Miller likely won’t be a sympathetic audience for members pleading to be spared from further budget cuts.
Under the agreement that each committee’s budget would be split two-thirds to one-third between the majority and minority parties, respectively, ranking members also have testified before the House Administration Committee that their allocations, already shrunken, would make it difficult to meet certain obligations.
Pleas for mercy to Miller and ranking member Robert A. Brady, D-Pa., could be even stronger this year as sequester cuts will slash deeper into committee budgets that have, in many cases, already necessitated furloughs and layoffs.
Everyone should have already begun planning for the automatic spending cuts that were triggered on March 1, said Miller, who assumed the chairmanship of the committee at the start of the 113th Congress.
“We did a lot of outreach from our committee staff to the other committee staffs, since I’ve been chairman,” she told CQ Roll Call. “We’ve said, ‘You have to go talk to committee staff directors now.’”
She also hinted, as she has in the past, that she would not be a sympathetic audience.
“In my county, in Macomb County, the county employees have been taking furlough days for I think the last four years,” Miller said. “So, that’s my neighborhood.”
But even Republican chairmen in the past have expressed skepticism as to whether they would be able to sufficiently cope with such cuts to committee budgets that pay staff salaries, hire aides and counsels with special expertise in relevant issue areas and in general support panel operations, hearings and markups.
In 2011, Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said his committee had restricted hiring to 68 of its 71 staff slots. With 62 panel members, he said it would worsen what was already the lowest ratio of staff to members among House committees. “Frankly we are undermanned, being the largest committee and having the great responsibility of almost half of the spending,” McKeon said then.
Later that year, in anticipation of 2012 cuts, Agriculture Chairman Frank D. Lucas, R-Okla., cautioned there could be fewer field hearings essential for educating new members.
Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline, R-Minn., and Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., also expressed concerns about weakening their panels’ effectiveness.