The House Administration Committee approved a resolution Friday to cut the budget of every committee but one for the second session of the 112th Congress.
Overall committee spending would be trimmed 6.4 percent in 2012, as called for in the House-passed legislative branch appropriations bill.
Only the Ethics Committee would see an increase, of 11.5 percent. The panel contracted outside counsel to address complications that have arisen from the investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). The funding level was provided so the Ethics Committee could extend until the end of July the counsel’s contract originally set to expire early next year. The House Administration Committee, which is responsible for approving such contracts, signed off on it Friday.
The funding resolution, which must be approved by the full House, would reduce the Armed Services Committee budget by 2 percent. The panel was spared the larger cut because it will have to deal with the sequestration of $500 billion in defense spending scheduled to begin in January 2013.
Approval of the funding resolution comes after a hearing a few weeks earlier in which committee chairmen and ranking members testified that it would be difficult to do more with less — the cuts for 2012 follow on a 5 percent decrease for 2011.
Though many panel leaders said they understood the need to lead by example in the broader campaign to cut federal spending, they asked to be spared deep cuts if possible.
To accommodate Ethics and Armed Services and still reach the 6.4 percent figure from the spending bill, the measure by House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) dinged his own panel as well as a few others. The House Administration; Science, Space and Technology; and Small Business committees are all taking larger-than-average cuts: 7.1 percent, 10 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively.
All other committees will have their funding cut by 6.4 percent.
House Administration ranking member Robert Brady (D-Pa.) and Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) opposed the resolution, saying it could hurt committees’ abilities to function and might result in staff layoffs.
Brady offered an amendment that would require committees to pay, for up to 60 days, the salaries of staffers who are dismissed as a result of the budget cuts authorized by the resolution.
Gonzalez said it was especially appropriate to offer such severance packages at a time when unemployment rates are high: “It’s important to take into consideration that staffers will be losing their jobs as a result of more austere times,” he said.
The amendment was rejected along party lines, with Lungren opposing it “with no great joy.”
“Frankly we don’t have the money at this time,” he said.