President Trump signs bill barring use of taxpayer funds on portraits

Posted on: March 28th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Trump on Tuesday signed into law a bill that bans the use of federal funds to pay for painted portraits of federal employees and representatives, to include the president and vice president.

The law won’t affect the most famous presidential portraits that are part of the National Portrait Gallery’s collection — like the ones recently unveiled of former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.

The Obama portraits that recently went on display at the Smithsonian gallery were commissioned through private funds, and according to a National Portrait Gallery spokesperson, every such presidential portrait dating back to George H.W. Bush in 1994 has also been paid for through private dollars.

Among former first ladies, Hillary Clinton was the first to have her portrait privately commissioned in 2006.

It’s the collection of portraits, like those of former members of Congress and other notable federal officials that can been seen lining the halls of Congress and other federal buildings, that stand to be more directly impacted going forward.

While the use of federal funds for such portraits has been prohibited on a temporary basis going back to 2014, the new law makes that ban permanent.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that less than $500,000 in annual discretionary spending will be saved through the ban on using federal money for portraits of federal officials. That figure is based on estimates that less than 20 such portraits have been purchased through federal funds in years past at an average cost of $25,000 per portrait.

ABC News reported back in 2013 that taxpayers has funded nearly $400,000 worth in portraits of government officials in the two previous years alone.

Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, who sponsored the so-called Eliminating Government-funded Oil-painting Act in the Senate, has championed the new law as a matter of fiscal discipline.

“The national debt is over $20 trillion. There’s no excuse for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on paintings of government officials,” said Cassidy in a statement following the bill’s passage in the Senate.

The president’s signature on the bill comes as his administration has been dogged by controversy over reports of big spending by members of his cabinet.

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