GOP chairmen are requesting 24 percent budget increase for themselves.greenspun.com : LUSENET : Unk's Wild Wild West : One Thread
March 1, 2001
Chairmen Seek Budget Hikes
By Lauren W. Whittington and Paul Kane
Following the first major turnover of committee gavels since Republicans regained control of the House, GOP chairmen are requesting a dramatic increase in panel funding levels for the 107th Congress.
Overall, chairmen are asking for approximately $224 million in funding, an increase of about 24 percent over what they received last Congress. The House Administration Committee meets today to begin consideration of the budget requests.
The marked increase in funds requested by most committees can in part be attributed to a change in jurisdiction involving two panels and technology upgrades that are planned for some committee rooms.
The highest funding increase request was made by Financial Services Chairman Mike Oxley (R-Ohio), who is seeking a 62 percent raise in funding over what the former Banking and Financial Services Committee received last year.
Although he had not had a chance to look at specific numbers yet, House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) said there was one thing all committee budgets had in common: "People are asking for increases - I know that."
The requests come on the heels of President Bush's call for restrained federal spending during an address to the nation Tuesday night, when he pledged to vigilantly control the growth rate of government expenditures. Citing an 8 percent increase in overall federal spending last year, Bush proposed that funding levels be held to 4 percent this year.
Armed Services and Rules are the only two committees requesting funding increases of less than 10 percent. By far, Oxley's panel is asking for the sharpest increase.
"The entire portfolio of securities and insurance jurisdiction has been transferred to this committee, and so obviously we're going to have to meet those responsibilities," Oxley spokeswoman Peggy Peterson said.
Meanwhile, Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) said the jurisdictional change did not impact his budget this year, although some of his panel's turf has been given to Financial Services.
Nonetheless, Tauzin is seeking a 23 percent increase, primarily to improve technology in the committee's hearing room. He said the panel is currently a "high-tech committee" with a "low-tech committee room."
When asked about committee funding, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said he hasn't yet reviewed the requests, but signaled that he would support spending increases for Energy and Commerce and the Science panel for facility upgrades.
Jeff Lungren, spokesman for Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), said the 27 percent increase in funding requested by his boss was driven largely by technology improvements planned for the panel's committee room.
Committee room renovations include audio-visual enhancements such as the installation of state-of-the-art sound systems and teleconference capabilities.
Coming in second and third behind Oxley's request are Education and the Workforce Chairman John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Select Intelligence Chairman Porter Goss (R-Fla.), who are requesting increases of 46 and 45 percent, respectively.
Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) said his $16 million request, a 35 percent increase, hinges on the costs of hiring new staff and implementing the President's tax cut.
"Do me a favor - do a content analysis of the President's speech," Thomas said in an interview following Bush's address. "Ask me how many lines were devoted to issues that are in front of the Ways and Means Committee and how many lines were devoted to other committees' jurisdiction. After you do that, you'll fully appreciate why I've asked for more money."
Another factor affecting committee budgets is the bipartisan push to implement a funding ratio that would give Democrats on all committees the ability to control at least a third of panel resources. Ney supports the measure and said efforts to have all chairmen implement the ratio are going well.
"I've personally talked to a lot of chairmen,"Ney said. "We're striving very hard, and so is the Speaker, and so is [House Administration ranking member Steny] Hoyer [D-Md.], to get to one-third."
Both Thomas and Boehner have implemented the 2/3-1/3 ratio on their panels, although it may take some time before Democrats begin to see the benefits.
"There will be a little transition period because there was some shared staff, and we're figuring out how to allocate those so [ranking member Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.)] can have complete one-third resource control," Thomas said.
As for his committee, Boehner said, "It's something I fought for when I was in the minority. It's something that I believed in when we took the majority and it's something I think every committee ought to do. The Democrats have been treated much more fairly than we were ever treated [in the minority]."
Ney has asked Democrats to provide a list of the committees they believe have reached the 1/3 ratio and those that are still lacking.
"It would be unfair for me to say what the third is," Ney said. "It needs to come from them because my perception of budget numbers may not be their perception. It's only fair."
Ney said he and his staff are communicating "by the hour" with Hoyer and the minority staff. The committee funding issue must be wrapped up by the end of March.
Even with the enormity of their requests, it is unlikely that committees will see much of what they are seeking. At the beginning of the 106th Congress, committee chairmen requested about $188.5 million and received around $180 million, a 3 percent increase.
When asked if he thought he would get the full amount he sought, Thomas replied, "Probably not."But he insisted that his initial request was not intended as a bargaining chip.
"I laid out a budget that I thought was appropriate, [and] I asked for the number of staff that I thought was appropriate," Thomas said. "I'm hopeful that since they know me, they will try to give me what I asked for."
"I didn't ask for more than I needed hoping that we would negotiate down," he continued. "I don't operate that way."
Thomas, who sat on House Administration for 20 years and served as chairman for the past six, said defending his budget in front of the committee will be quite a change.
"It's going to be different," Thomas said. "I'm going to be sitting at a lower level than I usually do when we talk about budget."
Meanwhile, across the Capitol, negotiations over committee structures began to reap some dividends, with even the most troublesome Senate panels showing signs of progress. Senate leaders grew increasingly optimistic Wednesday that a comprehensive deal would be reached this week on a two-year authorization for committee funding.
"It's really going pretty well, so I don't see it as too much of a problem," Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) said after emerging from a meeting of ranking members.
The current authorization for Senate committees expired at midnight, prompting the Senate to prepare a continuing resolution to keep the panels going for the next 10 days, according to Democratic and Republican aides.
Daschle, who focused the ranking-member meeting almost entirely on committee funding, said "less than a handful" of panels had still not agreed on the details of implementing the 50-50 power-sharing deal that he and Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) reached in early January.
The trouble spots appear to be Intelligence and Judiciary, among others.
At Judiciary, Democrats say the two sides remain far apart. Over two days of marking up the bankruptcy bill this week, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the ranking member, repeatedly protested that there had not been any substantial negotiations over the power-sharing deal.
Leahy noted that he felt Democrats had been very accommodating during the nomination of Attorney General John Ashcroft and the bankruptcy debate and that they expect Republicans to reciprocate on the committee structure.
"He signaled this is the end of the road for cooperation from Democrats," said one Democratic committee aide.
Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) vowed to set up a meeting with Leahy to discuss the matter, but as of late Wednesday no timetable had been set for a Hatch-Leahy meeting.
And Republican aides privately characterized Judiciary as much closer to finalizing a deal than Leahy and the Democrats have portrayed the situation. Jeanne Lopatto, Hatch's spokeswoman, noted that staff have been meeting on the issue every day, describing it as a "painstaking process."
"There have been meetings on this almost every day. We are working on this," she said.
Tensions appeared to be deflating at Intelligence, which had previously been marked by the most contentious fight over staffing, with Republicans claiming the equal split in workers promised in the 50-50 deal didn't apply to the technically non-partisan committee.
Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), the ranking member, declined to talk about the specifics of his negotiations with Intelligence Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) because they are so close to a final deal. "It's possible that we'll wrap it up in the next 24 to 48 hours," he said.
John Bresnahan and Ben Pershing contributed to this report.
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-- Cherri (email@example.com), March 04, 2001
Just goes to show you - you let someone spend SOMEONE ELSE'S (taxpayers) money, then they will spend and spend and spend and...
Solution - Don't give them the money in the first place.
-- dems/repubs - what's the diff (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 05, 2001.