No House Leg. Branch Hearings?

Posted March 3, 2004 at 5:06pm

Leaders of a House Appropriations subcommittee indicated Wednesday they might do without hearings on Congressional agencies’ fiscal 2005 budget requests, opting instead to craft a bill from existing submissions.

“As I understand it, we are not required to have hearings,” said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), chairman of the subcommittee on the legislative branch. Last week, Kingston abruptly canceled hearings and demanded the agencies submit new requests with “reasonable funding levels.”

Ranking member Jim Moran (D-Va.), walking with Kingston after a vote, added: “So far I am in accord with the chairman.”

Both men said Congress must lead by example in reducing the budget, starting with the first appropriations bill “out of the gate.”

As outlined in President Bush’s fiscal 2005 budget, the legislative branch agencies are seeking a combined $4.4 billion in funding, an increase of about $457 million, or 12 percent, from the current fiscal year.

Senate hearings on legislative branch funding open today, though it’s unlikely the agencies will submit new budgets to the panel.

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), who chairs his chamber’s subcommittee, is scheduled to hear testimony from the Government Printing Office, General Accounting Office and Congressional Budget Office.

While several agencies acknowledged they are reviewing their requests, it appears unlikely the agencies will submit revised budgets to the House, opting instead to prepare lists of possible spending reductions.

“They are playing chicken, basically,” Moran said.

House legislative branch subcommittee clerk Liz Dawson said, “We’re in the process of working with the agencies to determine the impact of a freeze at fiscal year ’04 levels.”

Susan Becker, GAO’s assistant director of public affairs, said the agency has provided supplemental information requested by the panel, but “we have not revised our budget request.”

Similarly, Public Printer Bruce James, who heads GPO, noted he is “sympathetic” to reining in Congressional spending, but maintained: “We asked for what we think is proper for this agency and the situation we’re in.”

Melissa Merson, CBO’s director of communications, stated: “The budget process is ongoing, and we are continuing to participate fully in the process.”