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Legislative Branch Appropriations Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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

Ladies and gentlemen of the House, we bring before the House today the 2013 appropriations bill for the Legislative Subcommittee. This is a bill that spends $3.3 billion, which is approximately 1 percent less than last year. That's a $33.4 million reduction from last year.

I think all of us know that we are living in difficult economic times in this country. Taxpayers want to know that when they send their money to Washington it's being spent wisely. We also know that government needs money to provide services, but right now government needs something more. The government needs a sense of discipline to rein in spending. The government needs a commitment to make sure that every task of government is accomplished and completed in a most efficient and most effective manner, more so than ever before.

Our subcommittee took this philosophy to heart, and we had a series of hearings. We listened to the Agency heads as they came before us and talked about their needs, their wants, their priorities. We considered all of that and made some very difficult, some tough, but I think workable, decisions that allow us to move forward.

I would remind the Members that over the last two cycles we have reduced spending on the Legislative Branch Subcommittee funding bill by almost 8 percent, and after we finish this bill, we will have decreased spending by nearly 9 percent.

So let me just give you all a summary of the highlights of this bill.

First and foremost, we fund the House of Representatives at $1.2 billion. That's the same level as last year. It's the same level that was requested by the House of Representatives. When people say, ``Well, why didn't you reduce the House any further?'' I would remind Members that over the last two cycles we have reduced funding for our own House by 10.5 percent. The Members' office accounts--the so-called Members' Representational Accounts--are funded at last year's level. Once again, when people say, ``Why didn't you cut those again?'' I would remind Members that we have cut those. The appropriations have been reduced by 13.5 percent for the office accounts. That takes us back to 2008 levels, which is a substantial cut.

We have certainly led by example. We have tightened our belts. We have reined in spending, and I think we can be proud of that. We also have language that allows Members, if they don't spend all of their office account, they can reduce the national debt with their leftover funds.

The Capitol Police receive about a $20 million increase. That will allow them to reduce the backlog in training that they have. It will also alleviate some of the salary shortfalls, because this is a year where we have the two national conventions and we also have the inauguration.

The Congressional Budget Office receives a very slight increase to acquire some much-needed equipment.

The Architect of the Capitol, which we fund, actually receives the largest reduction, about a 10 percent reduction. The Architect brings to us a series of projects that he would like to see funded. We can't fund them all, but we give priority to those that deal with health and safety issues because so many people work in the Capitol complex, so many visitors come here every year.

This subcommittee was concerned about the fact that we don't have the money right now to continue the rehabilitation of the Capitol dome, that great symbol of freedom that we see every day. We have spent $19 million to begin that rehabilitation project, and it's about $100 million to finish that. I'm confident we'll find the money very shortly and complete that project.

If you look at the Library of Congress, they receive a very modest increase.

The Government Accountability Office, the so-called watchdog of this Congress, they receive a slight increase to allow them to add 21 new full-time equivalent personnel. That will allow them to continue to write the reports that they write that tell us whether we're spending the money wisely or not.

And I think it will allow them to continue to meet the ever-increasing demands that we, as Members, place on them.

The Government Printing Office receives a cut, again, for the third straight year. They're doing a much better job of dealing with binding and printing of the information that they provide for us.

So, in a nutshell, Mr. Chairman, that summarizes the bill. I want to be sure and say thank you to all the members of the subcommittee, both the Democrats and Republicans, for the work
that they put in to bring this bill before us today.

I want to say a special word of thanks to my colleague, Mr. Honda, the ranking member. I thank him for his bipartisan spirit as we work together to fund these agencies that we depend on every day.

And, finally, I certainly want to express the gratitude of all the members of the committee to our staff, both the Democratic side and the Republican side, for the tireless effort they put in to bring this bill before us.

So with that, Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. CRENSHAW. I know there is an amendment that is going to be offered by Mr. Gosar from Arizona, and I understand that he is just outside the Chamber at this very moment.

So I thought I would take a minute, while he comes to the floor, to just remind everyone of the great job that this subcommittee has done in working through all of the issues in order to bring them before the House. There are several amendments that are going to be offered here today, and we will certainly take those into consideration. From my standpoint, some of those amendments are good amendments, and there are some that I will oppose.

As we begin that process, I just want to, once again, thank everyone who has spent so much time and energy in bringing this to the House floor. In recognizing that this is the branch that funds the House of Representatives, which encompass all of the agencies that we look to to give us support, we wanted to make sure that they have adequate funds, because when they do a good job, it helps us to do a good job.

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Mr. CRENSHAW. As you know, phase one is in process, and that's the skirt of the dome. You can see some of the work that's being done there. The next phase is much more expensive. I think it's a little over $100 million. As you know, we have an inauguration that's coming. So, during the inauguration, I would hope that we wouldn't have a lot of construction going on to impair the view of that beautiful dome. It is my desire that, as soon as the inauguration is over, we can find the funds, which is a priority of this subcommittee. We might even break that up into two or three phases, but certainly that work needs to be done.

As you have often pointed out, when you look up and see that magnificent structure, it looks wonderful. But when you get up close, there are some problems that we need to deal with. We want to deal with those as soon as we can, so I think it's just a matter of priority.

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Mr. CRENSHAW. No, I don't think there is anything that makes it an emergency.

I think, clearly, like a lot of these projects that ought to be funded, the Architect has a long list of projects, and this is certainly one of those, so we want to be able to deal with that. It is a priority of this subcommittee, and we've talked about that. We want to make sure, as soon as we can, that we'll have the money to do that.

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Mr. CRENSHAW. Mr. Chairman, I want to urge my colleagues to vote against this amendment.

One of the reasons we have committee structure is so that the members of the subcommittee that I chair--and Mr. Honda is the ranking member. As I said earlier, we sit down. We listen to the AGG heads and the Architect of the Capitol, which is in charge of the budget for the Botanic Garden. They make difficult choices. They come to us, and we make difficult choices.

As I've said, we have reduced spending in the Legislative Branch Subcommittee for 3 years in a row. We are now at a point where it is almost 9 percent less than it was 3 years ago. So if you just decide you want to stand up and cut another 10 percent of this budget and then say you really like the Botanic Garden, it seems to me that this is a function of the Architect of the Capitol.

It costs $12 million a year to have the Botanic Garden. A million people a year come to visit it and enjoy the beauty. If you're just going to stand up and say, Let's just cut 10 percent across the board, let's just start with the Botanic Garden, I don't know why you don't just cut 10 percent from the Capitol Police and 10 percent from some other areas. It just seems to be shortsighted.

We've gone through this process already. The Architect of the Capitol has said, I'm not going to ask for additional money to do some of the repairs I need to do. There's a need for a new roof and there's a need for some other things. They said, We're not going to ask for that because we're operating under the philosophy that we all believe here, that we ought to do more with less; we ought to try to do the best we can. So here we are.

I would just say that they're doing a good job. They're trying to control their costs. If we cut them any further, you really cripple them. You'll say to them that they can't have as many staff members, they'll have to close the Botanic Garden certain parts of the year. I think they've done a good job of managing their money. They have not asked for more dollars.

With that, I would urge Members to defeat this amendment, and I yield 2 minutes of my time in opposition to the gentleman from California (Mr. Honda).

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Mr. CRENSHAW. I want to say thank you to the gentleman for bringing this to the attention of the House and just from an informational standpoint make Members aware that in February this House passed what we call the Printing Resolution, which calls for the printing of the pocket Constitutions that he's talking about. The other body now has that piece of legislation. Like a lot of other pieces of legislation that that body finds itself in possession of, nothing has happened.

So I think it's appropriate for some of us to encourage the other body to take up the Printing Resolution, solve the problem. And, actually, I was told just this morning that I think the point of your amendment has actually had an impact because the other body, I am told, has indicated that they plan to move ahead with the Printing Resolution that we sent them earlier this year. So I think all in all, that's been positive.

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Mr. CRENSHAW. Everything the gentleman said is true except for the fact that what we are doing in this bill is actually shutting down the Open World program. When you do that, there are some costs involved in the final shutdown, and that's why last year this was funded at $10 million. To shut down the program, we basically took away $9 million, left $1 million there to terminate the existing contracts that we have. There's some final compensation that has to be paid. They have to close some offices. There are potential unemployment claims.

And so the point of this bill is to do exactly as the gentleman suggests, and that is to shut down this program which probably at one time was a very worthwhile program and was, I guess, a program that you could afford. But in today's world, this is a program that, under this legislative subcommittee, doesn't seem to be the right place to find funding. There were attempts in the past to fund it under the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee.

But bottom line, the goal of this committee is to shut down this program because we can't afford it anymore. Even if you pass this amendment, it still costs a million dollars to shut down the program. The Congressional Budget Office scores it as a million dollars.

So I would say we ought not to pass this amendment. We ought to continue the process that has been started to shut down this program, and these dollars will be used to do just that.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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