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House Committee Leaders Describe Budget Hardships

Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica said 90 percent of the committee’s proposed $19.8 million budget is used for salaries, so he will likely have to cut some positions. Nonetheless, the Florida Republican said he will return $1 million of his committee’s budget, as he does every year. He asked the House Administration Committee to explore allowing committees to hire contractors for specific projects.

The Judiciary Committee is actually taking a 10.8 percent cut: the 5 percent called for in the House resolution plus a reduction in special staffers after the completed impeachment of U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous last session. The committee asked for $16.8 million.

“We hope we can do the same job, we hope we can work harder and smarter,” Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said. “It will involve some double time, some extra time, but we can get the job done.”

Homeland Security Chairman Peter King also asked for $16.8 million. The New York Republican said he has introduced salary cuts, but he is hoping to overcome any staff shortage by taking on cost-free detailed employees from other agencies, such as the New York Police Department, FBI, Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security.

Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa said he is also hoping for some detailed employees, but the California Republican is realizing savings in other ways, such as slowing the hiring process, combining positions and sharing staff.

“We’re hiring at a lower rate than we otherwise would have, and by the end of the year we’ll be down to the last penny,” he said of his proposed $21.2 million budget. “We recognize that we also have an obligation to not have so much austerity that we increase waste in government.”

Education and Workforce Chairman John Kline asked for $16.6 million. The Minnesota Republican has slowed hiring and is looking at expanding in-house operations, such as printing, to save money, he said.

Ranking member George Miller said the committee’s investigations, particularly into mining accidents, can be expensive.

“I hope that [a mining disaster] doesn’t happen, but I think on a day-to-day basis we can do that oversight,” the California Democrat said. “We’ll just have to see.”

Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller asked for $7.3 million, which accounts for decreased staff and fewer equipment purchases, the Florida Republican said.

Science, Space and Technology Chairman Ralph Hall (R-Texas) said his committee is tightening the supplies budget and deferring the purchase of new computers for one year on a proposed $13.6 million budget.

The hearing also featured the Ethics Committee, which requested $5.8 million; the Financial Services Committee, which requested $17.4 million; and the Agriculture Committee, which requested $12.2 million.

The House Administration Committee will hear from the Budget, Rules, Foreign Affairs, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Natural Resources committees Wednesday.

The Appropriations Committee is exempt from testifying because it decides its own budget. The House Administration Committee submitted its own budget but did not testify before itself.

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