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Public Statements

Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CRENSHAW. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman and ladies and gentlemen of the House, this is the funding bill for the Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch of the Appropriations Committee for 2012.

Everybody knows that we are in the midst of some very difficult economic times. I don't need to tell the Members that we have had deficits of over $1 trillion for the last couple of years. I don't need to tell people that we've had about $4 trillion added to our national debt in the last 2 1/2 years. We all know that we have $14 trillion of national debt, and that equals our entire economy.

The one thing that everyone would agree on is that we just can't keep spending like that. That's just not sustainable. Everyone says that. So we bring this bill in the midst of that kind of discussion, and we want to try to do our part in getting a handle on the way we spend money around this place. We want to try to stop this culture of spending and turn it into a culture of savings.

So when we bring this bill, this Legislative Branch appropriations bill, it will spend 6.4 percent less than last year. That's $227 million. It will spend 14.2 percent less than what was requested, that's $474 million.

Now, it's our best effort to keep the commitment that we're going to try to do things more efficiently and more effectively than we have before. How do we do that? Well, we listen to the facts. We had eight formal hearings. We had numerous informal hearings. We listened, we set priorities, we made some tough choices, and we have the bill before us.

I certainly want to thank the members of the subcommittee for their involvement, for their participation, for their hard work, for their input. And a
special word of thanks to Mike Honda from California, the ranking member, who was involved in the process all along the way and knows the difficult choices that we had to make.

I certainly want to thank our staff, both the majority and minority staff. A lot of times we go home at night and they stay and keep on working, and they helped us get to where we are today to have this final product.

Now, let me just give you some of the highlights of this bill.

If you look at the legislative branch, about 36 percent of the spending goes to the House of Representatives. That's where we are tonight. Half of the money that goes to the House goes to what we call Members' representational accounts, the so-called MRAs. And so we thought that since we've asked every agency in the Federal Government to rein in spending, we've asked them all to tighten their belt, to do more with less, to be more efficient than they ever have been before, we've subjected them to this kind of scrutiny, and we thought it would only be fair to apply that same process to us. That's why the MRAs in this House are reduced by 6.4 percent. All of the committee staff budgets, they are reduced by 6.4. The leadership budgets are reduced by 6.4 percent.

Now, those MRAs, that's money that's taxpayers' money. We have it available to us to run our offices. We can hire staff. We can lease space. We can buy equipment. We can do a lot of things. We have a lot of discretion.

Now, some people say we shouldn't cut the MRAs. Some people say we cut them too much, that we can't continue to do our job. Well, it seems to me that if we're going to ask every other agency of the Federal Government to do more with less, then we've got to look at our own selves, and that's what we've done here. We've said that we want to lead by example. We want to share in the sacrifice that everyone is sharing throughout the Federal Government. And that's why we did what we did.

Some people say, well, we might have to fire somebody. Again, Members have the money available to them. They can decide how they want to spend it. If they want to have lots of staff, they can have lots of staff. If they want to send lots of mail out, they can send lots of mail out. The MRAs even allow Members to lease a car. There will be an amendment later on to say you can't lease a car if it costs more a thousand dollars a month.

So when you hear people say this is going to make it very difficult for us to do our job, I think what it's going to do is make us as Members be more responsible, be more efficient, set the right priorities and continue to do our job. Because some people say we ought to cut even more.

But I would say that if you look at the facts, we've cut this legislative branch funding by 9 percent over the last 2 years. We cut the MRAs again. Last year we cut them 5 percent. The Appropriations Committee was cut by 9 percent last year. And so I think we've struck a balance between doing more with less, being more efficient, and yet being able to do the things that we need to do in a very efficient and a very safe manner.

Now, there are other agencies that we oversee, and some are extensions of the House, so to speak. The Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office, these are agencies that provide service to the Members of this body. And as extensions of the House, we felt like they should be subject to the same scrutiny that we were. Their budgets are going to be reduced by 6.4 percent as well. That means they are going to have to be a little smarter, set priorities, work more efficiently.

Actually, as Members, Mr. Chairman, we're going to have to be more judicious in the things that we ask from these agencies. Sometimes we just willy-nilly say, I want a report here, I want a report there. We need to decide what we really need and what we don't necessarily need, and I think they will be able to continue to do the job that they've been doing all along to supply us with the information we need to be effective Members of this body.

We also oversee the Library of Congress, a wonderful historic building that you can see from this House of Representatives. Very important to us. Their budget has been reduced. They are working with us to make sure that they can continue to provide the services that we need.

We oversee the Architect of the Capitol. He's charged with overseeing over a million square feet of offices all across this Capitol Hill. His budget is being cut, and he's got a list of the projects he needs to do. He's set a priority there, and he will do what needs to be done, but he'll make sure that he doesn't impair the health and the safety of any Members of this House, any staff, or the people that work on the Hill.

We reduced the budget of the Government Printing Office.

Finally, we oversee the Capitol Police. And a lot has been said about our ability to make sure that we're safe in this area. We didn't reduce the spending for the Capitol Police. We recognize that security is not a luxury; it's something that we need. But we also realize that Members can be more diligent, we can be more aware.

What we learned from this situation in Arizona with our fellow Congresswoman is that our service is not without risk, but many of the things that we need to do from a security standpoint have to do with our own common sense, our own awareness, our own diligence.

So we provide the Capitol Police with the money that they need to not only make sure that we are safe in this House, our staff, and those that work in the Capitol complex are safe, but also the millions of Americans that come here, to make sure they're safe as well.

So I think, Mr. Chairman, we have a bill that strikes the right balance. We recognize the difficult times we're in. We've taken the money we have available. We've set priorities. We made some tough choices. And I think this bill represents some fiscally responsible savings that will allow us to continue to do our job, to do it in a safe and efficient manner. As we have put all of these agencies around the Federal Government under this scrutiny to see if they can do things more efficiently, we have not exempted ourselves.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CRENSHAW. I yield myself 1 minute.

Mr. Chairman, we just had an amendment that reduced the funding by $630,000. Now we have an amendment that will reduce it by 26 percent. I would suggest that that is a little bit extreme.

We as a subcommittee looked at all the agencies that we oversee. We reduced spending, as I said earlier, by 6.2 percent. Some agencies were cut more than others. The Botanic Garden at less than $600,000 will be at the current spending level this year. We feel like that needs to be where it is so they can continue to do the job they do. With a million people coming there, I think it's important, and I don't think we should cut it another 26 percent.

I reserve the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CRENSHAW. I thank the gentleman for bringing all of these issues to our attention; but I want to direct him to United States Code, title 44, which basically directs the Government Printing Office to do the things that they do. So, if the gentleman is concerned, I'd suggest the first thing he do is read title 44 and find out what is required by Congress. If we change that, we might be able to change some of the printing that goes on.

The Government Printing Office only produces what it is ordered to produce by Congress. I think we all know that we've already cut their budget by 16 percent, and I don't know what's magic about the last 4.3 percent. I think our subcommittee, through a series of hearings and informal hearings, looked at the facts. We set some priorities, and we said we're going to reduce the funding by 16 percent. We detail in our report some of the things that are of interest to us. We actually are going to take a look at privatizing the entire Government Printing Office, but once again, so much of that is driven by this title 44.

Already GPO has announced a buyout program. They're going to reduce their workforce by 15 percent through this buyout program. That's 330 positions. And any further significant changes are going to require a change in this printing law.

So while I think the gentleman makes some good points, I simply want to say that we looked at the facts. We reduced the spending by 16 percent. We think that's appropriate.

So I would urge a "no'' vote on this amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CRENSHAW. I yield myself such time as I might consume and simply to say that the subcommittee looked at this. We have concerns. We reduced spending by 16 percent. If you want to have any more significant savings, you are going to have to change the printing laws that are there in chapter 54.

So I would simply say I think we've done a good job of what we're trying to do. We are looking for ways. And remember, they print what they're asked to print. When GAO asks them to print something, they pay for it. A lot of people say that we ought to just privatize the whole thing, and that's something we're thinking about doing.

But I think we've cut down sufficiently. I think they can still do their job. They don't need any further cuts. I would urge a "no'' vote.

I yield back the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CRENSHAW. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

What are we going to do about three-color mailers? How about two-color mailers?

I appreciate what the gentleman is trying to do, and we have rules and regulations in this House, but I don't think we ought to micromanage these MRA accounts. We've talked a lot about them, about the fact that we have reduced them by 6.4 percent, and people have said, gee, I might have to lay off somebody; or now we learn that, since you can lease a car, they might have to give up the lease on their car.

Some people say, I love to send out mail, and whether they send out mail on their letterhead--actually, that might cost more than a postcard. I guess under this amendment you couldn't send out a postcard--it's a little bit cheaper--because it wasn't printed on special stationery.

So I really don't think we ought to get in the business of saying what we can send out and what we can't send out. As long as the Members comply with the rules of this House, if they want to spend more money on a more attractive piece of mail that people might very well read, then they ought to be free to do that. If they want to print it on official stationery in blue or black or whatever color ink they want to use, they ought to be able to do that.

Some people think if you put a picture or a chart, people might pay more attention. And if you look at the rules of this House, we've got rules and regulations of how big the charts can be, how big the pictures can be, how big the letters in your name can be. Because I think the point is that we want to communicate with our constituents. If we want to mail them a newsletter, I think we ought to be able to do that, and it ought to be in a way that they would like to read it.

So I don't think we ought to get into the business of telling the Members exactly what they can do and when they can do it and what color it is. I think the rules of this House provide adequate protection, and so I have to oppose my good friend's amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CRENSHAW. Mr. Chairman, this is similar to the last amendment. Members have an MRA. They can spend the money as long as it is under the rules of the House. They can hire staff. They can travel back and forth to their districts, and they can send out letters. And now that we have the Internet, you can use the Internet to communicate with your constituents.

We shouldn't prohibit communication from a Member to a constituent. Certainly no one believes that you ought to be able to use taxpayer dollars to buy political advertising, but I think the rules allow a Member to notify constituents of a town meeting coming up. He can send out a postcard or a four-color flier. He can send out a letter on his letterhead. If a Member wants to announce that they are seeking applications for appointments to military academies, they can notify people by mail or on the Internet.

So I think we have adequate rules and regulations that make sure that we are not abusing the taxpayers' dollars. And remember, these are dollars that are provided to the Members; and so when you micromanage how they spend it, it doesn't save any money. It just adds a layer of us telling Members how they can do things. And that is not our business.

Again, I urge we defeat this amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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