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Capitol Police Warned It May Lose Administrative Functions

House appropriators threatened to strip the Capitol Police of its administrative functions Wednesday because of a recent “miscalculation” that resulted in a $5.5 million budget shortfall.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, grilled House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood on the issue at a hearing on fiscal 2011 budget requests. Capitol Police Chief Phillip Morse, she said, has not yet proved that the department can handle its own budget.

“The grace period is over. I’m done. It is inexcusable to me that we are still experiencing ridiculous financial mismanagement,” she said. “Is it time to take financial responsibility from the Capitol Police?”

The department has had several financial missteps since it took over its administrative functions in 2003, such as high overtime costs. In the latest blunder, it faces a $5.5 million salary shortfall because officials apparently miscalculated for issues such as holiday pay, loan repayments and attrition rates. That mistake has carried over to the fiscal 2011 request, causing Morse to increase the request by $9 million.

Wasserman Schultz said she is now considering returning such financial responsibilities to the House and Senate, which handled payroll and budget issues before the switchover in 2003.

“I’m at the point where the legislative branch bill will be removing this responsibility,” she said, later adding: “I would have to be convinced of some other way.”

And she might have the support of her Republican colleagues: Ranking member Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) said after Wednesday’s hearing that he was open to the possibility.

“I want to look at what the [Inspector General] report says,” he said. “Certainly, I think we need to look at all options.”

Livingood, chairman of the Capitol Police board, also acknowledged that it was a possibility. But he said Morse was working diligently to fix the problem.

“It’s an option,” Livingood said after the hearing. “It’s too early to say what we should do.”

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