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New House Administration Chairman to Probe Military Ballots

The Congressman charged with overseeing — and cutting — the operations budget of the Capitol complex said Tuesday that his first priority next year will be military ballots.

That’s because in addition to supervising the operations of the House and its support agencies, incoming House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren has jurisdiction over federal elections.

The California Republican told Roll Call in an interview Tuesday that it is “an outrage” that about 15 states did not comply with provisions of the fiscal 2010 defense authorization requiring states to send absentee ballots to military personnel and overseas voters at least 45 days before an election.

“I want to start off with hearings about why states did or did not follow the law,” he said. “If we can’t make it a priority that [service members] can participate in [elections], then what the hell are we doing?”

Second on the docket, Lungren said, is to ensure Members and committees know their budgets, especially since Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced plans to cut all budgets by 5 percent.

“I’ve always been known as a very sharp budget person,” said Lungren, who is entering his ninth term. “The Speaker has made very clear he wants us to be able to cut back our budgets overall. … I don’t think anyone’s going to be above that, going to be above scrutiny.”

But in slashing the House finances, Lungren will have his hands full making sure the security and safety of the Capitol grounds and its inhabitants aren’t sacrificed.

The former California attorney general said one of the main reasons he asked to be seated on the House Administration Committee going into the 110th Congress was his concern for security. (He is ranking member on the subcommittee dealing with Capitol security.)

He said he plans to take a “vigorous” look at Capitol support agency budgets but maintain a vigilant security force that can protect against terrorist attacks or other threats. Al-Qaida has listed the Capitol as one of its targets, he said.

“My eye is toward ensuring that we have the security necessary,” Lungren said. “As I do that, I would look at and invite Democrats and Republicans on our committee and our colleagues on the Appropriations Subcommittee [on the Legislative Branch] to take a careful look at the expenditures.”

But he said he doesn’t have a problem spending money on the Capitol complex, as long as it’s money well spent. The 6,000 safety hazards estimated by the Office of Compliance should be dealt with one by one, he said.

“We shouldn’t get so callous about this place that we don’t realize how many Americans have a real joy when they come to this Capitol,” he said. “If you’ve got pieces of the outside of the building falling down … I don’t think it’s going to be much of an answer to them that, ‘Yeah but we were trying to save money in the process.’”

Upgrading Capitol Police radios and expanding the truck interdiction zone around the complex are also important ventures, he said.

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