Congress Limits Spending Of Former Presidents: Bill Sent To Obama

The U.S. Congress voted on Friday to limit the spending of former presidents. The bill to lower expense account limits is currently on its way to President Barack Obama’s desk, according to a report by Fox News. The bill cleared the House by a voice vote and seeks to set an expense account allowance which limits spending to $200,000 per year for travel, staff, and office administration costs. This spending allowance has been widely accepted and used by former presidents after leaving the Oval Office. Congress’s legislation, if approved, will reduce the spending for every dollar of outside income that exceeds $400,000. It’s become fairly common for former presidents to earn their own money through the sales of books they’ve authored, public speaking fees, and other entrepreneurial ventures.

Most recently, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have both earned millions in speaking fees since leaving office, and they’re not the first. Traditionally, former presidents haven’t merely retired to a quiet room on an elegant manor, but rather have chosen to continue their presence in the communities either by public speaking or authoring books. The legislation proposed by Congress would set presidential pensions at $200,000 per year which is roughly the same as the current amount, and would also allot each surviving presidential spouse to receive an annual survivor benefit of $100,000 per year. Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Democrat Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland sponsored the bill, which was passed last month. They explained their reasoning for the legislation in a joint statement.

“Upon leaving office, most presidents go on to make millions of dollars and are not in need of taxpayer subsidies.”

In May, 2015, Hillary Clinton reported that she and Bill Clinton had earned more than a combined $30 million in speaking fees and book sales since January of 2014, putting them in the top one-tenth of 1 percent. Congress feels this factor justifies spending limits. The bill of proposed limits was approved by the Congress oversight committee just days afterward.

In 2014, $3.5 million in pensions and other benefits was paid to the four living presidents, and tax-payers footed the bill. According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, that amount included $1.3 million for Bush and $950,000 for Bill Clinton, most of which was spent on lavish office spaces in Dallas and New York. The new legislation proposed by Congress would decrease that spending by a dollar for every dollar above $400,000 earned in outside income. The former presidents will receive a pension of $200,000 and if the first lady survives the former president, she will receive $100,000 per year in survivor benefits. These costs do not include security costs as provided by the U.S. Secret Service, says a report by BBC News.

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Congress limits spending of former presidents, bill sent to Obama
President Obama proposed an increase in allowances for former presidents [Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]

In March, according to the Free Beacon, Obama proposed an increase in the amount of the allowances provided for the federal government to spend on former presidents, just in time for the end of his term. He requested the hikes in the appropriations for expenditures in his budget requests for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. The report discusses the Former Presidents Act and specifies that Obama’s 2017 budget proposes a nearly 18 percent increase in these expenditures. The increase of $588,000 falls right at 17.9 percent. His request for the 2016 increase was successful and granted.

The Former Presidents Act was put into place in 1958 and provides living former presidents with a pension, office staff, travel expenses, and Secret Service protection. The current spending appropriations are equal to the salary of cabinet secretaries, which came to $205,700 for 2016. The limits proposed by Congress would change that for every former president who earns his own money. Representative Chaffetz emphasizes the prudence of the proposed bill, adding that “it’s embarrassing that they take that money.” He reiterates the fact that our former presidents are making what he calls “gobs of money.” The legislation proposed by Congress limits the spending of former presidents. It is currently on the desk of the president and the outcome is yet to be determined.

[Photo by Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images]