WASHINGTON — Former presidents get lucrative book deals and high-paid speaking gigs. So there's no need for taxpayers to support them to the degree that the federal government has done in the past.
That's the reasoning behind legislation that the House backed on Monday slightly reducing the government pension of former presidents and capping how much they can bill taxpayers for office expenses and staff. The measure passed by voice vote.
Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., the bill's sponsor, says the lifestyle of former presidents means taxpayers can pay less. He said that President Bill Clinton earned more than $100 million in speaking fees after leaving office while President George W. Bush received $10 million for a book deal.
"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.
Similar legislation passed in the last Congress, but President Barack Obama vetoed it. He said it didn't provide enough transition time for compliance, but that he supported the concept of the bill and was willing to work with lawmakers on it.
The measure sets the pension for former presidents at $200,000 annually. It currently is $205,700. The bill also sets the office allowance at $500,000, but that amount shrinks in ensuing years, eventually to $250,000, and possibly even more depending upon how much income a former president earns.