Senate Committee Cuts a Reversal of Trend
As the House Administration Committee deliberated committee funding over the past week, its counterpart across the Dome, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee adopted its funding resolution in a two-minute markup Thursday morning.
The resolution allocates more than $198 million from March 1, 2015, to Feb. 28, 2017, to the Senate committees. The figure is a slight decrease from committee funding for the 113th Congress, which amounted $201 million. The Rules Committee quickly dispensed with the duty of committee funding, with Chairman Roy Blunt, R-Mo., noting the process was completed earlier than usual due to strong staff work. But the Senate did receive some criticism from the other chamber for a lack of cuts over the past few years. As the House Administration Committee considered how to allocate committees’ funding during a hearing Wednesday, that panel’s chairwoman, Candice S. Miller, pointed out several times that the House has cut committee funding in tough budgetary times, while the Senate has not.
“We really have done everything we can to be sensitive to the economic constraints we faced,” the Michigan Republican said. “And so the House committees, since 2010, have had a 15 percent reduction. Now our friends on the other side, the other chamber over there in the Senate, have actually had flat funding since 2010. So it is a significant thing that the House has done here.”
Asked about the differences in funding between the two chambers Thursday, Blunt, who has served in both the House and Senate, said the disparity reflected two very different bodies.
“Well, the House and Senate are different. And [I] certainly appreciate Congresswoman Miller’s leadership on a lot of areas,” Blunt told CQ Roll Call after the hearing. “But one of the differences in the House and Senate is the House has a lot more staff than the Senate, but we deal with the same issues that the House deals with. And so committee staff plays a slightly different role, having served in both bodies, in the Senate than it does the House.”
On the House side, committee chairmen and ranking members made their case to House Administration for more funding, or simply a stop to cuts, in two hearings over the past week. But the Senate Rules Committee did not conduct similar hearings, instead adopting the funding resolution in a matter of minutes.
The 114th Congress’ committee funding process is also a return to normal process for the Senate. According to a Congressional Research Service report, the process of distributing funds for the 113th Congress was unusual, as the Rules Committee first passed a resolution only funding the committees for seven months, rather than the body’s full two years, due to uncertainty about appropriations. The committee then had to adopt a second resolution to fund the committees for the rest of the Congress.
The Senate resolution adopted Thursday allocates funds to the 18 committees and a special reserve for “expenses and inquiries and investigations.” The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee received the largest budget, amounting to more than $19 million, while the Senate Indian Affairs Committee received the least amount of funds, with just more than $4 million. In order to take effect, the resolution must next be adopted by the full Senate, and is usually done so by unanimous consent.
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