The U.S. Secret Service is facing real financial difficulties, in part because of the unusual circumstances surrounding the protection of Donald Trump and his family. Complicating matters, the agency isn’t just protecting the president, it’s also paying properties the president owns and profits from.
It may seem like a small, anecdotal detail, but when the Secret Service spends $60,000 “on golf cart rentals alone this year to protect Trump at both Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster,” it’s a tough point to forget.
USA Today reported yesterday, however, that a prominent House Democrat has an idea to address this situation.
If Rep. Adam Schiff has his way, the Secret Service wouldn’t be able to pay any businesses owned or operated by President Trump.
The California Democrat announced Wednesday his plans to introduce an amendment to an appropriations bill meant to fund the government for fiscal 2018. The amendment reads: “None of the funds made available by this Act to the United States Secret Service may be used to purchase, rent, or otherwise acquire goods or services, including hotel rooms, office space, or golf carts, from entities that are owned or operated by the President or the immediate family of the President.”
In other words, Trump would be required to comp the Secret Service, whose agents are protecting him and his family.
“The immense honor and responsibility of serving as president of the United States should never be exploited for profit or personal gain,” Schiff said. “That the Trump Organization is profiting off the Secret Service is an abuse of taxpayer money and an improper method of enrichment.”
As it turns out, the California Democrat isn’t the only one thinking along these lines.
Last week, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) announced plans to push related measures that would prohibit federal spending – not just through the Secret Service, but across the government – at all “Trump-owned hotels, resorts, and other Trump-owned businesses.”
To be sure, proponents of these amendments should probably keep their expectations in check. Not only will Republicans likely oppose these proposals, GOP leaders will also probably block them from even reaching the floor for a vote.
But what I find striking about the Schiff and Cohen amendments is that they exist at all. We’re dealing with a dynamic with no precedent in the American tradition: a sitting president has not only refused to divest from his many holdings, he’s also personally profiting from taxpayer money that’s going to some of his privately owned enterprises.
Whether the Democratic measures pass or not, the fact that some members felt the need to introduce them is a reminder of just how bizarre a situation we find ourselves in.