What Leg. Branch Receives in the Third Supplemental

Last week Congress enacted its third Coronavirus supplemental bill in an effort to stabilize the country. The legislation limped out of Congress, requiring unusual voting procedures, a stifling of debate, and an almost unprecedented level of unanimity.

The Senate supplemental bill totals $2 trillion, the largest stimulus in our history. While the bill addresses somes issues critical to the preservation of life and functionality of the country —  while missing others — Congress failed to provide sufficient funding for the Legislative Branch to ensure it can continue to operate during the crisis. 

The appropriations division of the Senate’s bipartisan coronavirus aid and economic relief agreement contains $330 billion in new funding. Title IX of S. 3548 includes $93.1 million in funding for the Legislative Branch, a number that is far too low. It represents roughly 1/2000 of the expenditure.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • The Senate received $10 million, one million to the Sergeant at Arms for teleworking and technology costs, and nine million miscellaneous emergency and staff reimbursement funding for child care center Senate employees starting on April 1, 2020. 
  • The House received $25 million that will remain available until September 30, 2021, for salaries and expenses related to teleworking capabilities like equipment and online network improvements. 
  • The Office of Attending Physician received $400,000 to help purchase medical supplies and protective equipment. 
  • U.S. Capitol Police will receive $12 million to maintain its current staffing levels and increase its teleworking support, even after USCP said they are not testing all of its officers for coronavirus
  • The Architect of the Capitol received $25 million to bulk purchase cleaning supplies and provide contracts to its employees. 
  • The Library of Congress received $700,000 to help reimburse the cost of staffing LOC’s Little Scholars Child Development Center. This will remain available until September 30, 2020. 
  • The Government Accountability Office received $20 million to conduct oversight. $600,000 of the funds will go to reimburse costs for staffing GAO’s Tiny Findings Child Development Center starting April 1 and ending September 30, 2020.

These funding levels are insufficient to fund the legislative branch based on current funding requirements, let alone to support the surge to remote working. The legislative branch has systematically been underfunded over the previous three decades, and it is not capable of providing the necessary support to personal, committee, leadership, support office, and support agency staff, let alone to address the broad oversight and constitutional challenges arising from the rushed expenditure of $2Trillion. Congress must provide more funds for the legislative branch in its next supplemental to adequately address these shortcomings. 

— Written by Daniel Schuman and Taylor J. Swift