Sept. 2, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

House Feeling Budget Squeeze

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
The cuts to Members’ office budgets have affected the staffs of Rep. Jim Moran and other Members. “I’m [trying] to keep my staff paid on slave wages,” Moran said.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) can’t afford to hire a deputy chief of staff.

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) has scaled back weekly events where a guest talks shop with staff over snacks and has eliminated the staffer who organizes it.

And members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus worry they might not have the money to pay their executive director.

These are just some of the ways in which House lawmakers have cut costs in the 11 months since they voted to slash their office budgets by 5 percent.

By the end of next year, House Members will have reduced their budgets by a total of 11.4 percent.

In June, the House passed a legislative branch spending bill that made a 6.4 percent cut to the 2012 Members’ Representational Allowances, which fund staff salaries and operating expenses.

House Republican leadership spearheaded this effort to “lead by example” in the broader campaign to cut spending across the federal government. It has caused some outcry among Democrats who accuse Republicans of hobbling Congressional offices for a symbolic gesture.

“Conservative ideologues are just fine with this because they want to limit the role of government in the lives of people,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.), a Congressional Progressive Caucus member. “This is just an excuse for them to do as little as possible.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) agreed, saying that the cuts are hurting voters back home by limiting the services their Congressional offices offer.

“I see this as [my constituents’] money,” she said.

Despite the partisan split, Democrats and Republicans alike told Roll Call they are finding it hard to implement the cuts, regardless of whether they voted for them.

If there is one thing both sides can agree on, it’s this: It’s hard to do more with less.

During the course of compiling its “manual” for how House offices can prioritize cost-cutting measures in the 112th Congress, the Congressional Management Foundation found that complaints about the difficulty of implementing budget cuts did not fall neatly along party lines.

The authors of the report, scheduled to be released today, found that while chiefs of staff and office managers surveyed agreed that the cuts for 2011 were “manageable,” they had concerns about the larger cuts looming in 2012.

In fact, the pressures of finalizing office budgets for next year with fewer resources have become so great that Congressional aides urged CMF to complete its report faster than usual.

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