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Coburn Offers Bill to Quit Printing Bills

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) introduced a bill Wednesday that would end the mandatory printing of Congressional bills and resolutions by the Government Printing Office.

The proposal is the Senate companion of the Stop the Over Printing Act, which overwhelmingly passed by the House Jan. 18. No Member voted against the measure in the House.

Under the current printing practice, sponsors and co-sponsors of every bill receive at least five hard copies of the legislation, regardless of its length, and copies are also delivered to the committees of jurisdiction. Lawmakers introduced nearly 14,000 bills and resolutions last year, and the GPO’s budget estimate for printing 140,000 pages of bills, resolutions and amendments for fiscal 2011 is more than $5.7 million.

Rep. Chris Lee, who introduced the House bill on Jan. 12, called it a “no-brainer” and said it would save $25 million to $35 million over the next decade. The New York Republican also noted the bill’s environmental value, which may boost its popularity with the Democratic majority in the Senate.

Thus far only one Senator, Mark Warner (D-Va.), has added his name as a co-sponsor. But John Hart, communications director for Coburn, said the bill may pass with unanimous consent because it had bipartisan support in the House.

If enacted, the proposal would eliminate one of the GPO’s daily printing jobs, but GPO spokesman Gary Somerset would not speculate on how it would affect the agency or the size of its staff.

The STOP Act may be the first of several printing cuts to come. Funding for GPO and Congressional printing has come under fire by Republicans lately.

Rep. Jack Kingston (Ga.) asked several weeks ago whether Congress should cut the entire agency. “Do we still need a Government Printing Office?” he asked.

On Jan. 7, Coburn’s office posted on his website a critique of the hard-copy distribution of the Congressional Record, which is still printed daily and delivered to Members.

“Recycling bins filled with unused copies of the Congressional Record is not an unfamiliar sight,” the post read. “Produced daily by the Government Printing Office and sent to every congressional office, this printed publication that is posted online, continues to waste hard-earned taxpayer dollars.”

Hart said Coburn will “certainly revisit” the idea of cutting the mandatory printing of the record.

“We’re doing this to get some momentum on spending cuts,” Hart said of the STOP bill. “But this is the first of many actions to come on Congressional printing.”

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