Former presidents who already command million-dollar speaking fees and book deals don’t exactly need taxpayers to shell out an annual six-figure pension for the remainder of their lives, so on Monday, the House easily passed legislation to reduce the pensions and federal benefits provided to former presidents.
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. However, prior to voting on the bill, the lawmakers all agreed that modern-day former presidents don’t need financial assistance from the government.
Author of the bill, Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), questioned the necessity of providing funds for former presidents who can make millions through their own efforts. Benefits for former presidents cost taxpayers $2.84 million in the fiscal year 2017, according to Hice’s office.
“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 a House floor debate.
The Clintons are a good example of this: 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.
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, according to a report in The Hill.
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 enjoy the same amount of security provided by the government as they do today.
Senator 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 that it would spark unintended consequences by forcing-out presidential office staffers without a transition period and possibly affect 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.