House passes bill to curb presidential pensions
The House easily passed legislation on Monday to reduce the pensions and federal benefits provided to former presidents.
Before approving the bill by voice vote, lawmakers expressed agreement that modern-day former presidents don’t need financial assistance from the government if they already earn salaries in the millions.
Under a law established in 1958, former presidents are eligible for an annual six-figure pension, plus funds for staff salaries, office space and other expenses.
Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), the author of the bill, questioned the necessity of providing funds for former presidents who can make millions of dollars from book deals and speaking engagements.
“Because of these opportunities, it’s no longer necessary to provide taxpayer-funded support to former presidents in the same way as envisioned in 1958,” Hice said during House floor debate.
Benefits for former presidents cost taxpayers $2.84 million in fiscal year 2017, according to Hice’s office.
Yet the lucrative opportunities for former presidents and their spouses are well documented.
For example, former President Clinton — as well as his wife, former first lady Hillary Clinton — earned an average of $210,795 for each paid speech from the time he left office in 2001 until her 2016 campaign launch, according to a CNN analysis.
Former President Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama also inked book deals that were reportedly in the tens of millions of dollars.
The legislation would reduce the presidential pension by about $4,000 to $200,000 per year and cap the budget for each former president’s office and staff expenses to $500,000 annually.
Funds available for presidential office expenses would be reduced for every dollar a former president earns over $400,000. Eventually, the staff and office budgets would be phased down to $350,000 in six years and $250,000 in 10 years.
Former presidents and their families would still receive the same amount of security provided by the government as they do today.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) has introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
The House and Senate sent similar legislation to then-President Obama’s desk in 2016. But Obama vetoed the measure out of concern it would have unintended consequences by forcing out presidential office staffers without a transition period and possibly affecting government operations for former presidents’ security.
Obama wrote in a message to lawmakers that he would sign the bill into law if Congress “returns the bill having appropriately addressed these concerns.” However, lawmakers did not act before Obama left office in January.