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Campus Notebook: Barack Obama Budget Increases Legislative Branch Spending

Congressional support agencies that took spending cuts in fiscal 2012 are looking to get some of that money back in 2013.

The legislative branch portion of President Barack Obama’s budget for fiscal 2013, released Monday, would provide roughly $4.5 billion in spending for lawmakers and Capitol Hill agencies, according to Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch.

That would be about $200 million more than the $4.3 billion legislative branch spending bill enacted late last year as part of the fiscal 2012 omnibus spending legislation.

Unlike the other appropriations bills, the legislative branch budget is made up of requests from the legislative agencies and offices that it funds, not from the Office of Management and Budget.

Though the budget released Monday calls for a $400,000 increase from fiscal 2012 for House committees’ salaries and expenses, salary and expense accounts for House Members’ personal offices would hold steady from the previous fiscal year at $573.9 million — 6.4 percent below fiscal 2011 and an 11.4 percent reduction from fiscal 2010.

The Senate is seeking to increase the across-the-board allocation for lawmakers’ personnel and office expense accounts: $425.6 million for fiscal 2013 would be a 7.4 percent increase from fiscal 2012. 

As is customary with the legislative branch appropriations bill, the House and Senate will defer to the other chamber in setting their own funding levels. But appropriators on both sides of the Capitol are expected to dig into agency-requested budgets that, by and large, come in above fiscal 2012 allocations.

“The Senator expects that the committee will find savings and spend less, and will reduce the [topline] figure in the president’s budget,” said Don Canton, spokesman for Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), ranking member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch.

The Architect of the Capitol’s request of $668.2 million is roughly $1 million more than the agency received in fiscal 2012, the Government Accountability Office wants $526.2 million, or 2.9 percent more than its fiscal 2012 allocation, and the Capitol Police, the one legislative branch agency flat-funded at $340 million in fiscal 2012, is requesting an increase of $34 million.

The Government Printing Office is the only major legislative branch agency to request no increase, matching its $126 million fiscal 2012 allocation. Provisions in the blueprint budget unveiled Monday indicate that the House is already considering how it will rely less on the GPO in the upcoming fiscal year: It forbids Members from automatically receiving printed copies of bills, resolutions or the Congressional Record unless they specifically make a request.

Obama Would Unfreeze Federal Workforce Pay

As part of the fiscal 2013 budget blueprint, President Barack Obama is proposing a 0.5 percent increase in federal workforce salaries for 2013 after two years of a pay freeze for government employees.

“A permanent pay freeze is neither sustainable nor desirable,” the proposal reads.

While the two-year pay freeze is expected to save more than $60 billion over 10 years, the 0.5 percent boost in paychecks would save up to $2 billion in 2013 and $28 billion during the next decade.

The House passed legislation two weeks ago to freeze government employees’ pay in 2013, and some Senators have proposed flatlining federal paychecks through 2014 to offset next year’s expected sequestration of the defense budget.

“No federal employee should be getting a raise at the same time we are shrinking our national defense to the lowest share of our budget since the founding of the Republic,” said Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that oversees the federal workforce.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the full Oversight and Government Reform Committee, lauded Obama’s recommendation as a step in the right direction.

President Endorses D.C. Budget Autonomy

The fiscal 2013 budget signaled the administration’s desire to unlink the District of Columbia from the Congressional appropriations process.

In his fiscal 2013 budget proposal, the president included language pledging to “work with Congress and the Mayor to pass legislation to amend the D.C. Home Rule Act to provide the District with local budget autonomy.”

Though Obama has expressed support for budget autonomy in the past, this is the first indication of his willingness to lend a hand in that process.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) promised late last year to shepherd a bill that would let the District set its own budget on its own schedule.

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