Some Members Lash Out Against Cuts to Their Own Budgets

Posted July 16, 2011 at 1:32pm

The Legislative Branch Appropriations bill was easily reported out of the full committee this week, but even Members who voted for the measure said they expect objections over budget cuts to be heard when it reaches the floor.

Rep. Steven LaTourette, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch who voted in favor of the bill at Wednesday’s markup, said he will express his displeasure with the 6.4 percent cut to each Member’s Representational Allowance and other Members might too on the floor.

The plan will slice $88,000 to $122,000 from Members’ budgets. It is drawing the usual jeers from Democrats, but after a 5 percent cut last term, even a few Republicans are starting to become weary of the shrinking pocketbooks.

At Wednesday’s markup LaTourette let out a tirade against the cuts, which he said diminish the institution and damage the ability to oversee other branches of government.

“It’s time we fight back against the budgeteers and say, ‘You know what? We deserve money to fund the third co-equal branch of government,'” the Ohio Republican said.

But Legislative Branch Chairman Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) said in an interview that LaTourette’s view is not held by the majority of his Conference.

“I heard one or two Members say, ‘Gee, I wish I had more money,'” he said. “But we’ve got a lot of Members that think we didn’t cut enough. I’m comfortable that most people recognize that we’re all in the same boat.”

The only vote against the bill on Wednesday came from Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who said it did not cut enough.

When asked about the representational allowance cuts Wednesday, House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren, a self-described “institutionalist,” was less than enthusiastic, acknowledging that the less money Members have, the tougher it is for him to do his job of helping them effectively represent their constituents.

“I understand the thinking of those on the committee, I just want to make sure Members have the resources to do their job,” the California Republican said. “I may not agree with everything that they do, but we’re going to make it work.”

MRAs vary based on how far a Member’s district is from Washington, D.C., the number of households in the district and the cost of rent therein.

As a result, LaTourette is actually on the low end when it comes to how much money he would lose. He would give up $88,286 under a 6.4 percent cut, according to a document obtained by Roll Call.

Crenshaw would forfeit $92,232 and Lungren would surrender $93,698.

The biggest loser would be Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D), whose budget would be diminished by $123,569.

Next is Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who would lose $106,982 from her representational account — not including the mandated 6.4 percent cut to her leadership budget.

She is followed closely by fellow San Francisco-area Democratic Reps. Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), New York Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, and Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), whom all would lose $100,000 or more.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who stands to give up $92,240, has been the most vociferous Democratic opponent of the cuts so far. The Illinois Democrat said he would likely have to fire two or three staffers or cut salaries.

“My legacy staff people, I now have to go to them and tell them they’re now looking for a 10 to 13 percent cut in their pay,” Jackson said. “I’m being told by this year’s cuts and next year’s cuts that my constituents deserve about 10 percent less representation.”