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US House bill would extend protections to ex-vice presidents

US House bill would extend protections to ex-vice presidents

Vice President Dick Cheney would continue to be shielded by the Secret Service for at least six months after he leaves office under legislation the U.S. House of Representatives passed Monday.
The measure, approved by voice after being endorsed by both Democrats and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee last month, writes into law a common practice of extending federal protections for the vice president and his family in the months immediately after his time in office ends.
Former presidents up through President Bill Clinton could, if they so chose, receive Secret Service protection for the remainder of their lives. That changed with a congressional act, which went into effect in 1997, limiting protection for future ex-presidents and their families to 10 years, barring exceptions for specific threats.
The bill, which still needs Senate consideration, provides permanent authority for the Secret Service to protect former vice presidents, their spouses and their children under the age of 16 for up to six months after leaving office.
The secretary of the Homeland Security Department can extend that protection if it is determined that conditions warrant it. The former vice president may decline the protection.
Rep. Steve King, a Republican, said legal status would give the Secret Service more time to prepare long-term protection plans. "The upcoming change of administrations, not to mention the current threat level, make permanent statutory authority for the Secret Service to provide such protection even more timely," he said.
Recent vice presidents, going back to Hubert Humphrey in 1969, have generally been accorded about a half-year of protection after leaving office. But because there has been no law in place, it has required a special act of Congress or a presidential directive.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the extra protection would cost about $4 million (euro2.5 million) in fiscal year 2009.
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