House Panels Request More Funding, Space

Posted March 11, 2005 at 5:29pm

Republican and Democratic leaders of eight panels presented their biennial budget requests to the House Administration Committee last week.

Although each panel issues an independent request, lawmakers echoed one another on several key areas in their budget proposals, including requests for additional staff and funds for staff salaries including cost-of-living increases, as well as proposals to replace office equipment and upgrade office technology.

In addition, committee chairmen and ranking members — representing the International Relations, Judiciary, Budget, Financial Services, Small Business, Rules, Agriculture and Armed Services panels — voiced concerns about cramped office quarters and the need for additional space for their staffs.

House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) concurred with the complaints, noting that capacity of the House office buildings is currently exceeded by 7,000 employees.

“The space issue is terrible, we’re just running out,” said Ney, who called the conditions “not healthy.”

Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.), ranking member of House Administration, said: “Everyone has come to talk about the need for more space.”

During the hearing, some Democrats also raised questions over the division of resources between the majority and minority parties on some committees.

Under an agreement forged by the House leadership, two-thirds of resources are to be allocated to the majority and one-third to the minority; however, some Democratic lawmakers complained they have not received control of a full third of their budgets.

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, declined to support the budget put forth by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), citing the minority’s lack of autonomy on expenses such as equipment.

“We are basically told, ‘This is how it’s going to be done,’” Peterson said.

Goodlatte defended the practice, under which the minority does control one-third of the staff positions and salaries, asserting the Democrats received more funds under the process than they would have otherwise.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the Small Business Committee, voiced complaints over a similar arrangement.

In response, the panel’s chairman, Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.), noted that staff and salaries make up 93 percent of the budget, leaving a relatively small amount for other needs.

“Somebody’s got to be in charge of this committee,” Manzullo said.

While Ney explained that the division of resources is left to committee chairmen to determine, because those lawmakers are ultimately responsible for their panel’s expenditures, minority members of House Administration chided both Manzullo and Goodlatte.

“It may not be a hard and fast rule, but it is a principal,” Millender-McDonald said.

The House Administration Committee is scheduled to hold a second hearing for budget requests Wednesday, including testimony from leadership of the Veterans’ Affairs, Government Reform, Education and the Workforce, Ways and Means, Resources, Homeland Security, Energy and Commerce, Standards of Official Conduct, and Select Intelligence panels, as well as its own request.

House Administration will consolidate the budgets and submit them in a unified funding resolution, with the exception of the Appropriations panel, which writes and funds its own budget.