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Public Statements

Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2010

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Location: Washington, DC


LEGISLATIVE BRANCH APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2010 -- (House of Representatives - June 19, 2009)

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Speaker and Members, I am very proud to present the fiscal year 2010 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill to the House.

The jurisdiction of this bill is incredibly important. We, as Members, have responsibility not just for the institution, but for the staff that work for this institution, and to preserve the facilities that help support this institution. We have endeavored to do that responsibly, and I believe we have accomplished that goal.

It has been an incredible privilege and pleasure to work with my colleague, the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. Aderholt). We have crafted a bipartisan bill and worked together every step of the way. And I just wanted to acknowledge him at the very outset to thank him for all of his good work and tell him what a pleasure he has been to work with.

Madam Speaker, I also want to thank, on behalf of, if I may, the House of Representatives, all of the staff that work not just for the House of Representatives, but for every legislative branch agency because this bill is designed to support them. This bill is designed to make sure that they can do the work they need to do in order for us to be able to serve our constituents in the most effective way possible. So on behalf of the House of Representatives, if I may, both myself and Mr. Aderholt, we owe a tremendous debt to the true public servants that work here every single day on our behalf.

We, as Members of the House of Representatives, get quite a bit of the glory and the attention and the focus, but it is our staff, both the ones that work for us in our own Member offices, but also throughout this Chamber and across every legislative branch agency, that are toiling in the wilderness, so to speak, and are the unsung heroes that make the wheels of the legislative process turn, and we just can't thank them enough.

This is a bill that attempts to fulfill our responsibilities at two different levels. We really focused on two main tasks in the legislative branch bill. First, we have tried to provide the right balance of funding in a prudent way for each existing office, agency, and program so that we can support the day-to-day operations of the Congress.

The bill provides a total of $3.68 billion, which is an increase of $37 million, 6.8 percent above 2009 levels. A majority of those funds go to two of our greatest priorities within the bill: life safety issues, because, quite frankly, if we don't address the backlog of life safety and deferred maintenance that exist in all of our facilities, at some point we are not going to have the facilities to be able to work in. And the treasures of the facilities that we work in every single day is what our role is in the legislative branch. We must preserve them through the generations as they have been preserved for us to be able to work in today.

In addition, the bill, as is tradition, reserves funds, $1.025 million, for later action by the Senate on their issues to operate the Senate, and that is customary.

We have been able to provide for all mandatory cost increases and a limited number of program enhancements as well. In spite of the fact that we were able to do that, there were a number of things that we were unable to do because our focus during the markup of this bill was to fund the ``gotta haves,'' not the ``nice to haves.'' There are so many ``nice to haves'' that we could fund and that make sense and that would be appropriate, but we wanted to make sure that we crafted a frugal and fiscally responsible piece of legislation, which is why the bill, as written, is $281 million below the amount requested, which is a source of pride for all of the members of the committee.

Let me just summarize a few of the key amounts in the bill, Madam Speaker. The bill includes $1.4 billion for the operations of the House. This is an increase of $75 million, or 5.8 percent, over the 2009 enacted level, but $120 million below the amount requested. We have appropriated $660 million of this amount for the MRA.

Of interest to Members, and as was discussed during the rule, we also include within the budget an allocation for the Clerk of the House of $4.6 million to finally replace the antiquated 33-year-old voting system that we use here electronically in the Chamber so that we no longer have to have it held together by the duck tape that its inner workings are actually held together by.

$325.1 million is provided for the Capitol Police. That is sufficient to maintain their current officer strength. There was a request that we did not fund to increase the number of officers, the number or FTEs that they carry. It was felt that although the Capitol Police is working diligently towards getting their fiscal house in order--and Chief Morse is to be commended for that--they are not quite there yet. And adding to the strength of their force did not make sense, we felt, until they can make sure that they can get a handle on their overtime and get a handle on who is where in the Capitol Police structure.

$647.4 million is included for the Library of Congress. That is a 6.6 percent increase over the fiscal year 2009 enacted level. The amount provided includes $22 million for the Library to fund their high-priority initiatives, which also includes $15 million for technology upgrades.

It also includes the full amount, Members will be interested to know, that was requested for the Copyright Office. There is a tremendous backlog in the Copyright Office, which the committee has added report language to address. We are very concerned about that backlog and are going to be pushing the Copyright Office to get a handle on it, as well as full funding for the Books for the Blind program.

The bill also includes $146.2 million for the Government Printing Office, which is a 4 percent increase.

Finally, the bill includes $558.8 million for the GAO. Obviously, they have some tremendously increased responsibilities. That is a 5.2 percent increase. We need to make sure that GAO has the ability to conduct the

accountability responsibilities that they have and that they do such a good job doing.

Beyond the core funding for the day-to-day operations, Madam Speaker, of the Congress, we have largely focused on two long-term priorities as well. We are first taking a more aggressive approach to dealing with the backlog of deferred maintenance needs of our aging Capitol complex. As we have said, and I risk saying this on the House floor, this is not the sexiest of committees of the 12 Appropriations Committees, but it is one that is incredibly important in order for us to be able to preserve the institution and the facilities in the institution that we serve in. The bill includes funding for 23 high-priority projects that are requested by the Architect of the Capitol.

Beyond these immediate needs, however, the bill includes--and this is something that is a great source of pride for the members of the committee, and we want to thank Chairman Obey for his leadership on this--$60 million to establish a new Historic Buildings Revitalization Trust Fund. We have a number of major facilities projects coming up over the next few years, including the renewable of the Cannon House Office Building, which is 100 years old, as well as the restoration of the Capitol dome, which will cost in the range of $100 million. And that is not a hit that this budget can take on a year-to-year basis, so we are going to begin to bank funds that are in that trust fund and only allow the appropriation for those projects out of that trust fund.

In addition, we have tried to deal, most importantly, I think, with the challenge of retaining the best and brightest that have come to work for us in the House of Representatives. We are so fortunate to have young people who are brilliant and who put aside a lot of other opportunities to devote themselves to public service and come to work for us. But what happens is that, inevitably, because we are often not competitive in the benefits that we provide or the pay that we give them, we end up losing them. We train them, we get them ready, and we end up losing them down the road to other career alternatives.

We are committed to dealing with this retention problem in the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill, and we did several different things in order to be able to do that. We increased funding for the MRA accounts so that we can grow salaries. It is important that we be able to pay, not astronomical sums to our staff, but an appropriate amount of salary so that we can make sure we can hold on to the best and brightest that we are already able to attract.

It includes two additional benefits that are not currently provided that we felt were very important. We have been trying to get a sense from our employees what their needs are, and this bill anticipates two of those needs. We fund $3.5 million for a tuition reimbursement program for all House employees, and $1 million in child care benefits for our lower-income employees because making sure that we can take away the angst of not having quality child care or being able to afford quality child care is an important thing for us to be able to do for our valuable staff.

Again, I want to thank Mr. Aderholt, and Mr. Lewis, the ranking member of the full committee, for your incredible cooperation. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with them. And I also want to thank both of our staffs, who really work so hard every day to make us look good. These bills are not crafted over night, Madam Speaker, and there is painstaking effort and detail that goes into them, and so I want to thank Mike Stephens, the majority clerk, Dave Marroni, Matt Glassman, Liz Dawson, the minority clerk, Jenny Kisiah, Megan Medley, and Ian Rayder on my personal staff, each of whom have put in very long hours in support of this bill.

I urge all Members to support this fiscally responsible bill, which I again will remind you is millions of dollars below the request.

Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Madam Speaker, I yield myself 2 minutes just to agree wholeheartedly with the gentleman from Illinois. I am so glad that he raised the issue of staff-led tours during debate on this legislation. It is incredibly important, and it was an incredible source of frustration for me as we moved towards opening the CVC to note that it was possible that constituents of ours could come to the Capitol, take a tour, walk through this whole building, watch our proceedings in the gallery, and leave to go home, never having known or been able to identify who it is that represents them in the United States Congress.

Preserving staff-led tours is an incredibly important way for us to be able to do that. And quite frankly, just to promote staff-led tours to anyone who is interested in getting one, you can get a more unique and less homogenized tour. As good as the guide-led tours are, you can get a more tailored-to-your-State oriented tour from your Member of Congress. And I would encourage people who are interested in doing that to go through their own Member of Congress to book their reservation and get a tour of the Capitol from the person that represents you in Washington.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Madam Speaker, I do first think it is important to point out that technically the language in the motion to recommit does not specifically reduce the funding for any program at all. It simply reduces funding by $100,000 in this section of the bill. So I do think it is important to point out that the Wheels for Wellness program has not been specifically named in the motion to recommit for reduction.

That having been said, it is also important to point out that included in the report that accompanies the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill, we did express our concern about the effectiveness of the program as it is currently constructed. There are very few bikes that have been checked out, and we do believe that there needs to be a more effective plan brought forward by the CAO to ensure that if the program is going to continue to exist into the future, that more bikes be checked out and that they have an effective plan for doing that.

We are looking forward to getting that report language back and to working towards the possibility of reestablishing the funds in this section of the bill, which is all that has occurred.

But with that understanding and in anticipation of receiving that report, and recognizing the good work of our colleague, the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer) and his passionate commitment to ensuring that we get out of our cars and on to our bikes, because obviously that would reduce our carbon footprint and the carbon emissions, that is a worthwhile goal that the American people would greatly benefit from, with that, I would be glad to accept the motion to recommit.

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