By Casey Burgat
On September 10th House and Senate Appropriations Committees announced details of the first of three FY2019 minibus appropriations packages after reaching a conference agreement on appropriations bills for Energy and Water Development, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and the Legislative Branch. The joint explanatory statement describing the rational and funding levels for the minibus can be found here.
For those focused on the Legislative Branch, the appropriations bill gives plenty of reasons to be happy. Here are some highlights:
The Legislative Branch (House and Senate) was appropriated $136 million more than for FY2018. The FY2019 total stands at $4.836 billion.
The House and joint operations received a bump of $129 million over FY2018 to $3.8 billion.
House standing committees saw their funding increase by $737,000. Not a huge increase but up is better than down. Interestingly, though, funding for the House Committee on Appropriations decreased by $113,000. Funding levels for joint committees remained flat.
The House Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA) increased by nearly $11 million. The Senate Official Personnel and Office Expense Account was given a $5 million increase over FY2018.
All House and Senate leadership offices received bumps over FY2018 levels, too: Speaker +$479k; House Majority Leader +$463k; House Minority Leader +638k; Majority Whip +$310k; and Minority Whip +$240k.
Plus, $8.8 million was appropriated for payment of House interns, capped at $20k per office. The Senate approved $5 million ($50,000 per office) to pay its interns.
The Senate was directed to conduct a study on staff pay and retention, though the conference report stripped language that called for comparisons across race, ethnicity, and gender. A small step in the right direction.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) was given $21 million more for FY2019 for salaries and expenses to hire more expert staff “to be more responsive to congressional requests.”
CRS was also directed to conduct a “technology assessment study” to potentially restore funding to the now defunct Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) to ensure Congress is staffed with experts who provide “nonpartisan advice on issues of science and technology.” Read more about the OTA revival here.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) was granted funding to hire an additional 50 full-time equivalents (FTEs) for issues relating to cybersecurity, science and technology, Department of Defense programs, and health care costs. The GAO hiring plan calls for 130 more FTEs over the FY2018 levels.
GAO was also encouraged to “reorganize its technology and science function” in order to revamp its expertise “in the field of emerging and current technologies.”
The House Office of Legislative Counsel (HOLC) received a $2 million bump “to meet its statutory responsibility and support Members and staff throughout the legislative process.”
Security was a huge winner in the appropriations bill with the Capitol Police increasing their funding more than $29 million over FY2018 levels. Also, $1 million was itemized for member security at off-campus events.
The Architect of the Capitol (AOC) received a total increase of $21,640,000 over FY2018 levels. Increases include $23.465 million for Capitol Police buildings, grounds, and security; $10.484 million for Capital construction and operations; and $7.356 million for the Capitol Power Plant.
$3 million was appropriated for the expansion of the Wounded Warriors congressional fellows program, which would provide an additional 25 two-year fellowships for a total of 110 fellows.
The House Chief Administrative Officer’s office was given a considerable increase of $15.143 million.
The Copyright Office received an increase of $15,143,000.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) increased its funding by $792,000. Hey, it’s something.
The Office of Compliance (OOC) was given an additional $1,373,670 above FY2018 levels to expand harassment and discrimination training and reporting processes.
For those who want even more of the nitty gritty details, the full breakdowns of each spending category can be found beginning here.
Casey Burgat is a governance fellow at the R Street Institute.