Committee on House Administration - Ranking Democratic Member Robert A. Brady's statement on Legislative branch appropriations bill
Below is a copy of Mr. Brady’s statement for the record on the Legislative branch appropriations bill to be considered later this evening.
Mr. Chairman, I’ve seen some bad Legislative branch bills reported from Appropriations in my years here, but this is by far the worst. In my judgment, the committee has failed to attend to the needs of this branch of government and done so for no apparent reason other than its adherence to an ideology exalting short-term political gain over long-term, careful stewardship of this first branch of government. There is no word to describe this bill other than “reckless” and I will not support it in its present form. Funding Capitol Hill’s agencies at the levels contemplated in this bill will inflict real damage.
For example, this bill cuts the House itself by 7.9%, not the advertised 6.5%, when one factors in the cuts to the Architect’s House Office Buildings account. Make no mistake: we Members will feel that cut. We will have fewer aides to help us answer our mail and help us with our committee work, so by definition there will be less of that work performed. Our standing committees are where oversight takes place, so federal agencies will have an easier time avoiding congressional scrutiny. Constituents who visit our congressional office buildings will find them in even more dilapidated shape than they already are because we are dramatically underfunding maintenance, something our property-owning constituents know costs only more money in the long run.
Other agencies covered in this bill received similarly short-sighted treatment. The Compliance Office, designed to ensure that Congress lives under the same employment and anti-discrimination laws as private employers, will suffer a 6.4% cut. A cynic might conclude such a cut is designed to cripple a tiny agency inadequately staffed in the first place. The Library of Congress, our country’s premier cultural institution, gets cut 8.5%, threatening a return to the days where books sit on the floor for want of staff to shelve them, copyright applications take months to process instead of days, and services decline to libraries nationwide as well as research support to Congress itself.
The bill will cut the Government Printing Office’s account for congressional printing by a stunning 16.6%. This appropriation supports the printing and posting online of all our bills, resolutions, reports and the Congressional Record. This ill-conceived cut threatens timely and efficient operation of both houses of Congress, especially if paired with an amendment by the gentleman from Indiana to reduce it by $3.4-million more. Many at the GPO are already worried about potential lay-offs as a result. The Superintendent of Documents account, which enhances public transparency by distributing federal documents to depository libraries nationwide, faces a 12.1% cut in the bill and more if our Indiana colleague’s amendment prevails. The Sunlight Foundation, a self-styled transparency advocate, believes GPO’s been “drastically cut” even without further reductions.
The Congressional Budget Office and the General Accountability Office, which both help the Congress to assess budgetary accountability, receive 6.4% cuts, signaling the value the committee places on their very important work. To its credit, the bill holds the Architect of the Capitol’s cuts for everything but the congressional office buildings to 1.5% below last year. The Architect operates many of our iconic facilities including the Capitol, the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. If we were serious about preserving these hallmarks of American democracy and in creating jobs to strengthen our struggling economy, we would spend more in this area, not less.
I urge my colleagues to reject this bill. We can do better.