We’ve heard a lot lately about Barack Obama’s decision to accept $400,000 for an upcoming Wall Street speech. Beyond the obvious question of who would pay that kind of money to listen to Obama for half an hour, the decision has garnered criticism from his fellow Democrats for what they see is the hypocrisy of accepting such a large sum from Wall Street.
Now it looks like his high-dollar speech could come back to haunt him. It all goes back to a bill Obama vetoed back in July that would have curtailed the presidential pension when a former president earns more than $400,000 in income.
In 2016, the bill had complete bipartisan support, and the president vetoed it without warning. This year lawmakers are looking at introducing the same legislation.
“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 way it works now is that each living former president gets at least a base pension equal to the salary of a current cabinet member, which is currently $207,800, along with $150,000 in expenses and staff salary. Each former chief executive’s package is different, but the current total benefits package for the five living former presidents adds up to just under $3.9 million.
An Obama spokesman did not comment on the pending legislation, but an adviser did defend the 44th president’s speaking engagements:
“President Obama will deliver speeches from time to time,” said Eric Schultz, a former White House spokesman who continues to advise Obama. “Some of those speeches will be paid, some will be unpaid, and regardless of venue or sponsor, President Obama will be true to his values, his vision, and his record.”