Amid the polarized climate of Capitol Hill, House Republicans and Democrats seem to agree on at least one thing: Congress has been wasting paper.
The House voted 399-0 Tuesday evening to end the mandatory printing of Congressional bills and resolutions by the Government Printing Office. The bill, called the Stop the Over Printing Act, now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Each sponsor and co-sponsor of every bill currently receives at least five hard copies of the legislation, regardless of its length, and copies are also delivered to the committee of jurisdiction. Lawmakers introduced nearly 14,000 bills and resolutions last year, and the GPO’s budget estimation for printing 140,000 pages of bills, resolutions and amendments for fiscal 2011 is more than $5.7 million.
“By passing the STOP Act, the House continues to lead by example when it comes to ending Washington’s job-destroying spending binge,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement. “The STOP Act further reduces the cost of Congress while improving the efficiency of House operations.”
Rep. Chris Lee, who introduced the legislation Jan. 12, called the bill a “no-brainer” and said it would save $25 million to $35 million over the next decade. The New York Republican also noted the bill’s environmental value, which may boost its popularity with the Democratic majority in the Senate.
Lee added that he doesn’t believe the proposal will affect transparency efforts, because new House rules require that all bills and resolutions be posted online for at least three days before being brought to a vote.
“We have to change our spending mentality,” Lee told Roll Call last week. “This is wasteful spending, and every dollar counts. ... This is a very simple slam-dunk.”
Funding for the printing agency has come under fire by Republicans. For example, Rep. Jack Kingston (Ga.) asked several weeks ago whether Congress should cut the entire agency. “Do we still need a Government Printing Office?” he asked.
The bill, if enacted, would roll back one of the GPO’s daily printing jobs, but GPO spokesman Gary Somerset would not speculate on how it would affect the agency or the size of its staff.
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.