Ernst Reintroduces Bill to Cut Wasteful Spending, Cap Presidential Perks

Building on her efforts to cut wasteful spending, protect taxpayer dollars, and hold Washington accountable, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) is reintroducing legislation with Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) that puts limits on taxpayer-funded benefits for former U.S. presidents, including expenses for their travel, personal staff, office space, and communications after they leave office. 

“The national debt recently exceeded $22 trillion, thanks in part to taxpayer-funded presidential perks. It’s time we cap the monetary allowances allotted to former presidents and reign in Washington’s out-of-control spending,” said Senator Joni Ernst. “Former presidents rake in millions from book deals, speaking engagements, and more; there’s no need for taxpayers to subsidize unlimited perks to the tune of millions of dollars. My common sense, bipartisan bill will reform the system that provides former presidents with benefits, while saving hard-working Iowans, and taxpayers across the nation, millions.”

“Given that former Presidents often have a variety of opportunities to earn money after their time in office, this bipartisan legislation would reduce a former President’s annual monetary allowance if he or she earns more than $400,000 in a year,” Senator Hassan said. “This legislation would not affect funding for a former President’s security and is a common-sense step to ensure that taxpayer dollars are well-spent. I am glad to work with Senator Joni Ernst on this issue, and I am committed to working with members of both parties to find innovative ways to maintain fiscal responsibility within the federal government.”  

Since 1958, when Congress passed the Former Presidents Act, taxpayers have been providing former presidents with generous pensions, as well as monetary allowances to cover expenses like travel, staff, communications, and office space. The bill was supposed to help “maintain the dignity” of former presidents and assist with the costs associated with having held the office of president. However, times have changed, and former presidents make millions from lucrative post-presidency opportunities. The Former Presidents Act is in major need of modernization.

The Presidential Allowance Modernization Act of 2019 would establish a cap on former presidents’ monetary allowances, which are currently unlimited, and fund resources like office space, staff salaries, cell phone bills, and more. If enacted, this legislation will apply to future former presidents—current ex-presidents will continue receiving benefits via the existing system.

Senator Ernst first introduced the bipartisan and bicameral Presidential Allowance Modernization Act in 2015. After passing both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives with unanimous support, it was ultimately vetoed by President Barack Obama. Senator Ernst introduced the bill again last Congress. It passed the House and committee in the Senate with unanimous report, but did not become law.

The Presidential Allowance Modernization Act of 2019 would:

·         Provide former presidents with a pension of $200,000 and a monetary allowance of $200,000 a year.

·         Reduce a former president’s annual monetary allowance dollar-for-dollar by each dollar of income a former president earns in excess of $400,000.

·         Affirm that nothing in the legislation relates to the funding of the security or protection of a former president.