Highest-ranking federal officials and top cabinet members who wish to have their portraits done in oil paintings may soon have to be prepared to pay for the art themselves or find private donors to fund their vanity projects. The House voted Tuesday to ban federal spending on oil paintings of senior government officials including presidents, vice presidents, Cabinet members, and others.
The law is called EGO Act or the Eliminating Government-funded Oil-Painting Act which was passed by a voice vote in the House Tuesday afternoon, and it also passed in the Senate in the same manner last year.
Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa said on the House floor before the vote: “In the years past, the federal government spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on portraits of government officials. Taxpayer funds should be invested in programs that benefit taxpayers and our country, not oil paintings of Cabinet members to boost their egos.”
Conservatives who have always aimed to cut back on what they describe as “wasteful spending” have for years targeted the highly-expensive paintings as a line item that should be eliminated.
Funding legislation for the fiscal year 2017 has disallowed the use of federal funds on oil paintings, which can cost as much as a whopping $50,000. The bill from Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., however, intends to make such change permanent.
Cassidy said last year when his bill passed the Senate: “When America is trillions of dollars in debt, we should take every reasonable measure to reduce the burden passed on to our children and grandchildren. Tax dollars should go to building roads and improving schools -not oil paintings that few people ever see.”
Portraits of former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama were unveiled last month in a ceremony at The National Portrait Gallery that was attended by high-profile personalities including Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, actor Tom Hanks, former Vice President Joe Biden, and others.
The paintings of the Obamas are estimated to have cost $500,000. Obama, before stepping down as President, also chose the first black artist, Kehinde Wiley, to do his portrait. Michelle Obama also chose a black artist to do her profile, artist Amy Sherald. Many have criticized Michelle’s portrait arguing that the woman in the painting does not even look like her.