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After Obama’s speech to Wall Street, Congress might again try to slash presidential pensions

Congress plans to reintroduce a bill that would slash presidential pensions in light of former President Barack Obama's $400,000 speech that he will give later this year. The House and Senate passed a similar bill last year, but it was vetoed by Obama. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Lawmakers plan to reintroduce a bill to cap presidential pensions for former U.S. presidents and to reduce the payment thereafter once a former president's income exceeds a certain level.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said they will reintroduce identical bills this month in the House and Senate called the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act. The bill, which then-President Barack Obama vetoed last year, would cap presidential pensions at $200,000 annually, while leaving another $200,000 available for extras like travel and office staff expenses. But if a former president's annual income exceeds $400,000, the pension payment would shrink — dollar-for-dollar.

When the bipartisan bill was originally introduced last year, it passed through the House and the Senate easily, but Obama unexpectedly vetoed the measure in July, saying it would "impose onerous and unreasonable burdens" on former presidents, forcing them to lay off existing staff and make changes to office spaces.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), a co-sponsor of the original bill and the top Democrat on the House Committee of Oversight and Government Reform, said he would likely support the measure again.

"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," spokeswoman Jennifer Hoffman Werner said, according to USA Today.

The proposed bill came after news surfaced that Obama is set to collect $400,000 in September to deliver a speech to Wall Street.

"The Obama hypocrisy on this issue is revealing," Chaffetz said. "His veto was very self-serving."

President Donald Trump has not taken a stance on the particular proposal but has declared that he would not accept a salary during his time as president.

"The first thing I’m going to do is tell you that if I’m elected president, I’m accepting no salary, OK?" he told supporters at an event 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."

The newly passed 2017 spending bill approved by the House Wednesday included almost $3.9 million for former presidents through the end of September, which amounted to a $588,000 annual increase.

Currently, under the Former Presidents Act, former presidents receive an annual pension equal to the pay of the head of an executive department, which is $207,800 in 2017. They also receive an additional $150,000 to pay office staff for the first 30 months after their tenure, until it is reduced to $96,000 annually. Up to $1 million per president and up to $500,000 for a president's spouse is appropriated to the Office of Administrator of General Services for travel and security-related expenses.

One last thing…
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