Politics

Congress Plans To Trim Presidential Pension

| by Alex Scarr
The Capitol BuildingThe Capitol Building

A bill slated to be introduced in Congress in May plans to trim presidential pensions in the wake of a lucrative speaking deal for former President Barack Obama.

Obama recently opted to accept $400,000 for a Wall Street speech, prompting congressional Republicans to revive a pension-trimming bill that Obama vetoed while in office, according to USA Today.

At the time, passing pension reform did not appear to be a partisan issue. The pension reform bill unanimously passed both the House and the Senate, but Obama used a presidential veto to strike down the bill. Obama said at the time that the bill might have "unintended consequences" and would "impose onerous and unreasonable burdens" upon former presidents who would then need to sort out logistical issues of office space and staff.

"Unfortunately, this bill as written would immediately terminate salaries and all benefits to staffers carrying out the official duties of former presidents -- leaving no time or mechanism for them to transition to another payroll," said former White House press secretary Josh Earnest in a statement released at the time of the veto, according to Salon.

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The bill suggested that presidential pensions be trimmed to no more than $200,000, with another $200,000 provided for expenses. Should a former president make more than the $400,000 allowed, the pension would be trimmed dollar-by-dollar until $600,000 of outside income is met.

"The Obama hypocrisy on this issue is revealing," said Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, reports USA Today. "His veto was very self-serving."

Chaffetz also serves as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and sponsor of the original pension reform bill.

In addition to the Wall Street speaking fees, Obama and his wife, Michelle, have signed a lucrative publishing deal for two separate books, worth an estimated $65 million. The Obamas released a plan on May 3 to donate $2 million to a program in Chicago that promotes summer jobs for youths in the area.

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"The basic premise here is, if they want to go fishing in Utah for the rest of their lives, they can do that," said Chaffetz in 2015, reports Salon. "They will be well compensated for the rest of their lives. If they’re going to make millions of dollars, the taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize them."

A spokesman for former President George H.W. Bush said he is not opposed to pension reform, according to USA Today.

"For the sake of future occupants of the office, he does think some consideration should be given to the public role former presidents play -- and we are told that very positive conversations addressing that and other matters have taken place."

Sources: USA Today, Salon / Photo credit: Misha Popovikj/Flickr

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