They may have passed a $1.3 trillion deficit-busting spending bill last week, but lawmakers have found at least one area to cut back: oil paintings.
Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy’s wish has come true, with President Donald Trump signing his Eliminating Government-Funded Oil-Painting – or EGO – Act into law on Wednesday. The cheekily named legislation prohibits taxpayer funds to be used on officially painted portraits.
The law applies to portraits of the President, the Vice President, a member of Congress, the head of an executive agency, or the head of an office of the legislative branch. Such portraits can often cost between $20,000 to $40,000, according to a January statement from the senators backing the measure.
Cassidy said that taxpayer funds shouldn’t be used on “oil paintings that very few people ever see or care about.”
At the White House specifically, presidents get two official portraits – one for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, and then one for the White House – as well as the first ladies.
But the new law doesn’t mean an end to paintings such as the recently unveiled Obama portraits recently displayed at the Smithsonian’s gallery. The individual paintings of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were funded by private donations from the likes of Steven Spielberg, Kate Capshaw, John Legend, Chrissy Teigen and others, according to Variety.
As for few people caring about them – the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery recently relocated the former first lady’s portrait to a different part of the museum due to high demand.
“We’re always changing things up here. Due to the high volume of visitors, we’ve relocated Michelle Obama’s portrait to the 3rd floor in our 20th-Century Americans galleries for a more spacious viewing experience,” the National Portrait Gallery tweeted.
Nevertheless, Cassidy is thrilled his measure is now the law.
“Thanks @realDonaldTrump for signing the Eliminating Government-funded Oil-painting (EGO) Act into law. I came to Congress to cut wasteful spending. Our debt is over $20 trillion. There’s no excuse for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on paintings of government officials,” he tweeted.
But in the grand scheme of things, the amount of money it will save pales in comparison to other federal expenditures.
After the legislation was introduced, the Congressional Budget Office’s assessment of the bill revealed it will save taxpayers “less than $500,000 annually, because the CBO expects that fewer than 20 portraits would be purchased with federal funds in most years.”
Trump’s own frequent weekend trips from the White House to his Florida resort Mar-a-Lago, for example, have cost taxpayers millions of dollars so far, based on past government spending estimates of Air Force One and security costs.
CNN’s Kate Bennett, Dan Merica, Stephen Collinson, Maegan Vazquez, Abby Phillip and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.