Rogers said the House members have tightened their belts and are running a “leaner, more efficient legislative branch.”
Since taking control of the House in 2011, Republicans claim they have done “more with less” — expanding the efficiency of the chamber while dramatically reducing operating costs.
They attempted to quantify that claim late last month, but various discussions surrounding the effort indicate it’s not as easy as it looks.
In an April 25 release blasted out before a weeklong recess, House GOP leaders boasted that by the end of the fiscal year they will have saved the chamber more than $400 million.
Graphs and pie charts compared Republican frugality with the spending of Democrats during their years in the majority. Bullet points highlighted Republican transparency initiatives executed alongside deep cuts to committee budgets and members’ office expense accounts.
House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said representatives are “tightening our belts, trimming the fat and running a leaner, more efficient legislative branch.”
Among the offices responsible for the operations of the chamber — the House Administration Committee, the chief administrative officer and the clerk — nearly a dozen modest but tangible “open government” accomplishments have occurred in tandem with the lowest funding levels in recent memory.
In the past two and a half years, Republicans were responsible for launching a new website where committee hearings and markups could be watched live; adopting new posting standards to make all House bills easy to find and easy to read; and facilitating the House wireless network’s support for certain free teleconferencing programs, such as Skype.
They also canceled the House’s composting program in favor of a cheaper alternative: sending the chamber’s nonrecyclable trash to a waste-to-energy facility in Alexandria, Va., where it is burned to power local homes.
“Despite the budgetary constraints, House officers have managed to maintain and ... even improve the services they provide the House community,” said House Administration Committee spokeswoman Salley Wood. “It’s not just about the continuity of operations, but also the efficiency.”
Individual Republican lawmakers appear to be having a harder time providing concrete examples of what they have done more of with less money and resources, indicating that perhaps the chamber has actually entered an era of doing “the same with less” or even “less with less.”
The brunt of cuts have come from the coffers that members use to run their offices, and the budgets that chairmen and ranking members rely on to run their committees; since 2011, they have been slashed by 18.3 percent and 22.4 percent, respectively.
Those cuts have resulted in staff furloughs and layoffs, salary freezes and hiring halts, cutbacks on constituent outreach, and restrictions on field hearings and travel.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.