Former President Obama speaks in Seville, Spain in early April.

Former President Obama speaks in Seville, Spain in early April. Laura Leon / AP

Bill to Curb Presidents’ Post-Tenure Benefits Would Save $2.5 Million Over 4 Years

CBO scores bipartisan plan to reflect reality of modern ex-leaders' power to earn.

A bipartisan bill to cut back on the benefits awarded to U.S. presidents when they leave office would save the government more than $2 million over four years, the Congressional Budget Office reported.

The Presidential Allowance Modernization Act (H.R. 1496), sponsored by Reps. Jody Hice, R-Ga., and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., would update a 1958 law and limit ex-presidents’ future pensions. It would update the annuities of surviving spouses, and reduce the allowances provided for post-presidential expenditures—virtually eliminating funding for staff and office space.

CBO estimated this week that the bill, which cleared the House Oversight and Reform Committee on March 26, would reduce post-presidency expense costs by $2 million from 2020-2024, with subsidies being cut by $1 for every dollar over $400,000 that those former presidents earned in the previous year. In addition, the ex-presidents’ annual pensions (currently $220,000-$280,000) would be trimmed by $20,000 per year, saving nearly $500,000 over 10 years.

Former presidents since the 1950s have received an allowance from the General Services Administration’s appropriation. But the obvious capacity of modern ex-chief executives to earn money and live comfortably has prompted lawmakers in the past several years to seek cut-backs.

“Times have changed, and no former U.S. president today is dependent solely on taxpayer subsidies to support their quality of life,” Hice said last month. “The modern post-presidency allows presidents to earn big bucks through book tours and speaking engagements, and this bill serves as a simple and fair method to reform presidential pensions.”

Even so, the bill would increase the pension for the spouses of former presidents from $20,000 to $100,000 per year; and it would maintain funding for the security and protection of former presidents and family members.

A Senate version (S. 580) has been sponsored by Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.

A previous version of Hice’s bill was vetoed in 2016 by President Obama, who cited “onerous” demands on presidential staff and GSA from sudden loss of funding. The current bill would apply only to future presidents.