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House set to approve committee funds; largest boost for House Ethics panel

Update of House Ethics Manual underway

The House on Tuesday approved funding levels for committee activities in the 116th Congress. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
The House on Tuesday approved funding levels for committee activities in the 116th Congress. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House is set to approve funding levels for committee activities in the 116th Congress later this week, providing the largest boost to the House Ethics Committee. 

The House resolution, advanced by the House Administration panel on Monday night, will authorize funding for all of the standing and select committee in the House, excluding the Appropriations Committee. It is expected on the floor before the end of the week. 

The largest percentage increase would go to the House Ethics Committee. According to Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., the House Administration Committee’s top Republican, the increase is necessary as the committee is in the process updating the House Ethics Manual. The manual provides ethics guidelines and standards for Members of Congress.

The Ethics panel will see a 1.82 percent boost, or a $125,384 increase from funding levels during the 115th congress. House Ethics will receive $3,507,696 for each the first and second session of the 116th Congress. 

House Energy and Commerce Committee would receive the largest share of the committee funding at $21.1 million. The next largest allocations would go to the House Oversight and Reform Committee at $18.9 million and the Ways and Means Committee at $18.2 million.

The Oversight and Reform panel was the only one in the House in which the chairman and ranking member could not come to agreement on a funding-level request earlier this month. 

In previous Congresses, committee leaders would present and defend their funding requests for the next two years to the House Administration panel, a process that necessitated a two-day hearing. But the new Administration chairwoman, Zoe Lofgren,  tossed aside that process in favor of a more expedited one. Due to their inability to come to a consensus on a funding request, House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland and ranking member Jim Jordan of Ohio gave heated testimony before House Administration to argue their cases.

Instead of an increase of 4 percent this year and 10 percent next year over funding levels from the previous, GOP-controlled 115th Congress, as Cummings requested, the panel will receive $9,495,034 for each the first and second session of the new congress. That’s a 0.85 percent increase.

The resolution would authorize $3.8 million for the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and $487,500 for the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. In comparison, House Republicans in November 2016 directly authorized $800,000 for the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, which investigated the sale of fetal tissue.

“Congress has a continuing responsibility to act deliberately when taxpayer dollars are at stake. This resolution exercises an important oversight role to establish accountability and transparency in committee funding,” said Davis and Lofgren said in a joint statement ahead of floor action.

The measure also would authorize $8 million for a reserve fund for unexpected expenses, a significant increase from the $2.5 million authorized in the previous Congress. According to Lofgren, she is working with Davis on an agreement on how the reserve funds will be allocated. If no agreement is reached, there will be a separate vote in the committee on the allocation of these funds. Davis said he hoped that an agreement could be reached and that “any funds allocated will be done in a transparent manner.”

House committees are funded through a two-year resolution that requests funding for each of the standing and select committees. The measure is based, in part, on the committees’ own requests for funds to cover their expenses for the two-year length of a Congress.

Operating budgets for all standing and select committees are authorized by the House Administration Committee and the funding is included in the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill.

But because the fiscal year appropriations do not align with authorizations for committee funding — which follows a biennial calendar-year schedule — House Administration has to decide how to divvy up existing fiscal 2019 funding before considering fiscal 2020. For any biennial committee funding resolution, funds may be drawn from money appropriated in three different fiscal years, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Davis also expressed disappointment at a Tuesday evening markup of the resolution that the House Appropriations Committee continues to be funded outside of the committee funding resolution process and instead funded directly through the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill.

“I know the appropriators are special, or so they tell me,” said Davis. He said that including the House Appropriations Committee in the committee funding resolution process would provide greater transparency.

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Anne Grady and Griffin Connolly contributed to this report. Correction 6:00 p.m. | An earlier version of this story misstated House floor action on the committee funding resolution.