sector.

January 11, 2016, 8:28 PM
PHOTO: Bill Clinton speaks on stage at the closing session of the Clinton Global Initiative, Sept. 29, 2015 in New York.
Bill Clinton speaks on stage at the closing session of the Clinton Global Initiative, Sept. 29, 2015 in New York. George W. Bush speaks to aspiring Invictus competitors during an event to announce a major initiative prior to the 2016 Invictus Games, Dec. 3, 2015, New York. Jimmy Carter signs copies of "A Full Life Reflections At Ninety" at Bookends Bookstore on July 8, 2015 in Ridgewood, New Jersey.
JP Yim/Jemal Countess/Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

— -- President Obama could soon get a bill on his desk limiting his post-presidential pay.

The House has approved a measure to curb the taxpayer-funded benefits former presidents receive each year after leaving the White House in order to tamp down on benefits afforded to those who make a considerable salary in the private sector.

The bill from House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, would limit yearly presidential pensions to $200,000 -- slightly less than they're allowed now -- but would cut that amount by a dollar for every dollar they earn over $400,000 a year in the private sector.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

The Utah Republican says taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for former presidents who have no trouble earning money.

“It’s pretty simple. You want a retirement and pension, it’s there. But if you’re going to go out and make enormous sums of money, then you don’t need taxpayer subsidies,” Chaffetz said in an interview.

"The former presidents are making gobs of money speaking and writing books, more power to them, but that doesn’t mean they need more taxpayer dollars on top of that,” Chaffetz said in an interview. “It’s embarrassing that they take that money.”

Under the 1958 Former Presidents Act, previous commanders-in-chief are entitled to a pension equal to the annual salary of a Cabinet Secretary -– $203,700 in 2015. They also receive stipends to pay for postage, office space and staff salaries.

While the measure was enacted after President Harry Truman left office -– and had trouble paying his bills when he returned to Missouri –- former presidents now make comfortable livings running foundations, writing books and giving speeches.

Chaffetz has introduced the bill in previous years, only to see it die in committee. Now, he has a buy in from Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, the top Democrat on his Oversight Committee.

“We’ve got a good working relationship, and I think we have a mutual trust,” he said of Cummings’ support for the bill, adding that it would impact Republicans and Democrats equally.

The bill doesn’t affect funding for presidential security details, but does increase the annual compensation for presidential spouses from $20,000 to $100,000 a year, and tweaks the law’s language to include widowers.

The government spent roughly $3.2 million on presidential allowances in 2015, according to the Congressional Research Service, with President George W. Bush receiving the most taxpayer money ($1.09 million), followed by President Bill Clinton ($924,000).

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