Congress sidesteps budget cuts 

Posted: 11:12 pm Sunday, June 10th, 2012

By Jamie Dupree

After two years of making cuts in the budget of the House of Representatives, Republicans took their foot off the gas pedal last week, as the House approved a budget freeze for the office accounts of lawmakers.

The last two years, Republicans did push through an over 10 percent cut in the overall operations of the U.S. House; the total amount allocated for office accounts was cut even more at 13 percent.

But as the Congressional budget came to the House floor last Friday, GOP leaders gave the back of the hand to an amendment by two Republicans who wanted to cut $63 million more from the budgets of lawmakers.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) and Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA) offered their amendment to the House Rules Committee, but the panel that sets the parameters of floor debate did not make that $63 million cut in order on the House floor.

Standard procedure in the House is for budget bills to come to the floor with no limits on amendments – if your amendment is germane to the subject matter, you can offer it for a vote.

But, there is one exception – that’s the budget for Congress.

Why? It’s because lawmakers know that if they allowed a wide open amendment process on what Congress spends, it might mean more cutbacks than members really want.

So with only a handful of amendments allowed, lawmakers voted for what few cuts they could get their hands on:

* Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) won approval of a $1.23 million cut in funding at the U.S. Botanic Garden
* Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) was able to block an $878,000 budget increase for the Congressional Research Service
* Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) won an amendment that cut $1 million for the “Open World Leadership Center”

That was it.

While those three amendments might seem paltry to you in terms of the amount – about $3 million – I was struck by the fact that all three passed the House.

A number of the “No” votes on those three amendments actually came from Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee – the people in charge of determining how spending bills are put together in the House.

One can imagine that if the process was even more open on the House floor, a lot more would have been cut.

The outcome was just fine with GOP leaders, who note they took on big cuts in their own budget already – just not this year.

“I think a budget freeze is the appropriate course of action,” Speaker John Boehner said recently.