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House Considers Amendments to Legislative Branch Bill

The House approved amendments to the legislative branch spending bill Thursday night that would end the mandatory printing of bills and the Congressional Record as well as limit Members’ car leases to $1,000 per month.

Other approved amendments would create a $1 million fund within the budget of the Capitol Police to help Members pay for security upgrades at their district offices and restore $1 million in funding to a Library of Congress program to preserve books and documents.

The bills to cut down on printing by the Government Printing Office were brought to the floor by Republican Reps. Erik Paulsen (Minn.) and Candice Miller (Mich.).

“We’re just trying to think of various ways to cut cost, with all this technology and the ability to download everything electronically,” Miller said in an interview Thursday. “I’m not trying to put the printing office out of business. They do have a role to play. But I think they could cut down on a lot of the printing they have been doing. It’s antiquated.”

The GPO currently sends five printed copies of bills to all sponsors and relevant committees, which costs the agency $1.7 million annually.

The Congressional Record, which averages 170 pages per volume and costs Congress more than $9 million annually to produce and print, is also delivered to every office. Under the new rules, Members would have to request printed copies of bills and access the record online or in the Legislative Resource Center.

The measures tacked on to the fiscal 2012 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act would be a temporary fix; certain mandatory printing would still have to be deauthorized, not just defunded. But House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren said he would soon try codify the limited printing practices.

“We’re moving in that direction,” the California Republican said Thursday. “We’re probably going to follow up with legislation we’ve been preparing to see that it can get done.”

An amendment brought by Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) that will be voted on Friday would slash almost $5 million from the GPO budget. The measure was lambasted by Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, and Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), the subcommittee’s ranking member.

An amendment introduced by Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) and agreed to Thursday night would forbid House Members from leasing personal vehicles that cost more than $1,000 per month.

Car leases have already become a campaign issue, with Democrats running adds against Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) for leasing an expensive sport utility vehicle.

Later Friday, the House will vote on several more amendments to the bill, including a measure by Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) that would defund the Office of Congressional Ethics by 40 percent.

Two amendments that will be voted on would decrease the budget of the Botanic Garden, which would receive a $632,780 budget increase in fiscal 2012 for scheduled maintenance.

One measure by Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) would slash the Botanic Garden budget by about $3.2 million, bringing the budget back to fiscal 2008 levels. Another fielded by Republican Reps. Nan Hayworth (N.Y.) and Paul Gosar (Ariz.) would roll back the slated fiscal 2012 budget increase.

“They don’t need to have an increase, they need to have a cut,” Gosar said in an interview Thursday. “I’m a gardener so I understand, and I’d be happy to volunteer over there. But we all have to take a haircut, and these are things we have to look at and do.”

Another vote will be held on a measure introduced by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) that would renew the fight against compact fluorescent light bulbs. The amendment would ban Members from spending money from their office budgets on the bulbs.

The measure follows on the heels of a failed House vote earlier this month on a bill that would have reversed toughened energy-efficiency standards for light bulbs that are slated to take effect in January.

Another measure by Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) will be voted on Friday. It would restore funding for a long-gone Congressional office, the Office of Technology Assessment, which from 1972 to 1995 provided reports on technological analyses of scientific and technological issues.

Finally, the House will vote on a bill that would prevent the House from spending money to stock its cafeterias with Styrofoam cups, the latest battle in the Democrats’ war against the cups, which were phased in shortly after Republicans took control of the House.

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