Senate Passes Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill

Posted July 6, 2009 at 6:02pm

The Senate passed its version of Congress’ budget Monday evening, but not before adding a provision that would require online access to Senators’ office expenditures.Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had originally hoped to pass the spending bill two weeks ago, but Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) objected to unanimous consent and forced Senate leaders to consider GOP-sponsored provisions.Republicans had hoped to bring up seven amendments, but Democrats whittled that down to five. Two passed.That includes an amendment from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) requiring the Senate to put its financial records online. Currently, that information — which includes staffer salaries, travel and other office expenditures — is printed in large books that come out every six months.The amendment passed by voice vote. It follows in the path of the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recently ordered the Chief Administrative Officer to post the chamber’s quarterly Statement of Disbursement. Officials say they will have PDFs of the House’s expenditures online by the end of October.Senators also passed DeMint’s amendment instructing the Architect of the Capitol to engrave the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust— in the Capitol Visitor Center. Among those that didn’t pass was Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) amendment to eliminate a $200,000 earmark from Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) for a Nebraska museum. Nelson, who heads the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, argued that the Durham Museum has a “long-standing and close relationship— with the Library of Congress and will be using the money for a public-private archiving project.The $3.1 billion legislative branch appropriations bill passed 67-25. It will now head to conference with the House’s version, which passed last month. When the House and Senate items are combined, the final bill is expected to total almost $5 billion.