Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) objected to legislation that would prevent taxpayer funding from going towards oil paintings for members of government such as Harry Reid, Wednesday.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R., La.) attempted to pass his bill to ban funding for official portraits of the president, vice president, cabinet members, and Congress by unanimous consent. Reid, who is retiring after his term ends in 2016, objected, preventing the legislation’s passage. The Senate honors its former majority and minority leaders with portraits after they leave office.
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"I have no clue why the esteemed Democratic Leader objects," Cassidy said. "All I can say is it is an incredible insensitivity to working families. There is a family out there right now struggling, not sure if they can pay their rent or their mortgage. They’re going to los their car. Their children will go to school in old clothes and maybe hungry because the amount of money they earn per year is not enough."
Cassidy’s office said official portraits can cost taxpayers as much as $40,000 per painting, which equals the average salary of his constituents in Louisiana.
The Eliminating Government-funded Oil-painting Act—or, the "EGO Act"—was included in the bipartisan omnibus bill in 2014, temporarily banning funding.
In recent years, taxpayers have footed the bill for a $38,350 portrait of former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, $22,500 for a likeness of Commerce Secretary John Bryson, and $41,200 for Air Force Secretary Michael Donnelly’s painting.
The Obama administration spent $400,000 on oil portraits between 2012 and 2013, according to ABC News.
Reid’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.