Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

House Administration Panel Looks Ahead to Tough Choices on Budgets

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
At their “Committee Funding for the 113th Congress” hearing, Miller and Brady listen to House committee chairman and ranking member testify they are already unable to fully staff their sides of the committee aisle under current budget restraints.

After two days of hearing committee leaders argue on behalf of their budget requests, House Administration Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., is acknowledging that she has some difficult choices to make.

There is some room to negotiate with committee budgets as the panel prepares to make allocations in the weeks ahead, but not much. Miller and ranking member Robert A. Brady, D-Pa., this year have to cut 20 panel accounts by a number yet to be determined.

In consultation with House leadership, Miller said, her committee will in the coming weeks decide whether each panel should take an average 11 percent cut from its 2012 allocation or a 5 percent increase from what it actually spent in 2012.

But as in years’ past, the House Administration Committee has the discretion to vary that allocation from panel to panel, working within the topline number to boost some committee budgets — at the expense of decreasing others.

A fiscal conservative from a district hit hard by the recession, Miller embraces somewhat of a “take-no-prisoners” approach to the budgeting process. Last week, though, as her panel wrapped up two days of hearings, she said she was “sympathetic” to the committee testimonies.

She also hinted that there were a few compelling arguments, such as the Judiciary Committee, with its packed legislative portfolio this session, and the Rules Committee, with its unique printing needs.

“And some of them have been extremely fiscally conservative,” she said. “You don’t want to punish them for doing something right.”

House committee chairmen and ranking members knew that the sequester wouldn’t save their committee coffers from substantial cuts, but it didn’t stop many of them from vehemently arguing that they should be spared the biggest brunt.

Last week, the top Republican and Democrat from the chamber’s other committees all expressed the same sentiment: It has become increasingly difficult to get by on limited resources after most committees endured, in the 112th Congress, a reduction of 11.4 percent from their previous funding levels.

Even Republicans, who pledged to “lead by example” in practicing fiscal austerity when they took control of the House in 2011, insisted that further cuts necessitated by the sequester would be detrimental to their committee’s work.

“The committee was able to absorb, in the 112th Congress, a  . . .  cut that would be very, very difficult for us moving forward,” Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said.

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