By Taylor J. Swift, senior policy advisor
On Thursday, July 13, the full Senate Appropriations Committee reported out the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill and report 30-0. Unfortunately, the bill text, manager’s amendment, and committee report didn’t come out until Friday morning, the day after the markup.
The Senate proposed to appropriate $6.761 billion towards the Legislative branch, a 2% reduction from $6.899 FY23 enacted level. This number aligns with the Senate Appropriations Committee initial 302(b) suballocations, which were approved on June 22. By comparison, the inflation rate for the 12 months ending in June was 3.0%, so this represents a cut in real terms in funding for the Legislative branch. Additionally, the House Appropriations full committee favorably reported out its FY24 Legislative Branch bill in May, which appropriated $6.746 billion, a difference of $15 millon from the Senate version. You can read more about the House bill’s funding numbers here.
We reviewed the bill text released on Friday morning 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 FY24 Senate Legislative Branch Appropriation bill report.
In summary, the Senate looked to bolster congressional security, operations, and staff resources with this bill. Given the ongoing back-and-forth with the House, the Senate made it clear they want Congress to retain much of its current capabilities to legislate, conduct oversight, and serve constituents.
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 and our FY 2024 appropriations testimony. You can watch the full Senate Appropriations Committee markup here and don’t miss our resources on historical Legislative branch appropriations bills. We also have a comprehensive write-up of the House version here.
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:
Slight increase in funding for personal, committee, and leadership office operations, but no new money for interns.
The Senate saw a slight increase in funding for the Senators’ Official Personnel and Office Expense Account (SOPOEA) at $534.5 million, a 4.4% increase from FY23.
The Senate retained $7 million in funding for paid interns for personal offices for FY 2024. We note the no money was allocated for intern funding for committees, something that a group of civil society organizations — led by Pay Our Interns and co-signed by Demand Progress — has been calling on the Senate to implement. During Thursday’s markup, Sen. Schatz spoke up about the absence of this committee intern funding in the bill and asked that the chamber work to resolve this issue in the future.
Support offices receive nominal increases.
The Senate Sergeant at Arms a decent funding increase at $7.2 million (+6.7) to $116.2 million. The Office of the Secretary also saw a $1 million (+3.4%) increase in funding to $30.28 millon.
We also note nominal increases for the important, and comparatively inexpensive, Office of Parliamentarian at $2.2 million (+2.5%), Senate Legislative Counsel at $8.4 million (+3.8%), and Senate Legal Counsel at $1.3 million (+1.1%). The Office of Congressional Workplace Rights also saw a 3.75% increase at $8.3 million in FY 2024.
Support agencies receive nominal increases that do not fully make up for inflation.
The Government Accountability Office saw a slight increase in funding, a $23.6 million increase to $813.9 million (+2.9%), 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 saw a 2.3% increase to $596.1 million. The Congressional Research Service was also slightly increased to $136 million (+1.8%).
The Congressional Budget Office saw a decently large increase to $70.1 million (+10.9%), and the Government Publishing Office is now at $83 million, although the actual amount is unclear because of how the revolving door fund works.
We also note that the account charged with Inquires and Investigations ordered by the Senate saw a 21.3% increase from $145.5 million for FY23 to $176.6 million for FY24.
Capitol Police receives a large funding increase yet again.
The Capitol Police combined salaries and expenses will receive an additional $57.9 million, or an 7.3% increase, from $734.6 million (FY 23) to $792.5 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 $57.9 million less than the $115.8 million in new funds requested by the department. As has been discussed elsewhere, the Capitol Police suffer from dire management, organization, and training deficiencies that no amount of money can remediate.
Senate Full Appropriations Committee Chair Murray and Ranking Member Collins say the goal is to send all FY24 funding bills to the floor by the end of July. Senate appropriators plan to mark up THUD, Energy-Water and SFOPs on July 20. Meanwhile, the House side has introduced all 12 of their FY24 funding bills, in addition to at least moving those measures through their respective subcommittees. Both chambers plan to move the appropriations bills individually on the floor through regular order. Accomplishing all that by the end of the month remains to be determined.