WASHINGTON – Congress voted Friday to put limits on the expense accounts ex-presidents get from American taxpayers.
The bill, which cleared the House by voice vote, is heading to President Barack Obama’s desk. The legislation sets an annual allowance of $200,000 a year for travel, staff and office costs that have become a standard part of life after the Oval Office.
For former presidents who make money through books, speaking fees and other ventures, the allowance is reduced for every dollar in outside income in excess of $400,000.
Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, like other former presidents before them, have earned millions in speaking fees since leaving office.
The legislation sets presidential pensions at $200,000 a year, nearly the same as the current amount. Each surviving spouse would be allotted a $100,000 annual survivor benefit.
The legislation was sponsored by the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, and the panel’s senior Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland. The Senate passed the bill last month.
“Upon leaving office, most presidents go on to make millions of dollars and are not in need of taxpayer subsidies,” Chaffetz and Cummings said in a joint statement.
The oversight committee approved the bill in May 2015, just days after Hillary Clinton reported that she and her husband had earned more than $30 million combined in speaking fees and book royalties since January 2014. The earnings put the couple in the top one-tenth of 1 percent of all Americans.
In 2014, U.S. taxpayers paid a total of $3.5 million in pensions and benefits to the four living former presidents, including $1.3 million for Bush and $950,000 for Bill Clinton, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. Most of that money was for sprawling office space in Dallas and New York, respectively.