Barack Obama's $400,000 Wall Street Speech Could Prompt Congress to go After His Pension
WASHINGTON — Last year, then-president Barack Obama vetoed a bill that would have curbed the pensions of former presidents if they took outside income of $400,000 or more.
So now that former president Barack Obama has decided to accept $400,000 for an upcoming Wall Street speech, the sponsors of that bill say they'll reintroduce that bill in hopes that President Trump will sign it.
"The Obama hypocrisy on this issue is revealing," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and sponsor of the 2016 bill. "His veto was very self-serving."
Chaffetz and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, the sponsor of the companion Senate bill, say they will re-introduce the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act this month. The bill would cap presidential pensions at $200,000, with another $200,000 for expenses. But those payments would be reduced dollar-for-dollar once their outside income exceeds $400,000.
The issue isn't a partisan one — or at least, it wasn't last year. The bill passed both the House and Senate with no opposition, and no veto threat had come from the White House.
So when Obama's veto came one Friday night last July — on the last day for him to sign or veto the legislation — it took lawmakers by surprise. It was the 11th of Obama's 12 vetoes.
At the time, Obama argued that the bill would have "unintended consequences" and "impose onerous and unreasonable burdens" on former presidents by requiring them to immediately lay off staff and find new office space.
Republican leaders did not call up the bill for a veto override, which would have required a two-thirds majority in both chambers.
Democrats say they won't necessarily oppose changes.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the top Democrat on Chaffetz's committee, was a co-sponsor of the original bill. “Cummings definitely supports the concept, and if we can work out the technical issues with the bill that arose late in the last Congress, we expect he would strongly support it again," said spokeswoman Jennifer Hoffman Werner.
Trump has not taken a position on the legislation. But during the campaign, he said he'd take a close look at pensions for elected officials — especially members of Congress.
"The first thing I’m going to do is tell you that if I’m elected president, I’m accepting no salary, OK?" he said at a town hall in 2015. "They get benefits that nobody else can even think about, OK. And they don’t like to talk about it. But we’ll work on that."
Under the Former Presidents Act, the nation's five living former presidents — Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama — get a pension equal to the salary of a current cabinet secretary: $207,800 in 2017. They also get $150,000 to pay staff, and “suitable office space, appropriately furnished and equipped."
In 2015, the entire benefit package ranged from $430,000 for Carter to $1.1 million for George W. Bush.
With Obama joining the club as of Jan. 20, the 2017 spending bill approved by the House Wednesday contained nearly $3.9 million for all the former presidents through Sept. 30 — a $588,000 annual increase.
Read more: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/05/03/obamas-400000-speech-could-prompt-congress-go-after-his-pension-trump-bush/101242772/