House approves pension cut for 'millionaire' former presidents

U.S. President Barack Obama walks alongside former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter. © Jason Reed
The House of Representatives has passed a measure that would limit yearly pension payments for former US presidents to $200,000, and that amount would dwindle by one dollar for every dollar a former president makes over $400,000 in private earnings.

On Monday, the House approve the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act, legislation introduced by Represenatives Jason Chaffetz and Elijah Cummings, the chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, respectively.

"All living former presidents are millionaires, making it very unlikely that they depend upon their tax-payer funded allowances to make ends meet," Chaffetz and Cummings said in April upon introduction of the bill.

The $200,000 annual pension figure is slightly less than the current level. The major difference in the legislation relates to the exorbitant amount of money most former presidents make in the private sector in the modern era.

"The former presidents are making gobs of money speaking and writing books, more power to them, but that doesn’t mean they need more taxpayer dollars on top of that,” Chaffetz told ABC News. “It’s embarrassing that they take that money.”

A companion bill in the US Senate was introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst.

In 2015, former President Bill Clinton received $924,000 in annual pension and benefit costs from US taxpayers in 2015, second only to former President George W. Bush's $1.09 million, according to the Congressional Research Service. Jimmy Carter received $430,000, while George H.W. Bush took in $794,000.

The 1958 Former Presidents Act set presidential pensions at a level equal to the annual salary of Cabinet officials, which was $203,700 in 2015. Former chief executives are afforded compensation for life after the White House, including travel, postage, office space, and staff salaries.

The House's bill does not affect funding for security details, which are supplied to all former presidents, but does increase annual compensation for presidential spouses and widows from $20,000 to $100,000 a year.

Bill Clinton made $8 million just for speeches to firms with matters before the US State Department while his wife, current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, was secretary of State, according to a recent report. The Clintons and their daughter, Chelsea, currently run the Clinton Foundation, a major philanthropic organization with ties to world leaders, wealthy individuals, and high-profile charitable endeavors. Amid mounting scrutiny of the organization, in May the Clinton Foundation disclosed around 100 paid speeches by Hillary, Bill, and Chelsea Clinton over the past 13 years that netted a total of $12-$26.4 million.

As of June 2014, Bill and Hillary Clinton had amassed at least $155 million for speeches and book deals, as well as other payouts, since the president left office in January 2001, according to financial record and news reports cited by the Washington Examiner.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is now reportedly being investigated by the FBI to determine whether her work for the Clinton Foundation violated public corruption laws. The FBI is “investigating the possible intersection of Clinton Foundation donations, the dispensation of State Department contracts and whether regular processes were followed,” Fox News reported. Last week, The Intercept reported that Hillary Clinton made nearly $3 million from 2013 to 2015 for just 12 speeches to major banks, private equity firms, and other top financial corporations.

In June, Politico reported that, since leaving office, George W. Bush had given at least 200 paid speeches at $100,000 to $175,000 per appearance. Bush received a $7 million advance for his 2010 book "Decision Points."