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Honda Takes Protective Stance on Legislative Branch Spending

Rep. Mike Honda intends to make his Republican counterparts on the Appropriations Committee fight for every cut to funding for Members’ offices and Congressional support agencies.

“The issues that we have on the Hill are such that we shouldn’t be trimming,” the California Democrat, who serves as ranking member on the Legislative Branch Subcommittee, told Roll Call on Thursday.

The more than $4 billion spent on the Capitol is put to good use, Honda said, and he’s marshaling his arguments ahead of House Republicans’ debut of a spending bill to cover the remainder of fiscal 2011.

“I want to see what we got and think through why it should be protected. Because if you want to cut them, you’ll have to come up with a good rationale,” Honda said. “If the rationale is good, we’ll consider it. But right now, cuts for cuts’ sake is not something that I go for.”

Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) outlined spending caps for the subcommittees last week. The Legislative Branch Subcommittee took less of a hit than others — its cap was set at 2 percent less than fiscal 2010 spending levels, a reduction of roughly $94 million.

“I’m gratified that it was 2 percent and not greater,” Honda said. “Then at the same time, I don’t know what the thinking was of the chairman. I don’t know what the specific reasons were for creating a cut of 2 percent.”

Deeper cuts could be on the horizon. House GOP leaders said Thursday that they are seeking further reductions in order to deliver on campaign promises to bring spending to $100 billion below President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget request.

Honda said he doubts much more will be shaved from his subcommittee.

Appropriations ranking member Norm Dicks said he is reserving judgment on the cuts until he looks at the specifics. “Almost all of these budgets, you can make some reductions in money that may not be necessary, so we want to wait and see where the specific cuts are,” the Washington Democrat told Roll Call.

Ample funding for security is of particular concern to Honda. “We need the security, we need to continue to develop our evacuation plans for the health and safety of our staff, our Members,” he said.

Honda has pushed for a stepped-up evacuation plan since he earned a seat on the subcommittee in 2007. He was named the top Democrat this year, when the former chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, had to cede her ranking seat because of seniority rules.

The Florida Democrat would have likely taken the same tack as Honda on the proposed cuts.

“Over the past three years, we have looked to make cuts where appropriate, including nonessential items,” she said in December, before the passage of the continuing resolution that is currently funding the government. “However, I do fear that additional cuts … will jeopardize the safety and security of our Capitol, and the agencies that strongly support the work that we do.”

Honda said he doesn’t subscribe to the theory that the government is too large, and his views on spending could lead to disputes with subcommittee Chairman Ander Crenshaw. The Florida Republican said on the House floor in January, “We’re going to stop this culture of spending that we’ve all gotten used to and say, ‘Let’s start a culture of saving.’”

Honda said the two don’t have a “deep relationship” but do know each other. Still, their fundamental disagreement on fiscal issues shouldn’t lead to nasty hearings, he said.

The subcommittee “has been one of the subcommittees that had the best working relationship between the parties. I look forward to that,” Honda said. “It’s going to be a personality thing. We’ll get to know each other and how we do things.”

Of course, with a 5-3 membership advantage on the subcommittee, Republicans can steamroll through any bill. But any GOP-favored bill will have to contend with the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Sen. Ben Nelson, who chairs the Legislative Branch Subcommittee of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, said Monday that he’s already asking Congressional support agencies to look at where they can cut.

But he added, “You have to look very carefully at what you do so you don’t, in the whole name of cutting, destroy your operation.”

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