Under a new bill proposed by a trio of Senate Republicans, former U.S. presidents would see their benefits covering travel, staff, and office space cut dramatically, in line with their post-White House earnings. Former President Bill Clinton, for example, would zero out his allowance about 20 minutes into his next half-million dollar speaking engagement.
Little noticed in lawmakers’ rush to get out of town last week, the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act of 2015, introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), would scale back the amount of money former presidents receive for office space, staff, and travel expenses to $200,000 per year. That allowance would be further reduced by one dollar for every dollar a former president earns over $400,000 in a given year.
The bill, co-sponsored by presidential hopeful Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), would not touch the pensions of former presidents, currently $201,000 per year, or their Secret Service protective details.
However, it would target many of the small benefits that former presidents enjoy, from telecommunications services to office space. In Fiscal 2014, for example, the federal government appropriated $450,000 for former president Clinton’s office space and $440,000 for office space occupied by former President George W. Bush.
“Taxpayers should not be on the hook for subsidizing former presidents’ lives to the tune of millions of dollars,” said Ernst. “Although this is a narrow item, this is an issue of restoring taxpayer trust by looking at reforms in the allowances and perks given to these former presidents who generate significant incomes after leaving office. At a time when we are more than $18 trillion in debt, it is critical that we stop talking and start cutting wasteful spending.”
Rubio said that while Americans ought to show gratitude to former presidents for their service, “[T]axpayers no longer need to foot the entire bill for all the endeavors presidents undertake after leaving office, which is why I support Joni Ernst's effort to reform the benefits afforded to former presidents."
“Last year, Presidents Clinton and Bush collected $2.2 million from taxpayers. I believe the majority of Americans would prefer to keep that money in the treasury,” said Kirk.
While the media has been focused recently on the post-presidential earnings of Bill Clinton, who has raked in tens of millions of dollars in speaking fees, the former president likely to take the biggest hit is George W. Bush.
Less his pension expenses, former President Bush cost taxpayers $1.1 million in 2014. Clinton was a relative bargain at $749,000. The least expensive former president in 2014 was Jimmy Carter, whose expenses totaled $269,000 after his pension.
Top Reads from The Fiscal Times