Presidential Pay and Compensation

Close-up of President Obama’s hand as he signs a bill
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Effective January 1, 2001, the annual salary of the President of the United States was increased to $400,000 per year, including a $50,000 expense allowance, a $100,000 nontaxable travel account, and a $19,000 entertainment account. 

The president's salary is set by Congress, and under Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution, may not be increased or reduced during his or her current term of office.

The increase was approved as part of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act (Public Law 106-58), passed in the closing days of the 106th Congress.

"Sec. 644. (a) Increase in Annual Compensation.--Section 102 of title 3, United States Code, is amended by striking '$200,000' and inserting '$400,000'. (b) Effective Date.--The amendment made by this section shall take effect at noon on January 20, 2001."

Since initially being set at $25,000 in 1789, the president’s base salary has been increased on five occasions as follows:

  • To $50,000 on March 3, 1873
  • To  $75,000 on March 4, 1909
  • To $100,000 on January 19, 1949
  • To $200,000 on January 20, 1969
  • To $400,000 on January 20, 2001

In his First Inaugural Address on April 30, 1789, President George Washington stated that he would not to accept any salary or other remuneration for serving as president. To accepting his $25,000 salary, Washington stated,

“I must decline as inapplicable to myself any share in the personal emoluments which may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the executive department, and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the station in which I am placed may during my continuance in it be limited to such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.”

In addition to a basic salary and expense accounts, the president also gets some other benefits.

A Full-Time Dedicated Medical Team

Since the American Revolution, the official physician to the president, as director of the White House Medical Unit created in 1945, has provided what the White House calls "worldwide emergency action response and comprehensive medical care to the president, the vice president, and their families."

Operating from an on-site clinic, the White House Medical Unit also attends to the medical needs of the White House staff and visitors. The official physician to the president oversees a staff of 3 to 5 military physicians, nurses, medical assistants, and medics. The official physician and some members of his or her staff remain available to the president at all times, in the White House or during presidential trips.

Presidential Retirement and Maintenance

Under the Former Presidents Act, each former president is paid a lifetime, taxable pension that is equal to the annual rate of basic pay for the head of an executive federal department—$201,700 in 2015—the same annual salary paid to secretaries of the Cabinet agencies.

In May 2015, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), introduced the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act; a bill that would have limited the lifetime pension paid to former presidents at $200,000 and removed the current link between presidential pensions and the salary paid to Cabinet secretaries.

In addition, Sen. Chaffetz’s bill would have reduced the presidential pension by $1 for every dollar over $400,000 per year earned by former presidents from all sources. For example, under Chaffetz’ bill, former President Bill Clinton, who made almost $10 million from speaking fees and book royalties in 2014, would get no government pension or allowance at all.

The bill was passed by the House on January 11, 2016, and passed in the Senate on June 21, 2016. However, On July 22, 2016, President Obama vetoed the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act, telling Congress the bill “would impose onerous and unreasonable burdens on the offices of former presidents.”

Help With Transition to Private Life

Each former president and vice president may also take advantage of funds allocated by Congress to help facilitate their transition to private life.

These funds are used to provide suitable office space, staff compensation, communications services, and printing and postage associated with the transition. As an example, Congress authorized a total of $1.5 million for the transition expenses of outgoing President George H.W. Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle.

The Secret Service provides lifetime protection for former presidents who entered office before January 1, 1997, and for their spouses. Surviving spouses of former presidents receive protection until remarriage. Legislation enacted in 1984 allows former Presidents or their dependents to decline Secret Service protection.

Former Presidents and their spouses, widows, and minor children are entitled to treatment in military hospitals. Health care costs are billed to the individual at a rate established by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Former Presidents and their dependents may also enroll in private health plans at their own expense.