As cuts start to bite, Obama trims his salary 5%

The Marine One helicopter is framed by blooming Magnolia trees as President Barack Obama lifts off from the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 3, 2013, as he travels to Denver and San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The Marine One helicopter is framed by blooming Magnolia trees as President Barack Obama lifts off from the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 3, 2013, as he travels to Denver and San Francisco. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) (AP)
Posted: April 05, 2013

WASHINGTON - Sharing a bit of budget pain, President Obama will return 5 percent of his salary to the Treasury in a show of solidarity with federal workers smarting from government spending cuts.

Obama's decision grew out of a desire to share in the sacrifice that government employees are making, a White House official said Wednesday. Hundreds of thousands of workers could be forced to take unpaid leave if Congress does not reach an agreement soon to undo the cuts.

As the White House warns of dire economic consequences from the $85 billion in cuts that started to hit federal programs last month, the administration has faced repeated questions about how the White House itself would be affected. The cancellation of White House tours in particular has drawn mixed reactions.

A 5 percent cut from the president's salary of $400,000 per year amounts to $20,000.

The move will be retroactive to March 1 - the day the cuts started to kick in, said the White House official, who was not authorized to discuss the decision publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The notice followed a similar move a day earlier by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who committed to taking a salary cut equal to 14 days' pay - the same level of cut that other Defense Department civilians are being forced to take. As many as 700,000 civilians will have to take one unpaid day off each week for up to 14 weeks in the coming months.

Obama's salary is set by law, so he must accept the funds and then write a check to the Treasury for the portion he plans to relinquish. The White House did not say whether Vice President Biden would make a similar gesture.

The 5 percent that Obama will hand back mirrors the 5 percent cut that domestic agencies took when the reductions went into effect. The Pentagon's budget took an 8 percent hit. Every federal agency is grappling with spending cuts, which the White House has warned could affect everything from commercial airline flights to classrooms and meat inspections.

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