Ernst: Taxpayers Should Not Be ‘on the Hook’ for Former Presidents’ Expenses

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said taxpayers should not be paying $2.4 million to cover former U.S. presidents’ benefits and expenses.

“They include communications, office space, staff and travel expenses and in fiscal year 2015, former U.S. presidents, they cost our taxpayers more than $2.4 million. There are just a few of them, we just have a few surviving members and $2.4 million is a significant amount of money, maybe not in the grand scheme of things but it is somewhere that we need to start – so why not start here?” Ernst said at the Conservative Women's Network luncheon.

“This seems to be an easy one. If we start tackling these small, easy problems we will be able to get our budget under control but it has to be done a sliver at a time. This is a small sliver, but it’s a start,” she added.

Ernst said former U.S. presidents generate “significant amounts” of money after leaving office by giving speeches and doing other work. The living former presidents are Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The Presidential Allowance Modernization Act, which Ernst said has broad bipartisan support, would cap yearly spending allowances for former presidents at $200,000.

If passed and signed into law, the bill would also decrease the amount of perks available dollar-for-dollar for each former president’s annual income above $400,000.

“This isn’t targeted at one party or another, this is both parties. So as they generate that income we need to take a look at that and say, ‘do we as taxpayers need to be subsidizing those levels of income for them?’ So, we shouldn’t be on the hook for that and at a time when we have over $18 trillion in debt, things like this really start to make sense so we’ve got to cut that wasteful spending,” she said.

Ernst told the audience she is currently working on the education process behind the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which she has co-sponsored. The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), prohibits abortions after the post-fertilization age of an unborn child reaches 20 weeks. The ban would not apply in cases of rape, incest against a minor or when the life of the mother is in danger.

“What we are doing is really working on educating the public well because when we are talking about the pain-capable bill and protecting life, when you start phrasing it, not about a fetus that’s at 20 weeks, but if you start talking about a baby at 5 months, not 20 weeks, but 5 months, most of the American public is horrified that someone would consider aborting a baby that’s 5 months in the womb,” she said.