Since 1958, former presidents have received support funds to cover a variety of expenses, such as for office spaces and to pay office employees. They have also received a six-figure annual pension. These financial amenities are funded by taxpayers.
New legislation reducing the pensions and federal benefits for former U.S. presidents was overwhelmingly passed by the House on Monday. Representative Jody Hice of Georgia authored the bill. According to figures from Hice’s office, taxpayers paid almost 2.9 million in benefits to former presidents in 2017 alone.
Lawmakers almost unanimously agreed with the thought that former presidents, already millionaires, do not need pensions and federal benefits. Hice pointed out during debate on the House floor that former presidents and their spouses often make millions from speaking engagements, book deals, and other highly lucrative activities, and that taxpayer-funded support is therefore unnecessary.
Similar House and Senate legislation was sent to former President Obama last year. President Obama vetoed the bill because he felt it would force out office staff with a period of adjustment and thereby possibly have negative impacts on security and government operations. He did state that he would sign the bill into law if it had addressed his aforementioned concerns.
A CNN analysis of former President Bill Clinton and former First Lady Hillary Clinton is a prime example of the types of non-taxpayer incomes former presidents have at their disposal. The Clintons earned an average of $210,795 per speech from 2001 to 2016. Book deals for former President and First Lady Obama have been reported to be worth tens of millions.
The new legislation, however, isn’t a drastic change. It will reduce the pension to $200,000 a year, which is only $4,000 or so less than it has been. Office and staff expenses will be immediately capped to $500,000 per year and then reduced for every dollar earned over $400,000 now, $350,000 in six years, and $250,000 in 10 years.
The bill did not include any changes to the security provided to former presidents and their immediate family.
Iowa Senator Joni Ernst has authored companion legislation that’s awaiting Senate vote.