Legislative Branch bill advanced to full Appropriations panel
Measure cuts Architect of the Capitol after a funding spike last fiscal year
The House Legislative Branch Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday advanced a $6.7 billion fiscal 2024 spending bill to the full Appropriations Committee on a voice vote.
The bill would cut legislative branch spending by 2.2 percent from the enacted fiscal 2023 level of $6.9 billion. Most of the reduction would come out of the Architect of the Capitol budget, cutting $332.3 million from the fiscal 2023 level to $798.1 million.
The Members’ Representational Allowance would remain level at $810 million.
The Legislative Branch markup was the second in the annual appropriations process, following the Military Construction-VA Appropriations Subcommittee markup earlier on Wednesday.
The process kicked off this year before House Republicans set topline allocations for each subcommittee, amid negotiations with the White House on raising the debt ceiling, reducing the deficit and other conservative legislative priorities, including additional work requirements for some recipients of food stamps and changes to the environmental permitting process for energy infrastructure projects.
Appropriations ranking member Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., complained about the murky start to the process.
“Let me emphasize [that] the House Republicans have pledged to cut critical programs by $142 billion and, by the majority’s estimate, the bill before us today cuts more than $250 million from the legislative branch,” DeLauro said. “And because we have not been given information about the cuts that are being proposed by Republican colleagues, that means that the other appropriations bills still must bear the brunt of the $142 billion in cuts. It really is simple mathematics.”
Democrats voiced opposition to the proposed elimination of the House Office of Diversity and Inclusion, an initiative launched under former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that was made permanent with bipartisan support following the recommendation of the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.
The bulk of the Architect of the Capitol’s 29 percent spending reduction would come from its budget for the Capitol Police Building, Grounds and Security, which would be slashed $321.7 million from fiscal 2023’s enacted $402.9 million, to $81.2 million. But that is less a cut and more a return to the norm: Capitol Police Building, Grounds and Security received $62.4 million in fiscal 2022 and slightly less in earlier years.
The bill would give $780.9 million to the U.S. Capitol police, a $46.3 million increase over the current fiscal year. The force has struggled with personnel shortages and increased threats to members and staff since the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
Legislative Branch Appropriations ranking member Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., noted that a baseball bat-wielding assailant recently hospitalized two of Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerald E. Connolly’s district office staffers. “In light of this, we must include additional resources for the Sergeant-at-Arms’ District Office Security Program and expand the scope so that the members can use this program for more than just one district office,” Espaillat said.
Most of the other Legislative Branch sections would get small increases or remain flat under the proposal. Funding for the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights and the Government Publishing Office would also remain level at $8 million and $129.9 million, respectively.
Espaillat also lamented the lack of additional funds to oversee the unionization of congressional staff by OCWR.
The Congressional Workers Union criticized the Legislative Branch proposal in a statement.
“From capping the MRA at 2023 levels to eliminating funding for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the bill attempts to undermine efforts to make Congress a multiracial, working-class, and democratic workplace that reflects the diversity and values of the American public,” said CWU spokeswoman Sarah Drory.
Justin Papp contributed to this report.