Obama vetoes bill capping expenses of former presidents at $200k a year

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) walks alongside former presidents George W. Bush (C) and Bill Clinton, as George H.W. Bush © Jason Reed
Taxpayers will continue to foot big bills for former presidents after Barack Obama vetoed new laws which would have capped the annual expenses at $200,000.

Obama has sent the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act of 2016 back to Congress for “technical fixes,” with the White House saying the bill “would immediately terminate salaries and all benefits to staffers carrying out the official duties of former Presidents.”

The proposed laws set an annual allowance of $200,000 a year for travel, staff and office costs for former presidents, plus an annual pension of $200,000.

This $400,000 pot would then be reduced by $1 for every dollar earned above this in other ventures, such as speaking fees.

It’s also proposed that a surviving spouse of a former president would see their annual payment from the public coffers increase from $20,000 to $100,000.

The new laws look unlikely to take force before Obama leaves office at the start of 2017 though, with the White House saying that after it consulted with former presidents such changes would leave “no time or mechanism for them [staff of former presidents] to transition to another payroll.”

“As written, this bill would also impair Secret Service’s ability to protect former Presidents by ending GSA’s role in managing operations, equipment and office space,” the statement added.

“Under this bill, GSA must immediately terminate leases, and remove furniture from offices of former Presidents working to fulfilling their continued public service responsibilities.”

Although former presidents like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have earned millions in speaking fees since leaving office, current laws provide for travel, staff, and office expenses.

In 2015, $3.2 million was appropriated to cover the expenses of former presidents, according to the Congressional Research Service, with taxpayers footing a bill of $1.1 million for George W. Bush at the top end and $430,000 for Jimmy Carter at the lower end.

Under current legislation, $3.86 million has been allocated to cover the expenses of former presidents – costs that will increase $588,000 (a 17.9 percent increase) in 2016 to cover Obama's “transition from incumbent to former President.”

The veto is Obama’s 11th since taking office in 2008 and the White House says that if Congress resolves these “technical fixes,” he would sign the bill.