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Committee Leaders Face Deeper Cuts as They Enter Session Budget Requests

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Miller likely won’t be a sympathetic audience for members pleading to be spared from further budget cuts.

Leaders of House committees got a stark reminder Monday that times are tough all over as they line up to testify before the House Administration Committee regarding their budget requests.

Late Monday afternoon, the House Administration Committee circulated the news that Members’ Representational Allowances, the pot of money members use to, among other things, travel back and forth to their districts, were taking almost a double-digit cut from what members thought they would be getting as recently as last month, thanks to the sequester.

“MRA authorizations must be adjusted to reflect the reduced spending levels detailed in Friday’s sequester order issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). To achieve the mandatory reduction, the 2013 MRA authorization each Member received February 15, 2013 has been reduced by 8.2 percent. Each office will receive a follow-up letter from the Committee confirming the exact amount of its adjusted 2013 MRA,” House Administration Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter. MRAs are authorized for the calendar year and vary according to a host of factors, including how far away a member’s district is from Washington, D.C.

While the letter was directed toward members’ offices, it also served notice that committees, which have mostly seen double-digit cuts to their budgets in the past two years and are bracing for sequester-related hits, will face an austerity-minded panel as they plead for their own budget requests this week.

Near the start of each session of Congress, the House Administration Committee summons almost all of the House committee chairmen and ranking members to defend their budget requests. This tradition will take place Tuesday and Wednesday, with each committee’s top Republican and top Democrat getting about 15 minutes to explain how much money they want, what they would do with that money and why they deserve that full amount over other panels.

The House Administration Committee typically reconvenes a few weeks later to announce how it has decided to distribute the funds.

Since taking House control in 2011, Republicans have by and large led the charge to “lead by example” in their campaign to cut spending.

At the start of the 112th Congress, House Administration passed a resolution that allocated $284.8 million among 20 House committees for the Jan. 3, 2011, to Jan. 3, 2013, period — a roughly 5 percent decrease for most committees except for those that made especially compelling cases to be spared the full extent of such cuts.

But heading into the second legislative session, the committee called back chairmen and ranking members to, once again, defend their operating budgets in advance of an average 6.4 percent cut on top of what had already been shaved from panel coffers. At the end of 2011, the top-line number for all committees going into 2012 was brought down to $135 million.

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