Congress Agrees to Benefits Cut for Rich Ex-Presidents

Bill heads to President Obama's desk

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst sponsored the Senate version of the bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst sponsored the Senate version of the bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted July 8, 2016 at 6:01pm

Congress has found something to agree on: wealthy ex-presidents shouldn’t be taking so much taxpayer money.  

The House on Friday sent to President Barack Obama’s desk a measure that provides for a $200,000 annual allowance for former presidents for related expenses — such as personnel and office expenses, as well as travel. That’s in addition to their annual pension.  

But if a former president earns more than $400,000 from other sources, such as speaking fees, the allowance drops by the overage, dollar-for-dollar. For example, an ex-president paid $475,000 from outside sources would have his or her allowance reduced to $125,000.  

The bill modernizes a 1958 law and takes into account the reality of increased living expenses. But it also recognizes the fact that former presidents now have substantial outside sources of income, such as payments for speeches and compensation for serving on corporate boards.  

Reflecting the bipartisanship that produced the legislation, which passed by unanimous consent, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah and the ranking Democrat Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland issued a joint statement.  

“We are pleased this important legislation is on its way to the president to finally become law. The bill updates an outdated law and saves taxpayers money. Upon leaving office, most presidents go on to make millions of dollars and are not in need of taxpayer subsidies,” Chaffetz and Cummings said. “This bill reforms government and ends an unnecessary expense on the American people.”  

More often than not, Chaffetz and Cummings stay on their sides of the political aisle. That was the case at Thursday’s hearing with FBI Director James B. Comey about his decision to not recommend charges against presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over her handling of classified emails while secretary of state.  

If signed by Obama, the bill would set the pension for former presidents at $200,000 per year, with a $100,000 annual survivor benefit for a spouse. A summary makes clear that these benefits are separate from the costs associated with any Secret Service protection provided to former presidents.  

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst led the Senate version of the bill.  

Contact Lesniewski at and follow him on Twitter @nielslesniewski.

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