The House voted yesterday to freeze spending on office expenses of former presidents amid complaints that the four living former chief executives are millionaires who already receive generous pensions.
"With this government tottering on the financial brink of disaster, taxpayers in this country might wonder about the sanity of forcing them to give a half a million dollars each to four wealthy men who are already collecting $107,000 each in pensions," said Rep. Andy Jacobs (D-Ind.).
The action came on amendments to a $20.7 billion appropriations bill for fiscal 1991 spending by the Treasury Department, Postal Service, the office of the president and independent agencies.
The bill provides new authority for the Secret Service to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation in investigating savings and loan fraud. It permits 300 new Secret Service agents -- a 50 percent increase for the agency -- to join the 600 FBI agents at work on the S&L scandals.
The bill, approved on a 300 to 72 vote, will go to the Senate.
Jacobs, a frequent critic of taxpayer spending on former presidents, tried to amend the bill by slashing all office expenses for former presidents, totaling nearly $1.6 million. But the House voted 300 to 91 to alter Jacobs' amendment so that it freezes the office expenditure at 1990 levels. That would represent a cut of 8 percent, or $156,000, in the total spending on former presidents, including their $107,300 yearly pensions.
Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan receive pensions and benefits.
The bill also orders the Treasury Department to report to Congress on how to reduce federal spending on travel by former presidents and their spouses when they are being paid to give speeches, including whether the government should seek reimbursement. It authorizes the Secret Service to accept private contributions to offset the cost of protecting former presidents when they make paid appearances or speeches.