President Obama will return 5 percent of his salary in show of solidarity with federal workers who have lost pay because of the automatic spending cuts that took effect last month, a White House official said Wednesday.

REUTERS/Jason Reed
REUTERS/Jason Reed

Obama’s decision, first reported by the New York Times, began this month. It will mean that Obama will return $20,000 of the president’s $400,000 annual salary over the next year, the White House official said.

The official, who declined to be named, said the 5 percent figure is an estimate of the reduction in non-military spending caused by the sequester, as the across-the-board cuts are known.

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he would cut his $199,700 annual pay voluntarily as a gesture to the Pentagon employees who will be furloughed in the coming months because of the cuts. Other federal officials are following suit

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) announced Wednesday he was returning a portion of his salary. More than half of Begich’s staff will lose pay this year because of furloughs related to the sequester, his office announced.

Obama warned of dire consequences for the economy in general and government operations in particular ahead of the sequester, which took effect last month.

Administration officials have said that in agencies that report directly to the White House, 485 members of the Office of Management and Budget have received furlough notices so far.

Obama wrote a check to the U.S. Treasury this month to cover the March reimbursement, the official said.