GOP senator calls for caps on ex-presidents' benefits

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstOvernight Finance: McConnell, Schumer spar over debt limit | WH says tax reform depends on Dems | Mnuchin doubts Trump’s corporate tax goal possible | Dem wants criminal probe of Equifax stock sales | Mystery surrounds Cordray’s plans GOP senator calls for caps on ex-presidents' benefits Senate approves Trump's debt deal with Democrats MORE (R-Iowa) has renewed her push to cap the benefits former United States presidents receive after leaving office, arguing that their excessive perks are an unnecessary burden on the nation's taxpayers.

“With the national debt quickly approaching $20 trillion, we cannot afford to generously subsidize the perks of former presidents to the tune of millions of dollars,” Ernst said in a statement Monday.

“The reality is that post-presidential life already provides fruitful opportunities on its own, with former presidents raking in tens of millions of dollars from book deals, speaking engagements, and more."

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Ernst and Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) on Monday reintroduced the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act of 2017, legislation that attempts to cut down on "post-presidency benefits by establishing first-ever limits on the taxpayer support they receive."

"The American taxpayer shouldn't be subsidizing for these personal office spaces," Ernst said on "Fox & Friends" as she made a public push for the bill.

“By identifying outdated measures and prioritizing principles of accountability, the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act creates a market-based plan to save taxpayer dollars,” Hice said in a separate statement about H.R. 3739.

The measure cites a recent report from the Congressional Research Service that says "former U.S. Presidents cost taxpayers over $2.8 million in travel, office space, communications, personnel, and other expenses" in fiscal 2017 alone.

If passed, the bill would cap past-presidents' pensions at $200,000 each year while also implementing "a first-ever cap on the monetary allowance at $500,000" that would eventually be reduced to $250,000 after a decade.

The cost of security and protection for a former president is not factored in the legislation. 

The junior Iowa senator first introduced the legislation in 2015, which passed both chambers — but it died when it reached the desk of then-President Obama, who ultimately vetoed it.

Ernst's push to cut back spending on past presidents comes as budget talks and tax reform are a central focus for congressional lawmakers.