The House approved sweeping cuts to the legislative branch budget Friday, including a 20 percent cut to the Government Printing Office — more than chairmen in both parties intended to slash from the embattled agency.
The underlying fiscal 2012 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act reduced the GPO budget by more than $22 million, or 16.3 percent of its fiscal 2011 budget. But an amendment by freshman Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), agreed to Friday on a 218-194 vote, raised the cut to 20 percent, or more than $27 million.
Rep. Gregg Harper, chairman of the Joint Committee on Printing, said he voted against Stutzman’s amendment because it went too far.
“It might have been a little more than I was willing to accept,” the Mississippi Republican said. “It still has to be evaluated ... but every committee, every agency is going to probably have to do a little more with a little less, and they’re up to the challenge.”
Indeed, the bill cuts 6.4 percent, or $227 million, from the chamber’s fiscal 2012 budget, including reducing Member, committee and leadership office budgets across the board.
Stutzman’s amendment, on top of the other cuts, essentially forces the hand of the House Administration Committee, which will now have to look for additional cost savings at Congress’ printing wing.
“That’s not a bad thing,” said Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Fla.), who sits on the panel. “It forces us to talk about those issues and look for more efficiencies, that’s for sure.”
The Stutzman amendment adds to measures approved Thursday night that would further limit the role of the GPO. Approved by Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch Chairman Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) and ranking member Mike Honda (D-Calif.), an amendment brought forth by Republican Reps. Erik Paulsen (Minn.) and Candice Miller (Mich.) would end the mandatory printing of bills and the Congressional Record.
“We’re just trying to think of various ways to cut costs, with all this technology and the ability to download everything electronically,” Miller said in an interview Thursday. “I’m not trying to put the printing office out of business. They do have a role to play. But I think they could cut down on a lot of the printing they have been doing. It’s antiquated.”
The GPO currently sends five printed copies of bills to all sponsors and relevant committees, which costs the agency $1.7 million annually.
The Congressional Record, which averages 170 pages per volume and costs Congress more than $9 million annually to produce and print, is also delivered to every office. Under the new rules, Members would have to request printed copies of bills and access the record online or in the Legislative Resource Center.
The measures tacked on to the fiscal bill would be a temporary fix; certain mandatory printing would still have to be deauthorized, not just defunded. But House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren said he would soon try codify the limited printing practices.