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House OKs $2.9 Billion Legislative Branch Bill

House lawmakers approved a $2.9 billion legislative branch spending bill Wednesday, including language that would expedite special elections in the event of mass casualties among the chamber’s Members.

Members passed the fiscal 2006 appropriations act by a vote of 330-82, after Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) failed in his efforts to remove Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner’s (R-Wis.) continuity of Congress legislation from the bill.

That measure, included by Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) at the request of House leadership, would mandate special elections within 49 days of an incident in which more than 100 lawmakers were killed.

The legislation — approved as a stand-alone bill by lawmakers earlier this year — appears in an area of the bill the Senate passes without modification, out of respect for the other chamber.

“The Speaker wants to make sure this proposal moves forward,” Lewis said. House lawmakers have been disappointed the Senate has not addressed the legislation.

Although lawmakers including Appropriations ranking member David Obey (D-Wis.) criticized the measure, Members voted 143-268 against an amendment that would have struck the language from the spending bill.

Baird and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) authored the amendment, which calls for a constitutional amendment that would allow both House and Senate lawmakers to be elected with three ranked alternates who could represent their districts in the case they were killed in a large-scale attack.

House lawmakers also vetoed, 185-226, an amendment offered by Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.) that would have preserved funding for the Capitol Police Department’s mounted unit.

Under the House version of the spending bill, the unit will receive no funding in fiscal 2006, and its horses and equipment would be transferred to the U.S. Park Police, which likewise maintains a mounted unit.

The Capitol Police had sought approximately $160,000 to continue to fund the five-horse unit.

Additionally, Members voted against an amendment by Rep. Joe Hefley (R-Colo.) that would have applied a 1 percent rescission, or $28 million cut, to the spending bill.

Lewis objected to the measure, stating that the existing budget “barely sustains services” provided by legislative branch agencies and that further cuts would be detrimental.

House lawmakers similarly voted down an amendment sponsored by Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) that would have cut the Government Printing Office’s budget by $2 million, and transferred those funds to the Capitol Police.

House lawmakers did agree by voice vote to an amendment authored by Reps. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) that would limit the number of hard copies of the Congressional Record produced by GPO to 1,000 editions per day from the current 6,000 copies.

Both lawmakers, who said the measure would save $5.4 million, noted the Congressional Record is available from GPO’s Web site.

“It’s important for us to have your help as members of the committee to nudge us along to get into the 21st century,” Blumenauer said.

Lewis suggested, however, that the amendment would be revisited, and likely removed, during conference committee with the Senate.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up its version of the bill this afternoon.

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