House approves bill to cap expenses for ex-presidents

AP News
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Posted: Jan 11, 2016 6:12 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Taxpayer dollars for office space and other expenses incurred by ex-presidents who earn lucrative speaking fees would be limited under a bill approved Monday by the House.

The bill, approved on a voice vote, is aimed at former presidents such as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush who earn millions of dollars through speeches, book deals or other income.

U.S. taxpayers paid a total of $3.5 million in 2014 in pensions and benefits to the four living former presidents, including $1.3 million for Bush and $950,000 for Clinton, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. Most of that money was for sprawling office space for Bush in Dallas and Clinton in New York.

Clinton earned more than $100 million for speeches between 2001 and 2013, while Bush has earned at least $15 million since leaving office in 2009, according to a report by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The House bill would set presidential pensions at $200,000 a year, nearly the same as the current amount, with an additional $200,000 set aside for office space and other expenses. The bill would reduce expense payments by $1 for every dollar above $400,000 earned by a former president.

Under the legislation, ex-presidents who earn more than $600,000 a year would not receive federal funds for office expenses or travel. Presidential pensions would not be affected by the amount of income earned. The bill would not affect Secret Service protection for ex-presidents or their families.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House oversight panel, called the bill a simple matter of fairness.

"This bipartisan bill recognizes the reality that most former presidents are wealthy individuals not in need of subsidies from the American taxpayer," Chaffetz said. "It ends a needless government handout to former presidents making millions of dollars upon leaving office."

A 2014 report by the Congressional Research Service said taxpayers paid more than $420,000 that year for Bush's 8,237-square-feet office in Dallas. Clinton's 8,300-square-feet space in New York cost nearly $415,000.

Taxpayers also shelled out nearly $180,000 for office space in Houston for former President George H.W. Bush and nearly $110,000 for work space in Atlanta for Jimmy Carter.

The bill now goes to the Senate. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, has introduced a similar measure. Co-sponsors include Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a GOP presidential candidate.

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