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When William Boarman took his post as the public printer in January, he stumbled right into the hot seat.
Just when President Barack Obama put him at the head of the Government Printing Office through a recess appointment, Members looking to cut spending were threatening to ax the legislative agency entirely and bashing its paper-based mission as a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Several months later, Boarman is fighting back and fortifying a defense for his agency. He’s cautiously eyeing fiscal conservatives but hopes that education about the GPO’s mandate and perhaps an agency name change will restore the printing office to good favor.
It’s an uphill battle for Boarman, who until recently has limited his public comments in hopes of avoiding negative attention. He is, after all, still awaiting Senate confirmation.
But keeping quiet is no longer an option for the former senior vice president of the Communications Workers of America as pressure on the GPO has grown.
The Stop the Over Printing Act — a bill that would end a requirement that the GPO print hard copies of Congressional bills and resolutions — passed the House unanimously in January. A companion Senate bill is sitting in committee.
Before that, Rep. Jack Kingston wondered aloud whether the GPO was even a necessary agency.
“Do we still need a Government Printing Office?” asked the Georgia Republican, the former chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, which oversees the agency’s funding.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) similarly proposed elimination of the GPO in January.
Such proposals are unwarranted in the public printer’s eyes. He’s taking his case to the Hill, trying to swing favor his way by framing the GPO as more of an information agency.
“It’s not always clear what we do,” Boarman said Thursday during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch. “We’re not just a printing agency. We are the digital platform for the entire federal government.”
The bulk of the GPO’s costs lie in digitizing, he said, not printing. Using the Congressional Record as an example, Boarman said 70 percent of production cost is used to digitize legislation, schedules and other federal records, while less than 30 percent is used to print hard copies.
Subcommittee Chairman Ben Nelson said the agency’s name gives the impression that the bulk of the GPO’s work is manual printing. That perception, the Nebraska Democrat added, is the reason many of his colleagues have attacked the GPO’s budget, saying it wastes tax dollars on unused paper.