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House Votes to Transfer Select Printing Committee Staff to GPO

Seeking to patch an administrative gap in the Joint Committee on Printing, House lawmakers approved legislation Tuesday to transfer a handful of employees responsible for indexing the Congressional Record to the Government Printing Office.

The House voted under suspension of the rules to approve the measure amending Title 44 of the U.S. Code, the section governing the printing office. A House aide said the Senate is likewise expected to pass the bill in coming weeks.

“The employee transfer that this legislation will provide will relieve the JCP of the administrative burden of managing a daily production activity that more appropriately belongs, frankly, in the Government Printing Office,” Joint Printing Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) said on the House floor Tuesday. “At the same time it will preserve the JCP’s control over the Congressional Record Index itself, which is important.”

The Congressional Record Index Office’s 10 employees, who are paid through the Congressional Printing and Binding Appropriation, are responsible for creating the record’s semimonthly and session indexes.

Under the current structure, the Joint Printing panel appoints indexers and also sets administrative rules on issues including promotions, vacation and sick leave. Likewise, the panel has the sole authority to fire the indexers.

Nonetheless, the printing agency maintains employee records for the indexers, all of who work in GPO facilities.

Through the House-approved legislation, sponsored at the request of Public Printer Bruce James, the 10 employees would be transferred to GPO immediately. While the indexers would retain their current pay rates and other benefits, they will be reclassified as civil servants instead of Congressional employees. The group will continue to be paid from the Congressional Printing and Binding Appropriation.

The legislation also states that the Joint Printing Committee will maintain its authority over the Congressional Record Index.

Until Congress elected to stop funding the Joint Printing Committee in fiscal 1999, the panel’s professional staff had overseen management of the index office, House Administration ranking member John Larson (D-Conn.) wrote in extended remarks in Tuesday’s Congressional Record.

“[I]f it ever made sense for the Joint Committee on Printing to have the responsibility to appoint the indexers, set their pay, and provide day-to-day supervision for the Index Office, that day ended in 1998,” he said, adding that in recent years the House Administration and Senate Rules and Administration committees have taken responsibility for managing the index office.

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