Campus Notebook: House Will Discuss Cuts on Campus

Posted July 18, 2011 at 6:44pm

The House will discuss the largest-ever two-year reduction to legislative branch spending later this week, a plan that would mean layoffs, furloughs and near campus-wide hiring and salary freezes, according to the House Appropriations Committee.

House Republicans plan to slice $227 million from the chamber’s fiscal 2012 budget, including cutting Members’ Representational Allowances by 6.4 percent across the board. In addition to cutting Members’ budgets, the bill includes deep, multimillion-dollar cuts to almost every Congressional support agency.

The Appropriations Committee estimates the cuts will result in hundreds of buyouts and dozens of layoffs, and it has instructed agencies to consider furloughs of one day per month.

The Library of Congress would incur the largest single cut to an agency, giving up more than $53 million, for a total funding level of more than $575 million.

The Library would have to buy out the contracts of 215 employees and introduce four furlough days, according to the Appropriations Committee report on the bill.

Librarian James Billington said the agency will cut costs.

“The Library should and will participate in this effort,” Billington wrote in a Thursday message to staff. “While there may be impacts to the services we provide, we must maintain the quality and authoritativeness that are hallmarks of the Library.”

Within the Library’s budget, the Congressional Research Service would be cut by about $6.9 million to bring the agency’s annual operating budget to just more than $104 million.

To achieve the cutbacks, the agency would need to buy out 54 employee contracts, institute two furlough days and cut back on maintenance and purchases.

Coupled with the roughly $35 million cut from the Government Accountability Office, Members of Congress should expect to see a hit in research and reporting, said Rep. Ander Crenshaw, chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch.

“They’ll probably be able to provide us with less information, so we’ve got to be more judicious when we ask them to provide us reports,” the Florida Republican said at the Appropriations Committee markup last week.

The GAO would be funded at more than $511 million, a 6.4 percent reduction from this fiscal year. The agency would have to reduce salaries, benefits, hires, promotions, awards, training, travel and infrastructure operations, according to the committee report.

That would weaken Congress’ investigative powers, said Rep. Mike Honda, ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch.

“Those who claim to want increased oversight of government programs should reject cuts to GAO,” the California Democrat said last week. “They are known as Congress’ watchdog, and that watchdog should have teeth.”

The Government Printing Office, as expected, would take the largest percentage cut, relinquishing 16.3 percent of its budget, or more than $22 million, bringing the agency’s resources to a total of $113 million.

The GPO already announced that it has offered more than 300 buyouts to employees, and the committee suggests that the agency leave unfilled three vacant positions, as well as reduce travel, training and incentives.

The bulk of the cuts would come from reduced printing, such as rolling back mandatory printing of the Congressional Record.

The Congressional Budget Office would be funded at almost $44 million, a cut of about $3 million, necessitating five layoffs and four furlough days.

The Architect of the Capitol would be funded at about $489.6 million, excluding Senate items, a cut of $36.6 million, reducing the construction the agency could carry out. In addition, the committee indicated that it is looking to cut the number of Capitol Visitor Center tour guides.

The bill would do away with staff tuition reimbursements and child care subsidies because the House Administration Committee did not authorize the programs.

“They were not authorized by the Democrat-controlled House and we do not intend to authorize them this Congress,” committee spokeswoman Salley Wood said.

Though the Capitol Police would be flat-funded at $340.1 million, the department would have to reduce the number of sworn officers by 25 to 1,775 and cut 73 civilian positions.

The Office of the House Sergeant-at-Arms would receive a more than $3.5 million increase, bringing it to $12.5 million, in part to help train district offices in better security practices after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

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