Senate

Democrats introduce bill to block taxpayer-funded spending at Trump properties

Senate Democrats want to ban federal officials from using taxpayer funds at properties owned by a president, vice president or Cabinet official. 

 

More than 30 Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), introduced legislation this week in the wake of recent reports highlighting stays by Vice President Pence and the Air Force at Trump properties.

 

The bill - known as the Heightened Oversight of Travel, Eating and Lodging or HOTEL Act - would ban taxpayer dollars from being spent at the properties, including paying for lodging or food.

 

"Since President Trump took office, the American people have witnessed an unprecedented arrangement that has funneled taxpayer dollars into the President's pockets," Peters, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement.

 

The bill would exempt spending that qualifies as protective missions by the Secret Service but would require the spending to be reported to ethics officials and lawmakers.

 

The legislation, which was also introduced in 2017, comes after Pence sparked a days-long controversy after he stayed at a Trump property in Ireland, even though it was on the opposite side of the island from his meetings in Dublin.

 

Reports also surfaced earlier this month that the Air Force had sent crews to Trump's Turnberry resort in Scotland up to 40 times since 2015.

 

Democrats and outside watchdog groups have raised concerns that the visits could violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution that prohibits the president from personally profiting off the White House.

 

Trump did not place his assets into a blind trust when he took over the White House, but he did hand over control of the Trump Organization to his two sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. 

 

A slate of outside groups have thrown their support behind the legislation. 

 

Justin Vail, a policy advocate at Protect Democracy, said the bill is "an important step towards ensuring that president is not permitted to use the office to enrich himself."

 

"The clear rules included in this bill would help agencies ensure that they are living up to this crucial obligation going forward, and help Congress ensure that the taxpayer dollars it appropriates are not subject to waste, fraud or abuse," added Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

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