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Senate appropriators advance Legislative Branch bill

Low-key committee action on the Senate side contrasts with spending drama on the House floor

Jack Reed, chair of the Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, chats with ranking member Deb Fischer in May.
Jack Reed, chair of the Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, chats with ranking member Deb Fischer in May. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

It was a busy day in Congress for the smallest of the 12 appropriations bills. A surprising vote on the House floor saw a fiscal 2025 Legislative Branch spending measure rejected. But on the other side of the Capitol, it was clear sailing in committee.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $7 billion bill to fund the Legislative Branch and its support agencies Thursday, which would amount to a roughly 4 percent boost over fiscal 2024.  

The committee voted 27-0 on the bill. The panel also adopted a manager’s amendment offered by Legislative Branch Subcommittee Chair Jack Reed, D-R.I., by a voice vote.

“Our goal is to ensure the government works properly and is responsive to the American people,” Reed said. “This bill makes targeted investments in making the legislative branch more effective, serving the public, and holding the entire government to account.”  

Around the same time Senate appropriators were voting on that proposal, representatives were debating the merits of a House version that they proceeded to reject on the floor, 205-213. Some Republicans rebelled against long-standing language to block a pay raise for lawmakers, as well as the overall funding bump the measure would provide.

Like the House version, the Senate bill would keep members’ pay at its current level, which is $174,000 (except for some leadership positions) and hasn’t been increased in 15 years.  

The Legislative Branch bill is the smallest of the 12 annual spending bills, and despite the House floor vote Thursday, normally passes with ease.   

According to a Democratic summary of the Senate proposal, the $7 billion in total discretionary funding includes about $2.1 billion budgeted for the House. In keeping with custom, that House-only funding is not allocated within the Senate bill.

The Senate proposal would provide $833 million to the Capitol Police, a 5 percent increase over fiscal 2024, and $883.1 million for the Government Accountability Office, an 8 percent increase. The Library of Congress would see a $20 million year-over-year, or 3 percent, increase to $611.9 million.  

The spending bill also would provide $7 million in dedicated funding for Senate interns.  

The decision to once again forego a pay raise has split members down nonpartisan lines. Congress last provided itself a cost-of-living-adjustment in 2009. Under the automatic pay adjustment formula set by a 1989 law, members were in line for a 3.8 percent bump this year, which would have raised their annual pay to just over $180,000, according to a Congressional Research Service report. If Congress had allowed all of the automatic COLAs to go through, their 2024 salary would have been $243,300.  

In light of recent Supreme Court decisions that will constrain federal agencies’ ability to set policy, some advocates have pushed for Congress to increase its technical know-how by increasing staffing levels or creating new nonpartisan advisory offices. But appropriators in both chambers have shown little interest in responding now, before the full impact of those decisions is known.