A Senate committee approved a bill Wednesday to reduce the salary former presidents can make, years after former President Barack Obama vetoed similar legislation in 2015.
The update to the Former Presidents Act would reduce how much former presidents receive in pension from the taxpayers and reduce total amount of money taxpayers contribute to former commanders in chief.
“Our national debt now exceeds $20 trillion; this bipartisan effort is another important step toward reigning in Washington’s out-of-control spending,” Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, sponsor of the Senate legislation, said in a statement.
“It is ridiculous to continue asking taxpayers to help foot the bill for former presidents’ perks at a time when they already rake in millions of dollars from book deals, speaking engagements, and more.”
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs unanimously approved the language of the bill, and it awaits a vote by the full Senate chamber. The House is set to consider a companion bill, proposed by Georgia Republican Rep. Jody Hice.
Former presidents receive a salary set at the highest level of federal pay that cabinet-level officials make during their service, currently about $207,000 annually. Ernst’s proposal would cap stipends at $200,000 per year, adjusted each year for cost of living increases.
The bill clearly states that it would not change the security a former president is entitled to.
In the 2017 fiscal year, the five living former presidents cost taxpayers $2.8 billion for salary, security, staff and other perks of office, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
Another provision of the bill would push former presidents who find an additional stream of income slowly off the taxpayer’s support. For every dollar a former president makes above $400,000 from speaking engagements or other post-presidential work, the annuity would be reduced by $1 in the Senate proposal. Obama made around $400,000 in one speech to a Wall Street private equity firm earlier this year, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
A similar proposal passed the House and Senate in the last congressional session, but Obama vetoed similar legislation in 2016. Former White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the bill would remove staffers from their jobs assisting former presidents instantly, “leaving no time or mechanism for them to transition to another payroll.”
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