House Panels Given Small Budget Increases for 111th

Posted March 25, 2009 at 6:16pm

House committees are looking at tight budgets this Congress after the House Administration Committee passed a resolution Wednesday authorizing a less than 5 percent across-the-board increase in panel spending.

In February, the House panels collectively asked for an 11.6 percent bump over what they received at the beginning of the 110th Congress.

Their request was largely considered a “wish list,— though many chairmen described overworked staffers and growing responsibilities while making their pitch.

The committee approved an increase “within the DC cost-of-living adjustment,— partly because of the economic recession, according to a press release.

“While we are confident that measures currently being undertaken by President [Barack] Obama and the US House and Senate will lead to a strong economic recovery, we must remain focused on heightened stewardship of taxpayer dollars,— Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) said in a press release.

Several committees asked for small increases and thus got exactly what they requested, such as the Budget and Rules panels. The Budget Committee asked for almost no increase at all, while Rules asked for a 4 percent bump.

But other committee got much higher increases. The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, for example, gets about $5.5 million in the resolution — about $150,000 less than its request. That’s a 12 percent boost.

The Energy and Commerce, Financial Services and Small Business committees also received relatively large increases: about 12 percent, 13 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

The boosts reflect the committees’ “expanding oversight roles or greater workloads because of their role in major policy initiatives being undertaken by the Obama Administration,— according to the House Administration press release.

Members also added an amendment to the budget resolution requiring the chairmen and ranking members of House committees come back to the House Administration Committee next year to discuss their budget.

Usually, the committee only holds one hearing every two years, but Brady and ranking member Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) have said in the past that a mid-Congress check-in could help committees with any budget issues that arise.

Lungren said Wednesday that House Administration also hopes to establish an electronic system for committees to give monthly reports on their operations.

“It is imperative that committees operate at the highest level of transparency and accountability,— Lungren said in a statement.