Senator Joni Ernst.

Senator Joni Ernst.

A senate committee has approved Senator Joni Ernst’s bill to dramatically cut the federal allowance for former presidents.

“This bipartisan effort reforms and updates the benefits provided to former presidents to try and reflect today’s post-presidential life,” Ernst says.

In 1958 congress passed a law that provided a pension to former presidents that was equal to what cabinet secretaries like the secretary of state received. In 1997 congress voted to provide 10 years of Secret Service protection once a president leaves office. The bill Ernst has proposed does not alter the security protection for former presidents and their families, but for everything else there would be a yearly $200,000 yearly allowance.

“By limiting how much taxpayers pick up the tab for presidential perks — things like communications, office space, staff and travel expenses, we are making sure taxpayer money is being spent wisely,” Ernst says.

Similar legislation has passed the House. Ernst says her bill shows lawmakers can act to cut government spending.

“Even though this is just a start — we have over $19 trillion of debt — we have to do it,” Ernst says.

There are four living former presidents. In 2015, former President George W. Bush was paid more than $1 million by the federal government for a pension and benefits. His father, the 41st president, took in almost $800,000. Former President Bill Clinton received over $900,000. Former President Jimmy Carter received $430,000.

Since Gerald Ford left the White House, former presidents have reaped huge sums for giving speeches, making personal appearances and serving on corporate boards. Book deals have been lucrative as well. George W. Bush got a $7 million advance for his 2010 book “Decision Points”. Bill Clinton received a $15 million advance for his book “My Life.”