GOP wants to end $40,000 official lawmaker portraits at taxpayer expense

Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) wants to cut the deficit by ending taxpayer-funded portraits of members of Congress. 

Cassidy and several other House Republicans have offered the Eliminating Government-funded Oil-painting (EGO) Act, which would prevent taxpayer funds from being spent on portraits of members of Congress and heads of federal agencies.

Official portraits of lawmakers and officials in the executive branch adorn the hallways and rooms throughout Washington, D.C. Cassidy's bill, H.R. 1594, was introduced on the heels of press reports that recent official portraits of federal agency heads cost roughly $20,000 to $40,000. ABC News reported last month that the Obama administration has spent nearly $400,000 on paintings in the last two years.

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In a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), Cassidy said spending money on these portraits when the national debt is nearly $17 trillion is unacceptable.

"At a time of trillion dollar deficits, it is not appropriate to spend thousands of taxpayer dollars on official paintings," he wrote. "If agency administrators, cabinet secretaries or members of Congress feel it necessary to commission official portraits, they should be responsible for paying for them."

In a "Dear Colleague" letter to members of the House, Cassidy wrote that the Environmental Protection Agency spent $40,000 on a painting of former Administrator Lisa Jackson and that other recent paintings, including one of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, cost more than $20,000.

"[I]s it appropriate to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars on official paintings of Lisa Jackson and Tom Vilsack?" he asked. "That's exactly what's happening."

Co-sponsors of Cassidy's bill are Reps. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), John Fleming (R-La.), Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), Pete Olson (R-Texas), and Bill Posey (R-Fla.).

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