WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to return 5 percent of his salary in solidarity with federal workers who are going to be furloughed as part of the automatic budget cuts known as sequester, an administration official said Wednesday.
The voluntary move would be retroactive to March 1, the official said, and will apply through the rest of the fiscal year, which ends in September. The White House came up with the 5 percent figure to approximate the level of spending cuts to non-defense federal agencies that took effect that day.
"The president has decided that, to share in the sacrifice being made by public servants across the federal government that are affected by the sequester, he will contribute a portion of his salary back to the Treasury,'' the official said.
Word of the president's decision came a day after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter disclosed that they would return a share of their salaries commensurate with the pay lost by the department's civilian employees who are expected to be furloughed for 14 days before the end of the fiscal year.
The president makes $400,000 a year, so a pay cut of 5 percent amounts to $20,000; an administration official said Obama would pay back that amount. The president's salary is set by law and cannot be changed during his term, so he will write a check to the government starting this month, the official said.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, reported adjusted gross income of $789,674 in 2011, the last year such figures were publicly available. Much of the additional money came from royalties from his books. The Obamas donated $172,130, or nearly 22 percent of their adjusted gross income, to charity. Obama gives after-tax proceeds from his children's book to a scholarship fund for children of slain and disabled soldiers.
White House officials said this week that several offices under the president had sent furlough notices to workers, including 480 employees of the Office of Management and Budget, which is managing the sequester. The officials said that it had also delayed filling vacant positions and that pay cuts or additional furloughs remained possible for White House employees.
The White House has also scaled back purchases, curtailed travel, and reduced the use of Internet air cards.
While the pay giveback is a matter of symbolism for a president living in the White House and traveling via Air Force One, symbolism has become a political headache for Obama in times of austerity. Critics have focused on his vacations and golf outings to suggest he remains insulated.
In addition to his salary, housing, and staff, the president is given a $50,000 expense account and $100,000 for travel, the same as his predecessor, President George W. Bush, who also was criticized at times for his vacations. Some of the president's expenses are reimbursed by personal or political accounts.
DENVER — Ratcheting up pressure for Congress to limit access to guns, President Obama said Wednesday that recent steps by Colorado to tighten its gun laws can keep citizens safe and protect Second Amendment rights to gun ownership.
"I believe there doesn't have to be a conflict in reconciling these realities," Obama said in Denver, where he stepped up his call for background checks and renewed his demand that Congress vote on banning assault weapons and limiting access to large-capacity ammunition magazines.
"There doesn't have to be a conflict between protecting our citizens and protecting our Second Amendment rights," he said.
Obama noted that more than 100 days have passed since the shooting rampage that killed 20 first-graders and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and reignited the national debate over access to guns.
"Every day that we wait to do something about it even more of our fellow citizens are stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun. Now the good news is Colorado has already chosen to do something about it," he said.
In danger of losing congressional momentum Obama went to Colorado to use its example and public pressure to prod Congress to act.
Colorado suffered two of the worst mass shootings in US history — at Columbine high school in 1999 and at a movie theater in Aurora last year. It recently expanded background checks and placed restrictions on ammunition magazines.
Prospects for passage of similar measures by Congress appear bleak, largely because of concerns by conservative Republicans and moderate Democrats who come down more on the side of gun rights.