Senate bill would end pricey portraits

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) introduced a bill Thursday that would rein in spending on pricey oil paintings of government officials.

“Hardworking taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for lavish official portraits, especially when government officials spend more on paintings of themselves than some Americans make in a year,” Coburn said. “This bill reins in excessive spending on such portraits and protects taxpayers from funding waste.”

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The lawmakers cited a report that the Obama administration has spent nearly $400,000 on commissioned portraits of agency directors and Cabinet secretaries during the last two years. They said some of the portraits have cost more than $50,000 each.

Their bill would cap the amount of taxpayer support for the portraits to $20,000 and limit the practice to those officials in the line of succession for the presidency.

“At a time when vital services and programs are facing cuts, we need to be looking at every way we can stop excessive spending practices in Washington,” Shaheen said. “Official portraits should be done in a way that protects taxpayers.” 

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