The Senate sent the wrong message to taxpayers today as it voted to maintain funding for a special Senate "working group" that produces little work, rarely meets, and is mostly used to supplement staff salary budgets. U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., joined 43 of his colleagues in voting for an amendment offered by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., that would strike the National Security Working Group's annual $700,000 annual budget, saving nearly $3 million over a four year period. The amendment failed 44-53.
"At a time when Congress is asking the American people and parts of the federal government to make and live with small cuts to their budget, exempting a staff salary slush fund from cuts doesn't make sense," said Enzi. "We have a responsibility to be stewards of every tax dollar. All Senate offices and committees are required by the sequester to cut their budgets and this group should be no different."
The National Security Working Group is a group of 20 members selected by the majority and minority leaders. It is comprised of the two leaders, a majority and minority administrative co-chair, five co-chairs (three majority and 2 minority), and 11 members (five majority and six minority). The leaders and administrative co-chairs each receive $100,000 annually in supplemental salary funding for their offices, and the co-chairs each receive $60,000 annually. The other 91 Members of the Senate receive no funding.
According to information supplied by Senator Paul, the working group was originally constituted as the Senate Arms Control Observer Group in 1985, and was rebranded in 1999 as the Senate National Security Working Group. The original stated purpose was to provide Senate observers to arms control treaty negotiations with the Soviet Union. There is little evidence of work from the group in recent years with funds mainly being used to supplement the salary budgets of the group.