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In testifying about their funding needs for the 113th Congress before the House Administration Committee earlier this year, Republican chairmen overwhelmingly did not attempt to argue that they could do “more with less.”
“The partisan environment does not give me pause. The enhanced oversight burden that we face does not deter me,” said House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., at the time. “If there is one thing that I worry will stop us from getting our work done, or causes to produce a substandard product, it is a resource deficit that we face in our committee.”
More recently, Republican lawmakers speaking with CQ Roll Call praised their party’s fiscal discipline but didn’t indicate how they were doing, or whether they even could accomplish, “more with less.”
“We’ve been able to do more with less simply because we’re doing less,” House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch Chairman Rodney Alexander, R-La., said.
“Well, we’re doing the same with less,” he quickly clarified, “but we’re doing the same job we’ve done before and feel like we’re doing it just as effectively.”
Other members struggled to pinpoint tangible examples of Republican accomplishments in an age of fiscal austerity that have outnumbered Democrats’ strides during their years in the majority.
House Administration Committee member Gregg Harper, R-Miss., said his office “hasn’t missed a beat,” and he emphasized the Republican Party’s history of responsible spending when asked to describe how the GOP has been doing “more with less.”
Rep. Candice S. Miller, chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, said it is without question that Republicans have done more for the institution than Democrats did when they were in control. But the Michigan Republican also stuck to the theme of her party’s frugality, rather than listing off its accomplishments with fewer dollars to spend.
Democrats don’t have trouble rattling off a list of their own transparency and efficiency accomplishments during their time in control of the chamber. House Administration Committee Democratic Staff Director Jamie Fleet said that, in the years Democrats oversaw House operations, they put members’ disbursement statements online and implemented one unified House “Cloud” network, allowing congressional offices to stop working off of separate web servers that consumed an enormous amount of energy.
The measure of whether Congress is truly doing more with less, Fleet said, is not whether the House can offer live-streaming of committee hearings but “whether members have the tools to solve the country’s problems.”
At the same time, House Republicans have authorized up to $3 million to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, the law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
“Maybe with that money [Ways and Means Chairman] Dave Camp could have another tax attorney, or [Veterans’ Affairs Chairman] Jeff Miller could have another investigator for disability claims,” Fleet said.