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House Endorses Cut in Committee Budgets

The House voted today to shave committee spending by 6.4 percent in the second session of the 112th Congress but avoided putting lawmakers on the record on the issue.

The committee funding resolution was approved by voice vote.

The measure puts the House in compliance with the fiscal 2012 omnibus spending bill signed into law in December.

Combined with the 5 percent reduction to committee budgets in the first session, the cut endorsed today represents the largest percentage decrease to committee budgets since the 104th Congress.

House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), echoing a refrain heard throughout the 112th Congress, said lawmakers must do more with less and lead by example in the broader campaign to cut spending across the government.

“I know as a committee chairman myself that we face a challenge of doing more with less, but we also know our constituents need us … to rein in spending,” Lungren said. “Families have been required to tighten their belts and they have asked us to do the very same thing.”

At a House Administration hearing late last year, chairmen and ranking members said their panels could have trouble functioning with fewer resources.

The cuts could necessitate furloughs and layoffs if committees have not done so already, they said, and pay cuts and freezes could hinder their ability to attract and hire qualified staff.

Republicans, for the most part, have said they are prepared to live within the new spending levels; many Democrats have characterized the cuts as draconian.

“This is the wrong cut at the wrong time,” House Administration ranking member Robert Brady (D-Pa.) said today. “We know what effect it will have on committee operations; chairs and ranking members confirmed that additional budget cuts could undermine legislative operations … [and] handicap our ability to oversee the executive branch.”

Brady was the lone Member to oppose the resolution on the floor, but he did not request a roll-call vote that would have required lawmakers to cast a recorded vote on the measure.

The Ethics Committee will get an increase of 11.5 percent to accommodate an extended contract with an outside counsel to address complications that have arisen from the investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

The Armed Services Committee takes a 2 percent reduction to its budget. It was spared a larger cut because it is expected to perform extra duty dealing with the sequestration of $600 billion in defense spending scheduled to begin in January 2013.

To accommodate these exceptions, Lungren dinged the budget for his own committee, the Science, Space and Technology Committee and the Small Business Committee by 7.1 percent, 10 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively. All others were cut by 6.4 percent.

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