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Bipartisan Senate bill would put kibosh on pricey portraits

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By USA Today
Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, 7:09 p.m.

WASHINGTON — If you've ever walked into a federal building, you've seen them: prominently placed portraits of a senior member of Congress or a cabinet secretary.

Apparently, some of these official portraits have gotten quite pricey: A portrait of former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson cost $38,350, the Washington Times reported. Portraits of former Commerce Secretary John Bryson and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack cost $22,500. All told, the Obama administration spent more than $400,000 on such portraits over two years, ABC News reported.

Two senators want to rein in that spending.

Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla, and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., introduced a bill on Thursday to limit taxpayer spending on official portraits to $20,000.

“At a time when vital services and programs are facing cuts, we need to be looking at every way we can stop excessive spending practices in Washington,” Shaheen said.

“Hardworking taxpayers shouldn't foot the bill for lavish official portraits, especially when government officials spend more on paintings of themselves than some Americans make in a year,” Coburn said.

The bill would limit federal funds for portraits to anyone in the line of succession to the presidency. So President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Senate President Pro Tem Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and every cabinet secretary could commission an official portrait up to $20,000. Any additional cost would require non-federal funds.

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