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Public Statements

Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2005

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Location: Washington, DC


LEGISLATIVE BRANCH APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2005 -- (House of Representatives - July 12, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 707 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the consideration of the bill, H.R. 4755.

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Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise today to present the Legislative branch appropriation bill for fiscal year 2005 to the House for consideration, and I want to start by thanking not just the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Moran), my ranking member, but I wanted to say thanks to all the subcommittee staff who have worked hard to make this bill possible: Liz Dawson, who is our Chief Clerk; Chuck Turner, our Staff Assistant; Kathy Rohan; Celia Alvarado; Tom Forhan; Tim Aiken; Bill Johnson; Heather McNatt; and Jennifer Hing.

I wanted to say to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Moran), the ranking member, that I have enjoyed working with him and working with all the subcommittee members. We have put together I think a good bill. We have had a number of amendments, some committee debate on it, and I think the product is a better bill because of that.

It is a bipartisan bill and somewhat noncontroversial. I am not aware of any angst that Members have; although I know everybody would improve it here or there, given the opportunity.

This bill actually funds the House of Representatives and all the various support agencies, including the Capitol Hill Police, the Architect of the Capitol, the Library of Congress, the Government Printing Office and the General Accounting Office.

The bill is $2.7 billion, which does not include the Senate items; and traditionally we do not fill in the blanks for the Senate. They do not fill in the blanks for us.

The bill came in below the budget request and is basically flat, meaning that the size of it is about the same as what it was last year. It does, however, provide for the current staffing levels. It includes cost of living increases and other increases here and there for inflationary reasons. There are no deductions in force, and yet we have kept new initiatives off it and tried to defer funding on certain projects.

Overall, the bill started out with a request level of $3.1 billion, and we were able to work that down to the $2.7 billion,

My colleagues may also recall that the fiscal year 2004 bill was brought to the floor with a decrease from the 2003 levels. So the Subcommittee on Legislative of the Committee on Appropriations has done its best to practice fiscal restraint and try to keep the President's goal in mind of a 1 percent increase for nondefense and homeland security discretionary spending, and we are actually below that.

There are a number of important things in this bill, but what I might do is I see some Members are here to speak on it. At this point, I see the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Moran), the ranking member, is here; and I will give him an opportunity to speak.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I wanted to say, Mr. Chairman, that we have a lot of good things in this bill. We had some good subcommittee-and committee-level debates and a number of amendments. One such amendment actually encourages Members of Congress to lease or use hybrid fuel-efficiency cars. This amendment was debated and offered by the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Wamp) and successfully put on it. He is here, and he is going to address that.

Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Wamp).

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Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I want to respond to my friend from California a little bit.

Number one, this, as we all know, is an appropriation bill; and the proper place to deal with a franking issue, of course, would be on an authorizing bill. I hope that our friend is taking his concerns to the proper committee, which would be the Committee on House Administration.

But I also wanted to say, in the spirit of good government, what I would like to see is Members of Congress and the institution going out into America, into the States a little bit more. As I understand it, talking to some committee chairmen, they actually use this franking privilege in their field hearings.

I sit on the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. I used to be on the Committee on Agriculture. What is more important than our food policy out there? If we had the Committee on Agriculture going out and talking about the dairy program or the peanut program or whatever, sending out letters to people to say, come to this congressional hearing that is going to be in your neighborhood, come raise Cain with your Congressman, I think that would be a good thing.

Certainly the Committee on Ways and Means, the taxing committee, my folks down in the little briar patch that I represent would love to go out and, frankly, raise hell with everybody that writes our tax policy.

Then there is the Committee on Energy and Commerce. They control telecommunications. We passed several years ago the slamming bill. That is something that I know has affected a lot of people. If there was an opportunity for the common, everyday citizen to go to a field hearing and raise Cain about how slamming was done on their phone service, I think that would be a healthy thing.

I am not sure that a $25,000 limit would be good enough to have people come, but I think what we need is more sunshine and more public input. That is why I am hesitant to accept the $25,000 limit just on face value because I know that these notices are important. But I also know, Mr. Chairman, that the committees who use these have them signed off by the minority and the majority party and so there is a system of fairness.

Again, in terms of fiscal restraint, I want to congratulate the gentleman from California for getting an endorsement from the National Taxpayers Union, but I also want to say that this bill, we are very happy to say, is flat funding, if not a little less than last year. So we are with him at least on that angle.

Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. LaHood), who has come up through the ranks as a former staffer and worked very hard and continues to work hard on staff quality of life. One of the issues that we are facing, we lose lots of staff here on Capitol Hill. The gentleman from Illinois has worked tirelessly to protect the quality of life for somebody who works here.

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Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Kirk), another distinguished member of the subcommittee who is also a former staffer, as the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. LaHood) said, and has worked on not just the issue of quality of life for staffers and the gym but also one that has to do with our security around here, the Capitol Hill police, the use of horses, among other things.

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Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Chairman, I want to say to my friend from California, I understand he has a motion to recommit, and we will debate it a little bit more then, but I certainly think there is a lot to say about it. Again, one of our things is that the Committee on House Administration needs to be doing the authorizing on that.

Mr. Chairman, this bill does have a lot of good things in it. It includes one thing that I did not mention, that we are asking the Architect of the Capitol to contract out the management of the Capitol power plant as a private entity. We are doing that in the spirit of how can we lead the way to continue to make the Capitol a little more efficient.

We are also asking for a review of the legislative branch agencies. Some of the heads of these agencies are appointed by the President. Some have a 10-year term. Some have a 14-year term. Some have the approval of the Senate. Some have the approval of the Senate and the House. We just think that it is time to review some of these things. They have a different retirement program.

There are a lot of proposals out there. The Capitol Hill Police Chief, for example, for whom I have a lot of respect, has suggested that we build a wall around the U.S. Capitol. The gentleman from California (Mr. Farr), among others, has made sure that we have language in our bill to say that we do not want a wall around the U.S. Capitol compound. We want people to be able to get in here.

We have taken a look at everything under our jurisdiction in a very serious way and just asked the questions, can we do it better? I will submit many of the changes that we have recommended for the record.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I want to certainly thank the gentleman from New Jersey for bringing this up, as he has spoken to me many times about it. However, I am unable to support it at this time, but I wanted to compliment him. I understand in his district there is a popular bumper sticker that says: "My congressman is a rocket scientist," and I think probably the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Holt) and maybe the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Burns), who is our one member of the Fulbright Scholarship Alumni Association, have some of the greatest intellectual capacity of this body.

However, some background in terms of the Office of Technology Assessment. In 1995 on a bipartisan level, we eliminated it, and the belief at that time was that there were other committees that we could turn to to get technology studies and technology assessment. Some of these, for example, are the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council. All of them have hundreds of people who are technically educated. And then in addition to that, there are 3,273 people at the General Accounting Office and 729 at the Congressional Research Service. We have not suffered because of the loss of technology assessment. It is perhaps true that we could rearrange some of the food on the plate and make sure that it does not get shuffled to the back burner; but if my colleagues think about it, Mr. Chairman, we actually have thousands of people out there doing studies, and we just need to make sure that this does not fall through the cracks.

As a result of eliminating the Office of Technology Assessment, we have saved $274 million, which is serious money in tight budget times, and that is money that we can put into many other worthy causes; and, of course, that is what the debate is all about.

In terms of the specifics of the Holt amendment, it reduces the Architect's office $15 million and the printing office another $15 million; and the problem with that is in terms of the Architect, we are actually almost 13 percent below their budget request. If we did cut them an additional $15 million, it would be a 19 percent reduction, which would result in the RIF, or the reduction in force, of about 67 people, and this comes from the Architect's office; and it would slow down a number of the projects that they are working on. And goodness knows, one of the projects that we want to get finished as a committee is the Capitol Visitors Center. We want to get that done as quickly as possible. A reduction of 67 people could hurt making those deadlines.

In terms of the printing office, we have reduced this account by about 2 percent below last year's level. If we accept the Holt amendment, it would result in an additional cut of 17 percent. And these are things that have to be done anyhow, Congressional Records, bills, resolutions, amendments, hearing volumes and reports and so forth; and that is what the printing office does with that.

So with those words, Mr. Chairman, I urge Members to reject the Holt amendment.

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Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Chairman, I claim the time in opposition.

The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Kingston) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, I want to say to my friend from Colorado that, as he knows, I always appreciate his "let's go at it one more time and try to find some more money to reduce," and I have in the past supported a number of the Hefley amendments. This one, however, I find myself on the opposite side of and have to oppose.

The reason I have to oppose this, Mr. Chairman, is that we on the House control the House side. The Senate controls the Senate side. If we were to accept the Hefley amendment, this would tie one of our hands behind our back in terms of a level playing field with the Senate. This would result in a $10 million cut to the House.

One of the problems that we have as House Members is we often lose our staff to the Senate because they see bigger responsibility, bigger title, but most importantly, bigger salary, and we have to keep our salary levels up in order to maintain good people on the House side. That alone makes me say I think we have to hold off on this.

There are other reductions that would come from this bill, I think approximately $27 million total, so another $17 million would come out of the Architect and the Library of Congress and so forth. But we have already cut those from their requests, in many cases from their last year's funding level, and I am not sure we could get another $17 million out of there. If we could go back and find it, though, I would certainly support the Hefley amendment, but at this point we are not able to do so.

I want to point out one example. We are trying to privatize the power plant, which we think it would be a good thing in terms of streamlining the Office of the Architect. Things like that we are doing in the spirit of fiscal restraint, and we are going to continue on that pathway. But, unfortunately, at this time we have to reject his amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I yield the balance of my time to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Moran).

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