Campus Notebook: Bill Seeks Cut in GPO Printing

Posted March 30, 2011 at 6:22pm

On the heels of the Stop the OverPrinting Act, which the House unanimously passed in January and the Senate has referred to committee, Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) have introduced another bill to trim Congressional printing.

The Senators on Wednesday morning proposed the Congressional Record Printing Savings Act, which they claim would save $8 million annually.

Whereas the STOP Act instructs the Government Printing Office to ax the tradition of sending five hard copies of proposed bills to sponsors and committees no matter their lengths, the new bill instructs the GPO to “limit excessive printing of the Congressional Record.”

The bill gives Public Printer William Boarman discretion to determine the minimum number of copies necessary to be printed for “archival purposes” or “historical preservation,” said Becky Bernhardt, Coburn’s deputy press secretary. 

She said only about 100 copies are needed for such purposes. 

A joint press release from the sponsors’ offices said more than 4,500 copies of the Congressional Record are printed daily.

Those numbers differ from the GPO’s, however. While testifying at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch hearing two weeks ago, the public printer said the GPO prints 3,700 copies of the record compared with the 20,000 that it printed each day in 1994.

Boarman defended the GPO’s copies, saying staffers and Members will print documents from their office printers if the agency does not distribute copies. This, he said, will cost more money in the long run.

“We are reviewing the bill, but our initial evaluation is that any savings are likely to be less than have been proposed,” GPO spokesman Gary Somerset said. “Nearly 70 percent of the cost of producing the daily Congressional Record is for pre-press functions that are necessary to generate the electronic file, which is then used both for uploading to GPO’s Federal Digital System and downloading for printing.” 

The Senators’ joint release, however, said the Congressional Record restrictions would save taxpayers up to $8 million annually. “Printing thousands of unwanted copies of the Congressional Record with borrowed money represents the kind of activity taxpayers have called on us to end,” Coburn said in a statement. 

Coburn, also a sponsor of the STOP Act, called the current levels of Congressional printing “arcane.” Kohl is also a co-sponsor of the STOP Act.  

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