Presidential Pensions and Impeachment: A Proposal for Reform

The Former Presidents Act grants annual monetary and clerical allowances and free office space to “former Presidents.” Under the Act a President is ineligible to receive any retirement benefits if he or she is removed from office by impeachment and conviction in the Congress of the United States. However, a President facing imminent impeachment can retain the benefits by resigning before the impeachment process culminates in his removal from office. Constitutional considerations indicate that the benefits conferred by the Act could not be revoked or reduced by special congressional legislation upon resignation; such action could be challenged as a bill of attainder or an ex post facto law. Such special legislation could also deprive a former President of his or her due process and equal protection rights. This article will focus on the various means available to deny or reduce these benefits in appropriate circumstances and will explore possible alternatives to the present system.