By Taylor J. Swift, senior policy advisor
The House proposes to appropriate $6.746 billion towards the Legislative branch, a 2.2% reduction from FY 23, according to a statement released by Appropriations Committee Republicans. Excluding the Senate amount, the remaining $5.313 billion in discretionary appropriations reflects a $252 million or 4.5% cut from the FY 23 enacted, according to the Committee. By comparison, the inflation rate for the 12 months ending in April was 4.9%, so this represents a cut in real terms in funding for the Legislative branch.
We reviewed the draft bill text released on Tuesday by the subcommittee and compared each line item against historical norms. Our findings on that line by line review are below. In a future blogpost, we will review the policy requests included in the accompanying committee report, which will not be released to the public until just before the full committee markup.
In summary, with the ongoing fight over the debt ceiling and calls by Republican leadership to decimate discretionary non-defense funding, this austere bill is likely as favorable to rebuilding a strong Congress as one could hope. Even with these cuts, Congress will retain much of its current capabilities to legislate, conduct oversight, and serve constituents, even as it refrains from providing itself additional needed strength.
We and our civil society colleagues recommended dozens of items to include as part of the bill text and committee report — see our FY 2024 Appropriations requests, FY 2024 appropriations testimony, and 2022 report on updating House Rules. You can watch the hearing here and don’t miss our resources on historical Legislative branch appropriations bills.
You can compare FY 2024 draft line item funding for FY 2021 versus FY 2022 versus FY 2023 by looking at our spreadsheet here. It also is embedded below.
The key funding features of this legislation include:
Generally flat funding for personal, committee, and leadership office operations and interns.
The House saw flat funding for Member Representational Allowance (MRA) at $810 million. This funding comes after a historic 21% increase in the MRA in FY 2022 and 4.6% increase in FY 2023, which restored overall funding levels to their 2010 levels, accounting for inflation. We note that with higher inflation combined with optional member reimbursements for work-related housing and travel, these accounts may come under some strain.
The House retained $24.3 million in funding for paid interns for Member, Committee, Appropriations, and Leadership offices for FY 2024. While this is a flat funding level, it is an increase over FY 22, which was $18.1 million. Personal offices will be able to provide $46,800 per member office for interns, which helps to provide a living wage for interns during their tenure.
This bill appears to zero out the important Office of Diversity and Inclusion, an office designed to ensure the House is a welcoming environment to all staff and provide important data about staff pay, retention, and diversity. However, the Republican summary document suggests the office and its functions may be rolled into the Chief Administrative Office. We will have to see what is in the accompanying committee report. Democrats, in their statement, suggest that the ODI’s funding has been zeroed out.
Support offices receive nominal increases that do not fully make up for inflation.
The Clerk’s Office saw a slight increase in funding compared to FY 23, to $41.4 million (+1.5%). The Clerk needs funding to support its technology operations and ongoing modernization initiatives. The Chief Administrative Office, which continues to produce great work around staff and member training, saw a $1.5 million (+0.7%) increase to $213 million in FY 24.
We also note increases for the important, and comparatively inexpensive, Office of Parliamentarian at $2.2 million (+2.5%), Legislative Counsel at $14.6 million (+9%), and Law Revision Counsel at $3.9 million (+4.1%).
The House Sergeant at Arms received flat funding, at $38 million. The Office of Congressional Workplace Rights also saw flat funding at $8 million in FY 2024.
The House Modernization Initiative fund was retained $10 million, helping to provide funds for support offices to implement and fulfill modernization-related recommendations and operations.
Support agencies receive nominal increases that do not fully make up for inflation.
The Government Accountability Office saw a slight increase in funding, a $15.7 million increase to $806 million (+1.9%), although it is significantly below its historical funding levels when adjusted for inflation. Increases in funding for GAO has a high probability of leading to substantial long run savings — GAO estimates that every dollar spent on GAO has a 145x return on the investment.
The Library of Congress saw salaries and expenses remain essentially flat at $582 million (+.01%). However, the Congressional Research Service slightly increased to $135.7 million (+1.6%).
The Congressional Budget Office increased to $64.6 million (+2.2%), and the Government Publishing Office is now at $82.9 million, although the actual amount is unclear because of how the revolving door fund works.
Capitol Police receive another significant funding increase.
The Capitol Police combined salaries and expenses will receive an additional $46.3 million, or an 8.6% increase, from $734.6 million (FY 23) to $780.9 million (FY 24). The Capitol Police have seen gigantic increases in funding over the last few years. Starting in FY 21, their funding for salaries and general expenses have jumped from $515 million to $602 million to $734 million to $780 million. This is an unsustainable growth rate in the otherwise slow growing Legislative branch budget.
Even so, the appropriations number is $69.5 million less than the $115.8 million in new funds requested by the department. As has been discussed elsewhere, including at Tuesday’s House Administration Committee hearing, the Capitol Police suffer from dire management, organization, and training deficiencies that no amount of money can remediate.
Return to normal for the Architect of the Capitol and elsewhere.
The bill provides the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) with $798.1 million, $332.3 million less than FY23. However, we note that the FY 23 funding level was anomalously high, $1.3 billion, with the vast majority of that bump for security purposes. In FY 22, the AOC received $782 million, which is close to the current appropriated level.
We also note that the Republican statement says the bill includes funding for the top 10 most critical infrastructure projects requests as identified by the AOC.
The House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee will mark up this legislation on May 17, 2023, after which it will receive a full committee markup. Amendments are possible in the subcommittee and in the full committee. Republicans are promising an open amendment process on the floor, but we will see whether that occurs.
The items that the House shares with the Senate, specifically the joint committees and the support agencies, will be subject to negotiation with the Senate, and those numbers may be adjusted. We also may see an adjustment in the top line level for the Legislative Branch.