A Presidential Salary FAQ

Answers to your questions about the news.
Jan. 3 2001 4:42 PM

A Presidential Salary FAQ

(Continued from Page 1)

What does the vice president get paid?

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Last year, $181,400; this year it will be $186,300. The vice president's salary is decided separately from that of the president. Since passage of a 1989 government salary reform act, the vice president's salary has been the same as the chief justice of the United States and the speaker of the House.

Is the vice president's salary a fixed percentage of the president's?

No, but historically it's run from between 20 to 30 percent of the president's salary. But in recent years, it has come to within almost 90 percent of the president's because the vice president, along with other federal employees, has gotten an automatic cost of living adjustment that was put into place with that 1989 reform. (Note to federal employees: Yes, Explainer knows Congress has occasionally blocked the increase and that you're all vastly underpaid and would be making more than $1 million a year if you went into the private sector.) The latest presidential raise will make the vice president's salary about 46.5 percent of the president's. If the president hadn't gotten the increase, the continuing cost of living adjustments would have had the vice president's pay overtake the president's in 2004.

While you're at it, what do members of the Cabinet and members of Congress make?

With the automatic cost of living adjustment and the increase in federal salaries Clinton also signed into law in 1999, Cabinet secretaries will make $161,200 this year, as will the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate and the president pro tempore of the Senate. Senators and representatives will make $145,100.

Why was this Cabinet raise a good thing for Clinton?

Because his annual pension (presidents started receiving pensions in 1958) is equal to that of a Cabinet secretary's salary.

What is the vice president's pension?

That's more complicated. Unlike the president, the vice president is not automatically entitled to a set amount upon leaving office. Since the vice president is president of the Senate, his pension is the same as for other members of Congress. Generically speaking, vice presidents and members get a retirement that is a percentage of their salary based on length of service--with a minimum of five years to qualify. The amount is also phased in based on age, with the phase-in beginning at 55 or 57, depending on whether a member was elected before 1984, when the old civil service pension system was replaced. Congress has only had fixed annual salaries since 1856--the first one was $3,000--prior to that they were paid per diem.

If Bush decided not to get sworn in but to go peddle jeans and khakis instead, how much would he make?

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