What’s in the FY2018 House Legislative Branch Appropriation?

By Casey Burgat

On June 29, the House Appropriations Committee approved fiscal year 2018 appropriations via voice vote. The bill calls for $3.58 billion of funding for House and joint-chamber operations (Senate-specific items are not included), a full $100M more than the enacted FY2017 funding levels. It should, however, be noted that the FY2018 appropriation is much lower than the appropriation of FY2010.

On the same day, the Committee released a full committee report explaining the appropriating rationale.

What is actually included in the bill? Who won and who lost the funding battle?

Big Winners

Security: In light of the recent shooting of Rep. Scalise, staffer Zachary Barth, and officers Griner and Bailey, the committee clearly saw a need to buck up various forms of security for members and the government. The Capitol Police received an increase of $29M, the House Sergeant at Arms budget was upped $5M to $20.5M, and $10M of that was itemized to enhance the cybersecurity program of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO).

Architect of the Capitol (AOC): The stewards of the capitol complex, from building maintenance to landscaping, received a $48.4M increase in funds over FY2017 enacted levels. The committee instructed the AOC to spend the appropriated $577.8M on efforts that “promote the safety and health of workers and occupants, decrease the deferred maintenance backlog, and invest to achieve future energy savings.”

Library of Congress (LOC): For FY2018, the Library of Congress’s appropriations was increased $16.9M to $648M in an effort to modernize information technology and copyright efforts, as well as provide more funds ($3.5M) to Congress’s nonpartisan think-tank, the Congressional Research Service (CRS). Additionally, $29M of the AOC’s appropriation was itemized for improvement and maintenance of LOC buildings and grounds.

Transparency: After years of debating the issue, the appropriators directed CRS  “to make available to the public, all non-confidential reports.” The agency was given 90 days to submit an implementation plan, including cost estimates, to its oversight committees.

Big Losers

House Office Buildings: Despite the AOC receiving a sizeable bump in its appropriations, the amount allocated for the maintenance and care of the four House office buildings initially was chopped by $23.4M from FY2017 levels. Four million dollars was later amended by voice vote, leaving the cut at $19.4M.

Members Representational Allowance (MRA): The funding stream allowing members of the House to hire more, and better compensate current, congressional staffers, remained at FY2017 levels ($562.6M). “This level of funding will allow the MRAs to operate at authorized levels as approved by the Committee on House Administration,” declared the committee. What it will not do is reverse the long decline in congressional staff levels and salaries.

Government Accountability Office (GAO): Though not a decrease in funding levels, GAO was granted a bump in funds by only $450,000 despite a requested $46M increase over FY2017 enacted levels. The agency requested the substantial increase for FY2018 chiefly for increased staffing in order to reduce the amount of improper governmental payments, identify ways to close the gap between taxes owed and taxes paid, and assist Congress in determining “policy implications of increasingly complex and rapidly evolving development of science and technology.” Instead of comparably larger increases enjoyed by sister agencies CRS ($3.5M) and the Congressional Budget Office ($2M), GAO’s appropriation remained relatively flat at $568M.

Legislative Branch Appropriation Bill Specifics

Capitol Police: FY2018 funding levels increased $29M to $422.5M, including: an increase of $7.5M to “enhance Member protection, increased training, equipment and technology-related support items”; an increase of $13.2M for Capitol Police buildings and grounds; and half year funds to hire 48 additional sworn officers.

House Sergeant at Arms: increased $5M “intent of enhancing security for Members when they are away from the Capitol complex. The Committee is aware that a specific plan is still evolving and once fully developed a plan will be presented to the Committee.”

Member’s Representational Allowance (MRA): though the MRA remains at FY2017 levels ($562.6M), “the Committee has provided resources necessary to support the Committee on House Administration’s plan to increase Member’s Representational Allowance (MRA) by $25,000 per account this year for the purpose of providing Member security when away from the Capitol complex.”

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO): received an additional $10M for strengthened cybersecurity measures. Additionally, the Committee suggested that “with effective management of the program and continued support in appropriations, sufficient funding exists” to increase the number of two-year fellows partaking in CAO’s Wounded Warrior Program from 54 to 85.

House Leadership Offices: FY2018 funding levels remained constant at $22.3M.

House Committees: appropriations for the salaries and expenses of House committees was decreased by $45,004, from $150,324,377 in FY2017 to $150,279,373 for FY2018.

Joint Committees: the Joint Committee on Taxation received an increase of $360,000 to $10.46M, while the Joint Economic Committee’s funding remained at $4.2M.

Congressional Budget Office (CBO): funding levels increased $2M, from $46.5M in FY2017 to $48.5M for FY2018.

Architect of the Capitol (AOC): FY2018 funding levels increased $48M to $578M, including: a $12.7M increase for care and maintenance of the U.S. Capitol; $20M increase in funding for the Capitol Power Plant; a $29M increase for Library of Congress buildings and grounds; and a decrease of $27.4M for House Office Buildings maintenance.

Congressional Research Service (CRS): funding levels increased from $108M in FY2017 to $111.5M for FY2018, an increase of $3.5M.

Government Publishing Office (GPO): FY2018 funding levels remained constant at $117M.

Office of Compliance: FY2018 funding levels remained flat at $3.6M.

Amendments 

Two amendments to the FY2018 Legislative Branch appropriations bill were adopted by the Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Kevin Yoder’s (R, KS) manager’s amendment added $4M to House Office Buildings maintenance. Instead of decrease of $27.4M, amendment makes decrease $23.4M.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D, CA) amendment, directed CAO to submit a report to committee within 90 days “addressing the ways in which Members and staff who have hiring and management responsibilities can be given the tools to combat unconscious bias in hiring and promotion, and with education on the negative impact of bias.”