House bill would stop 'subsidizing' ex-presidents rich from speaking fees

Three House members on Tuesday proposed legislation that would cut federal compensation given to former presidents of the United States. 

They argue former presidents are able to earn a decent living on their own — often on the lecture circuit — and that cutting compensation could save taxpayers as much as $3 million per year. 

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"Nobody wants our former presidents living the remainder of their lives destitute," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the lead sponsor of the bill. "But the fact is none of our former presidents are poor.

"Reports actually indicate that between book tours and speaking fees, these men are making millions of dollars a year," he added. "There's little reason why American taxpayers should be subsidizing these former presidents when they're doing fine on their own."

Both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton are reportedly earning millions of dollars each year giving speeches and would have their federal compensation cut under the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act, H.R. 4093.

Under the bill, former presidents would receive $200,000 a year in pay, plus a $200,000 "monetary allowance." But the bill would also cut these payments dollar for dollar for all money earned by former presidents above $400,000, so that anyone earning millions on the lecture circuit would receive nothing.

Chaffetz and other sponsors of the bill, Reps. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) and Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), estimate that the bill would save $3 million in fiscal 2013.

"This bill will ensure that taxpayers do not needlessly provide for former presidents' retirements if those presidents are financially successful in the years after their service," Altmire said. "If the American people are being asked to make sacrifices as we get our economy moving again, it makes sense for elected officials, who already are financially stable, to do the same."

The bill would also increase the annual benefit given to surviving spouses of former presidents, from $20,000 to $100,000 a year.