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Senate GOP Claims More Committee Funds

Senate Republicans and Democrats agreed today to substantially boost committee funding for the 109th Congress while at the same time increasing the GOP’s share of those monies.

In adopting their committee funding resolution, the Senate agreed by unanimous consent to give Republicans 60 percent of committee funding, while Democrats would receive 40 percent.

For the past two Congress, the nearly even split between the parties meant that each side got roughly 50 percent each of committee funding. But Republican gains in November expanded their majority to 55 seats. In previous Congresses, a majority of 55 or more was likely to result in a two-thirds/one-third split between the parties, and some Republicans were pressing for a similar arrangement in this Congress.

Because of the funding changes, Democrats may have to let some committee staff members go. Sixty percent of office space will be allocated to the GOP, meaning that in addition to cutting back on staff, Democrats will also likely have to vacate some committee offices they currently occupy.

Still, Democrats said the resolution represented a victory because they feel they erased the previous precedent of a lopsided split in committee funding when the majority is not overwhelming.

Democrats also convinced Republican leaders to increase the overall pot of money for committees from $170 million to $185 million this year. The extra $15 million comes from a reserve fund that was set aside originally for emergency committee needs.

The total committee funding for fiscal 2004 was only $154 million, with those monies split nearly evenly.

Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Trent Lott (R-Miss.) assailed the funding resolution and criticized leaders of both parties, particularly Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), for forcing such a large increase in committee funds.

“I think these numbers are so telling it just shows the explosion that has occurred,” said Lott.

Lott said the committee funding decision would make it difficult for Senators to argue for spending cuts for federal programs.

Mark Preston contributed to this report.

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