Legislative Branch Bill Keeps House Spending in Check

Posted April 2, 2014 at 3:21pm

House appropriations unveiled a Legislative Branch spending bill Wednesday that aims to show the chamber’s commitment to austerity by not providing any increase over current funding.

The draft spending bill — due to be marked up Thursday in subcommittee — would provide $3.3 billion for the House and joint operations, about $122.5 million less than requested and matching fiscal 2014 spending. As is customary with the Legislative Branch spending bill, the House and Senate will each defer to the other chamber in setting its own funding levels.

The legislation would also continue a freeze on lawmaker salaries. The freeze has been in place since 2010.

“The House will continue to lead by example and hold the line on spending,” said Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky.

If enacted, the Government Accountability Office, the Government Printing Office and other offices that support Congress would receive modest increases, but still have to “do more with less,” as Legislative Branch Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla, predicted at the outset of 2015 hearings.

Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers would see his budget slashed from a historic high of $602 million in the fiscal 2014 omnibus (PL 113-76). For AOC projects, not including maintenance of the Senate buildings, the House bill would provide $488.6 million. The AOC requested a 12.4 percent increase, though Ayers explained to the panel that even with the increase, his team would only be able to tackle 21 projects from the long list of deferred maintenance assignments, including a renovation of the Cannon House Office Building.

The bill also includes $21 million for the third and final phase of the Capitol Dome restoration project.

The Capitol Police would receive $347 million, about $9.5 million more than current spending, but still below their $356 million request.

Appropriators grilled Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine last month about why funds in the omnibus did not appear to be easing long lines at security checkpoints around the Capitol campus. Dine assured lawmakers that his forces were looking into the problem, and they responded by providing a small boost for fiscal 2015.

A $595 million appropriation for the Library of Congress would provide some relief to an agency that has reduced its workforce by about 1,400 people in recent years. Librarian of Congress James Billington, who has been at the helm for 28 years, won praise from Cole for the “amazing work” he has done to modernize and digitize the library during a March 5 panel. Billington requested a $14.2 million increase, but the bill goes beyond that and provides $15.9 million more than current levels.

Cole said in a statement the bill achieves its objectives “in both an effective and efficient manner, and has done so in a genuinely bipartisan, inclusive and deliberative fashion.”