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Lee Seeks End to Mandatory Printing of Bills

Several weeks after Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) asked whether Congress should cut the entire Government Printing Office, the legislative agency may be forced next week to roll back one of its daily printing jobs. 

Rep. Chris Lee introduced legislation Wednesday that would “eliminate the mandatory printing of bills and resolutions by the Government Printing Office for the use of the House of Representatives and Senate,” according to the bill.

The New York Republican, who called the proposal a “no-brainer,” said the bill would save $25 million to $35 million over the next decade. 

The for fiscal 2011 GPO budget estimation for printing 140,000 pages of bills, resolutions and amendments is more than $5.7 million.

“We have to change our spending mentality,” Lee told Roll Call. “This is wasteful spending, and every dollar counts. … This is a very simple slam-dunk.” 

The bill was sent to the House Administration Committee and is projected to move to the House floor for debate Tuesday. Lee thinks it could pass that day.

The long-standing printing practice ensures that each sponsor and co-sponsor of every bill receives at least five hard copies of the proposed legislation regardless of the bill’s length. Copies also are delivered to the committee of jurisdiction. 

But Lee likened the process to the infamous Congressional ice-bucket tradition. Offices used to receive buckets of ice each morning, an unquestioned practice that started “before the advent of the refrigerator” and continued, “although unnecessary” until 1994, Lee said.

“This is the next ice bucket,” he said.

Lee introduced a similar paperless proposal, STOP the OverPrinting Act, on Feb. 22. Although he expected bipartisan support, the bill never moved out of committee.

Lee doesn’t think passage will hurt transparency, since all bills and resolutions are posted online. The legislation would also contribute to greening efforts on Capitol Hill, he added.

The proposal comes as funding for the printing agency has come under fire by Republicans. Kingston, for example, while trying to convince Members that he should take the House Appropriations gavel in the new Congress, asked in December: “Do we still need a Government Printing Office?”

GPO spokesman Gary Somerset would not speculate on how the cuts would affect the agency or the number of employees. But “we believe in the future, the men and women of GPO will continue to be an integral part in serving the needs of both chambers of the U.S. Congress,” he said in a statement. 

“Throughout the agency’s storied history, GPO has transformed itself numerous times to be as cost effective and efficient as possible.”

Lee wasn’t sure whether his colleagues would propose additional GPO budget or printing cuts in the near future.

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