Appropriations Committee approves FY18 Legislative Branch bill

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Appropriations Committee approves FY18 Legislative Branch bill

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 2:23pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine The fiscal year 2018 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill provides $3.171 billion in discretionary budget authority, excluding items pertaining solely to the House, which total an additional $1.319 billion.  Total funding accommodated in the bill is $4.490 billion, which is $50 million more than the fiscal 2017 enacted level and $192 million less than budget request.

The bill provides critical increases for the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office, the United States Capitol Police, the Architect of the Capitol, and cybersecurity initiatives for Senate networks.

Senator Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), Ranking Member of the Legislative Branch Subcommittee, said:

“This bill makes sure important agencies, like the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office, can do their job. It also makes new critical investments in physical security and cybersecurity. However, funding in the bill is still far below the level needed to make up for years of stagnant budgets. This bill is a step forward, but we need a bipartisan budget deal that does more to support effective oversight over Congress and the Executive Branch and to make meaningful progress on the backlog of building safety projects."

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee said:

“I want to thank Chairman Lankford and Ranking Member Murphy for their work on this bill, which supports Congress’ oversight responsibility and the men and women of the Capitol Police.  I am especially glad that this bill will make Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports available to the public, something I have long supported.  These reports are tax payer funded and provide valuable information that should be made available to citizens, schools and libraries across the country.  However, constrained by the irresponsible budget caps put in place by the Budget Control Act, we could and should be doing more to make sure we have the resources needed to fulfill our legislative oversight responsibilities.  We can do more, and we must reach a bipartisan budget agreement before this process is completed.”

Key Points & Highlights

·         Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  The Congressional Budget Office provides the objective, timely and non-partisan analyses needed to inform Congress’s economic and budgetary deliberations.  The bill provides $48.1 million for CBO, $1.6 million more than fiscal year 2017 enacted level to continue providing high-quality analyses that are greatly valued by Congress and the public.  Additional funding will support four additional staff to support healthcare analysis, economic analysis, and budgetary scorekeeping given increasing demands on the agency.

·         Government Accountability Office (GAO).  As Congress’s independent and nonpartisan “watchdog,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) audits and evaluates federal agencies to improve government efficiency and effectiveness and root out waste, fraud and abuse.  The bill provides $562.8 million for GAO, $18.3 million more than the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.  Funding provided will maintain current staffing levels, but it will not add additional audit and investigative capacity as requested by GAO.

·         Physical Security.  The United States Capitol Police provide security and law enforcement for the Capitol complex and protection for Members of Congress.  The bill provides $422.5 million for the United States Capitol Police, $29.2 million more than the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.  This funding will allow the Capitol Police to deploy approximately 120 more officers in accordance with the budget request.  Additional funding is provided in the bill to address concerns related to security for Members of Congress following the shooting earlier this year in Alexandria, Va.  This funding will support enhanced threat analysis and intelligence capabilities as well as additional law enforcement equipment.

·         Cybersecurity.  Providing state-of-the-art cybersecurity for Senate networks and equipment is critical to block state-sponsored attacks, prevent insider threats and ensure the privacy of deliberations and communications involved in the legislative process. The bill provides $208.6 million for the Senate Sergeant At Arms, $11.2 million more than the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.  This additional funding is allocated for investments in cybersecurity capabilities to protect Senate networks and Senators’ Personal Office systems and to provide additional cybersecurity training to Senators and their staff.  In addition, an increase in funding is provided to support a 1 percent increase for each Senators’ office allocation in acknowledgement of increasing costs related to providing cybersecurity to Senators’ offices.

·         Building Safety and Maintenance.  The Architect of the Capitol maintains all of the buildings within the Capitol complex to ensure the safety of constituents, visitors, staff and Members of Congress. The bill provides $454 million, excluding items solely pertaining to the House.  This funding will help alleviate part of the deferred maintenance backlog identified by the agency.

·         Public Access to CRS Reports.  In keeping with the Committee’s priority of full transparency to the American people, the bill directs the Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service (CRS) to make available to the public all non-confidential CRS reports.  CRS reports are funded by taxpayers and should be made available to citizens, schools and libraries across the country.  Explicit protections are provided for reports prepared in direct response to a Congressional office request for custom analysis or research.

Murphy Amendment

Senate Appropriations Committee Republicans Thursday rejected the funding amendment offered by Senator Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.) to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill that would have increased non-defense spending by $100 million. The amendment was the latest in a push by Committee Democrats to demand investments that support the American people. The Democrats’ proposal would ultimately increase defense spending in fiscal year 2018 by $54 billion above post-sequester spending caps, mandated by the Budget Control Act, and provide an equal increase in non-defense programs – a budget and policy approach known as “parity.” The text and breakdown of the Murphy Amendment is available HERE.  Highlights in the Murphy Amendment rejected by Committee Republicans included:

·         $30 million to enable GAO to hire 250 additional staff, the level identified by the nonpartisan Comptroller General of the United States as the optimal level to carry out the audits and investigations needed to respond to Congressional demand for oversight.  Investing in GAO generates savings for the taxpayer.  In the last fiscal year alone, GAO generated over $63 billion dollars in financial benefits – a return of $112 for every $1 invested in the agency.   

·         $25 million for life safety projects within Capitol buildings, including removing fire hazards from kitchens built in the 1860s and rectifying a fire marshal citation related to lack of egress within the vast stacks of the Library of Congress.

·         Fully restore cuts that have been in place since 2011 to Senators’ office budgets to the total amount authorized in current law.  These funds would support Senators’ constitutional duties to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch and conduct legislative business. A strong Legislative Branch is crucial to ensuring that the balance of power envisioned in the Constitution is fully maintained.

Source: WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, July 27, 2017) –  Leahy