Legislative Branch Subcommittee hears from members and outside witnesses on FY 19 appropriations

The Legislative Branch Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations held an FY 19: Members and Outside Witnesses hearing on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. The purpose of the hearing, according to subcommittee chair Rep. Kevin Yoder, was to hear testimony from other members and outside witnesses about items that fall within the subcommittee’s jurisdiction.  According to Rep. Yoder, this year’s response to testify was significantly higher than last year’s. Yoder speculated that was because he and Ranking Member Tim Ryan listened closely to testimony presented last year and took action on a number of items that were discussed – including making CRS reports available to the public.

The Legislative Branch Subcommittee appropriates annual funds for the offices of members of the House and Senate, the support agencies of Congress, security and police forces, services for visitors, and Capitol operations and maintenance. The subcommittee’s jurisdiction and the funding levels it sets are particularly relevant to matters of congressional capacity and legislative branch performance. Its full jurisdiction includes:

  • Architect of the Capitol 
  • Capitol Police
  • Congressional Budget Office
  • Government Accountability Office
  • Government Publishing Office
  • House of Representatives
  • John C. Stennis Center
  • Joint Items
  • Library of Congress
  • Office of Compliance
  • Open World Leadership Center
  • Senate
  • United States Capitol Preservation Commission

Fourteen witnesses presented in five panels on a wide range of issues. Below is a list of witnesses with a brief summary of their testimony subject matter, and links to their full statements. 

Panel one

Joint Testimony from The Honorable Randy Hultgren and The Honorable James P. McGovern
Members of Congress, Washington D.C.

Rep. Hultgren and Rep. McGovern, as the Co-Chairs of the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, requested that language be added to the Fiscal Year 2019 Legislative Branch appropriations bill to provide $230,000 for salaries and expenses for professional staff for the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, an official bipartisan body of the House of Representatives.
  • Witness Statement [PDF]

The Honorable Mark Takano
Member of Congress

Rep. Takano expressed his strong support for restoring funding to the Office of Technology Assessment, commonly known as the OTA.
  • Witness Statement [PDF]

Panel two

Samantha Feinstein
Government Accountability Project

Samantha Feinstein recommended the House of Representatives establish a Whistleblower Resource Center through the allocation of funds from fiscal year 2019 appropriations. This office would support House staff who work with whistleblowers and facilitate whistleblower communications to appropriate House committees and offices.
  • Witness Statement [PDF]

Kel McClanahan
Executive Director, National Security Counselors

Kel McClanahan recommended that Congress take steps to conclusively validate GAO’s jurisdiction in overseeing the Intelligence Community, which has insisted it is not subject to GAO audits.
  • Witness Statement [PDF]

Mandy Smithberger
Director, Center for Defense Information

Mandy Smithberger testified on the need to restore Congress’s capacity to conduct oversight on matters of national security.
  • Witness Statement [PDF]

Panel three

Kevin Kosar
Vice President of Policy, R Street Institute

Kevin Kosar recommended querying the Library of Congress and CRS every 30 days to oversee their progress prior to the June 21, 2018 deadline for CRS to provide the Library of Congress with its reports. Kosar also recommended that the subcommittee look at CRS management.
  • Witness Statement [PDF]

Greg Lambert
President, The American Association of Law Libraries

Greg Lambert testified on the necessity of adequate funding for the Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the Library of Congress.
  • Witness Statement [PDF]

John Pare
National Federation of the Blind

John Pare proposed an appropriation be made to the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) in order to fund a new program to distribute refreshable Braille displays, or “e-readers,” to its patrons.
  • Witness Statement [PDF]

Panel four

Sheila Krumholz
Center for Responsive Politics

Sheila Krumholz requested the addition of unique identifiers for individual lobbyists that are currently available only internally to the offices of the Clerk of the House and Secretary of the Senate to the publicly available data files that are updated daily. If the addition of such identifiers is not possible at this time, she requested that a study be undertaken to determine the feasibility of doing so in the future.
  • Witness Statement [PDF]

Daniel Schuman
Demand Progress

Daniel Schuman urged the House of Representatives to re-authorize a review of its personal and committee office staff along the lines of previous studies conducted over the last 40 years. Schuman also recommended that the results of the employment study be released to the public in aggregate form, broken out by job category and type of office.
  • Witness Statement [PDF]

Josh Tauberer
Civic Impulse LLC

Josh Tauberer recommended three incremental steps that would continue the forward momentum of releasing important Congressional information in ways that serve the needs of the institution and the public. They include publishing a committee calendar on Congress.gov, publishing the “bioguide” website as data, and improving disclosure around committee witnesses.
  • Witness Statement [PDF]

Panel five

Zach Graves
Director of Technology Policy, R Street Institute

Zach Graves urged the subcommittee to request a study on what would be necessary to reestablish an independent technology assessment function inside the legislative branch. Graves suggested that such a study could be done by the subcommittee, through an ad hoc group of legislative branch and technical experts, or through an outside organization such as the Administrative Conference of the United States, the American Association for the Advancement of Science or the National Academy of Public Administration.
  • Witness Statement [PDF]

Tim Lordan
Executive Director, Internet Education Foundation

Tim Lordan requested that the subcommittee consider funding the Congressional App Challenge, which is an “Officially-Sanctioned Competition” of the House of Representatives.
  • Witness Statement [PDF]