House Republicans and Democrats found some rare common ground today, passing a bill to fund their offices at the same level as last year while making an overall 1 percent cut in legislative branch spending for fiscal 2013.
By a 307-102 vote, the chamber backed a $3.3 billion legislative branch appropriations bill for fiscal 2013 that would provide $1.2 billion for House operations, including Members’ Representational Allowances.
Democrats split 96-83 in favor of the bill; Republicans backed it 211-19.
Though the bill, which excludes funding for Senate operations, is a tad slimmer than last year’s incarnation, allocations were distributed so that some agencies took bigger hits than others, and some received an increase.
Most notably, the budget for all House operations, including MRAs, got the same allocation as last year.
The Capitol Police would get a 6 percent boost, while the Government Accountability Office would see a 2 percent increase. Congressional Budget Office funding would increase by 1.1 percent. The Library of Congress would get a 0.5 percent boost.
On the other side of the ledger, the Architect of the Capitol would see its budget cut by 13.4 percent.
During floor consideration this morning, the House adopted a handful of amendments to trim funding a bit further.
One cut $1.2 million from the Botanic Garden’s $12 million allocation. Another cut $878,000 from the Congressional Research Service’s $107.7 million allocation, restoring the CRS to its fiscal 2012 funding level. Lawmakers also zeroed out funding for the Open World Leadership exchange program, which was already being funded at just $1 million for shut-down purposes.
Some Democrats said the additional cuts moved them to vote against the bill.
“After the adoption of amendments to further cut Legislative Branch agencies, especially the Congressional Research Service, I felt compelled to vote against final passage of the bill,” Rep. Mike Honda (Calif.), ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, said in a statement.
Republican Paul Broun (R-Ga.) had a different take.
“I think CRS should have to pitch in and do [its] part,” Broun said. “It’s called ‘tightening the belt.’”
‘The Best We Could Do’
Floor debate was relatively quiet compared with last year’s fight, during which Democrats accused the new GOP majority of cutting too much.
A year ago, only 39 Democrats voted for the bill, with nearly all the senior Democratic appropriators voting "no."
“It is not the bill I would have written,” Honda said during last year’s floor debate in July. “I hope we can rethink trying to balance the budget by cutting services for people who sent us here. ... We can and must do better.”
This year, those Democrats who chose to speak at all did so more with a sense of relief, saying they would have preferred higher funding levels but giving subcommittee Chairman Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) credit for, in the words of Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio), the No. 2 Democratic appropriator, “the best we could do under the circumstances.”
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who suggested prior to his “yes” vote that he was likely to oppose the bill, said that many of his colleagues wanted to take a stand against the top line number necessitated by the House-passed budget blueprint for fiscal 2013.
President Barack Obama has threatened to veto appropriations bills passed by the House on the premise that they incorporate funding levels from the House-passed budget rather than 2011’s Budget Control Act.
On a policy matter, an amendment by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) that would have banned Styrofoam dishware in House dining facilities was defeated 178-229.
Moran ended up supporting the bill.
Correction: 4:57 p.m.
An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect stance for how Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) voted on the bill.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.