WASHINGTON (AP) — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and other former presidents who earn millions in speaking fees would no longer be able to count on taxpayer dollars to pay for their post-White House office space and staff under a bill moving forward in the House.
On a voice vote, the House Oversight panel backed a measure Tuesday to limit taxpayer dollars for expenses, including travel, incurred by ex-presidents who earn more than $400,000 a year.
Clinton received $950,000 from taxpayers last year, while Bush received $1.3 million, mostly for office space in New York and Dallas, respectively. Former President George H.W. Bush received $837,000.
Both Clinton and George W. Bush have earned millions in speaking fees since leaving office. Clinton and former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton said they earned more than $30 million combined in speaking fees and book royalties since January 2014.
The House bill would set presidential pensions at $200,000 a year, 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.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight panel and a co-sponsor of the bill, said it was not aimed at anyone, but was a simple matter of fairness.
"History shows that former presidents do very well financially after they leave office," Chaffetz said in a statement before Tuesday's vote. "In fact all former presidents are millionaires, making it unlikely that they depend upon their taxpayer-funded allowance to make ends meet."
Chaffetz, who has introduced similar bills in the past two congressional terms, missed Tuesday's vote because of an emergency operation to remove his gall bladder.
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the panel, co-sponsored the latest measure with Chaffetz.
"Taxpayers should not have to pay for a former president's allowance if the former president is making a comfortable living earning more than $400,00 a year after leaving office," Cummings said.
A report by the Congressional Research Service said U.S. taxpayers paid a total of $3.5 million last year in pensions and benefits to the four living former presidents, including $470,000 to Jimmy Carter, who left office in 1981. The total does not include money spent by the Secret Service to protect the former presidents and their families. The House bill would not affect Secret Service protection.