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Campus Notebook: All Smiles at Legislative Branch Markup

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch approved a fiscal 2013 spending plan Friday that would maintain this year’s $1.2 billion allocation for the chamber’s operations.

In contrast to last year’s tussle over the legislation, when Democrats decried the GOP’s budgetary belt-tightening, this year’s markup went off with little or no controversy.

“Even with a lower allocation, the chairman was able to level funds and even increase several funds important to Members,” subcommittee ranking member Mike Honda said of his Republican counterpart, Ander Crenshaw (Fla.). “I’d like to reiterate my appreciation.”

The California Democrat also praised the inclusion of committee report language “to help ensure the safety and security of Members’ district offices.”

Overall, the draft spending bill would provide $3.3 billion for House and joint Congressional operations, including Members’ Representational Allowances that pay office salaries and expenses, which is $34 million below the current level. The measure excludes Senate-only operations.

The Capitol Police and Government Accountability Office, two agencies that Members on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers fought to spare from cuts during the last budget cycle, would be funded at $360 million and $520 million, respectively.

That amounts to a 5.8 percent increase for the Capitol Police and a 1.7 percent hike for the GAO.

Those increases were paid for with cuts in other operations.

The Architect of the Capitol’s allocation is $444 million, 13.4 percent below its fiscal 2012 level.

Crenshaw said the funding would allow the AOC to go through its multimillion-dollar backlog of deferred maintenance projects but would halt the second phase of the Capitol Dome restoration project.

That didn’t sit well with Appropriations ranking member Norm Dicks.

“As everyone who looks up at the Capitol Dome knows, the Architect of the Capitol is in the middle of an extensive restoration effort,” the Washington Democrat said. “I’d prefer the Dome remain a monument to our nation’s greatness and not become a symbol for short-sighted austerity.”

Crenshaw said the full committee will likely mark up the bill when the House returns next week.

Issa Might Slow Ike Memorial

Members of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission are hoping to get the go-ahead soon to break ground on a monument to the former president and supreme commander of Allied forces during World War II, but a key lawmaker could bring the project to a standstill.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa told Roll Call on Friday that his team was investigating how the commission has functioned since its inception.

“There’s a substantial question of whether or not we get value for [the memorial], and that’s in the eyes of some Members [and] the family,” the California Republican said. He was referring to lawmakers and Dwight Eisenhower’s relatives who have rejected the current memorial design as unworthy of Eisenhower’s legacy.

“There’s also the question of whether the money could be raised from the private sector,” Issa continued. “Right now, we’ve already spent close to $64 million and none of it has been raised from the private sector, even though there’s a requirement of about 20 percent.”

Chris Cimko, a spokeswoman for the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, confirmed that it had not yet received outside funds.

“We are in the early stages of fundraising,” Cimko said, “[and] have hired a highly respected national fundraising firm, Odell Simms & Lynch, based in the D.C. area.”

Cimko added that soliciting private donations is “the phase that the overall memorial effort is now entering as we move toward finalizing the design.”

Since a March 20 House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands hearing, renowned architect Frank Gehry has been working to refine his design to assuage criticisms that the concept is displeasing aesthetically and in terms of its representation of Eisenhower.

At the time, subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said he would recommend withholding additional appropriations until “consensus” can be reached. Lack of new funding could be a blow as the commission prepares to seek final approval to start building at a meeting with the National Capital Planning Commission in July.

Bishop said Friday that he was still considering urging appropriators to cut off financial support, depending on how the Eisenhower family receives the revised design.

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