What Does the House of Representatives Spend Its Appropriation On?

Guest post by Philip A. Wallach and Nicholas W. Zeppos

There is a short and unsurprising answer: mostly, it spends on staff.  Personnel expenses amount to more than three-quarters of House disbursements.

The portion that goes to personnel varies by the type of office:

“Other” devotes a significantly lower portion to personnel because it includes most of the overhead (including facilities) needed to run a large organization. Interesting patterns of spending become clearer at the lower level of individual offices.

Committees spent roughly 94% of their money on personnel compensation. The remaining 6% of spending was distributed amongst the remaining categories in roughly equal shares, with other services spending representing a slightly higher share.

The appropriations committee, however, significantly deviates from that pattern:

The appropriations committee, like the aggregate committee spending, devoted the vast majority of its money to personnel compensation—just over 92%. But it spent a disproportionate part of the remainder on “other services.” While this category is normally relatively low and varied, composed of miscellaneous technical expenses, the appropriations committee directs a nontrivial sum ($1 million, or 5% of the committee’s 2015 expenditures) toward “consultant contract services.”  (If anyone can educate us as to what exactly this work entails, we’d be grateful.)

While admittedly on the margins, it’s clear that individual office expenditure levels (in particular amongst the committees) may vary according to particular office duties, and as such provide a useful tool in probing congressional capacity and behavior.

For the next installment: do Democrats and Republicans differ in their spending patterns?

Philip A Wallach is a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. Nicholas W. Zeppos is a research assistant in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution.