House Committee on Appropriations approves FY2019 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill

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Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee voted 47-0 to approve the FY2019 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill. The bill, which “provides annual funding for the offices of Members of the House of Representatives, the support agencies of Congress, security and police forces, services for visitors, and Capitol operations and maintenance,” appropriates $3.8 billion for House and joint operations -- $132 million above the FY2018 level. The committee report can be found here.

The bill’s increase over the FY2018 level drew the attention of Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who submitted a letter to House Appropriations Chair Rodney Frelinghuysen prior to yesterday’s full committee vote. According to Mulvaney’s letter, “The President's 2019 Budget reflected the Administration's view that spending for the Legislative Branch should be restrained. As the Committee knows, the Budget includes an adjustment to the Legislative Branch's overall budget request to bring it in line with other non-Defense discretionary spending; in total, the Subcommittee bill is $327 million over the level assumed in the 2019 Budget.” The letter highlighted several accounts in the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill that are not in line with the Administration’s approach.

Mulvaney’s letter drew criticism from some Congress experts, who took issue with the administration’s unusual attempt to influence the FY2019 (and future) Legislative Branch budgets.

Mulvaney’s letter, as it turns out, did not sway House appropriators. Only one amendment – a manager’s amendment that made technical and noncontroversial changes to the bill and report – was adopted by voice vote.

Committee consideration of the Legislative Branch bill begins at the 1:12 mark.

Daniel Schuman, who live tweeted from the hearing (detailed thread here), notes that the final bill included funding measures that will, among other things, increase the House’s budget, increase House member representational allowances, and require a study on staff pay and retention. 

The bill also provides for the Congressional Research Service to offer new member and staffer programming and directs CRS to report on science and technology resources available to members and to assess the need for a separate, nonpartisan entity to advise members on science and technology.

A number of these items were raised during the Legislative Branch Subcommittee’s FY2019 Member and Outside Witness hearing on April 17. LegBranch.com’s report on the hearing, including links to witness statements, can be found here.

The Legislative Branch Subcommittee's summary of their FY2019 bill contains the following highlights: 

  • Operations – The bill contains $1.2 billion to fund the operations of the House – an increase of $32 million above fiscal year 2018. This account provides funding for Members’ Representational Allowances (MRAs), leadership, committees, and officers of the House. This additional funding will provide for IT and cybersecurity enhancements; continue mandatory workplace rights training and the Wellness Program; and provide funding for 25 additional fellowship positions to the Wounded Warrior Program, bringing the total to 110.
  • Capitol Police – The bill funds the Capitol Police at $456.4 million, an increase of $29.9 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. This will fund critical safety and enhanced security functions for all Members, staff, and visitors of the Capitol Complex, and maintain public access to the Capitol and its office buildings. Increased funding is included to address garage security and prescreening.
  • Office of Compliance (OOC) – $5.4 million is provided to ensure employees know and understand their rights and have access to a dispute resolution process that is fair and easy to navigate.
  • Architect of the Capitol (AoC) – The legislation provides $642 million for the AoC, which is $31.5 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. The increase in funds is directed to essential health and safety improvements to aging or damaged facilities to protect Members, staff, and visitors. The legislation will allow the AoC to prioritize essential projects that promote the safety and health of those who visit and work in the Capitol Complex, and address deferred maintenance projects. This includes $62 million for the continuation of the restoration and renovation of the Cannon House Office Building, $32.7 million for the continuation of the Rayburn House Office Building Garage Rehabilitation project, and $10 million for the House Historic Buildings Revitalization Fund.
  • Library of Congress – The legislation provides $709.8 million for the Library of Congress, an increase of $40 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. This increase will allow for enhancements to the public exhibits and visitor services, which will improve the Library’s ability to bring the nation’s collections and history out of the vaults into public spaces, and provide for information technology modernization within the Library, the Copyright Office, and the Congressional Research Service (CRS), and additional full-time equivalents for Congressional Research Service to be more responsive to congressional requests.
  • Government Accountability Office (GAO) – The bill contains $579 million in funding for the GAO, same as the fiscal year 2018 enacted level, to continue GAO’s critical oversight work providing Congress with accurate, nonpartisan reporting of federal programs and tracking of how taxpayer dollars are spent. Funding will allow for 80 additional FTE for issues relating to cybersecurity, science and technology, Department of Defense programs, and health care costs.
  • Government Publishing Office (GPO) – The legislation includes $117 million for GPO, the same as the fiscal year 2018 enacted level.
  • Open World Leadership Center (OWLC) – The bill includes $5.6 million for the OWLC, the same as the fiscal year 2018 enacted level