Ryan statement at full committee markup of 2018 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill
Thank you, Chairman Yoder. Let me reiterate how much I appreciate the way you’ve run our subcommittee and the way you’ve included me in the process. You’ve sought my input and really tried to make writing the Legislative Branch appropriations bill a collaborative process as much as possible. That process has given us a bill we can both support and be proud of, even if our preferences differ in a few areas.
I know the working relationship between your subcommittee staff and mine has also been collaborative and bipartisan. I would like to thank Liz Dawson, Jenny Panone [pah-KNOWN], and Tim Monahan from the majority staff, Joe Eannello [ee-ah-NELL-oh] from your office, Adam Berg on the minority staff, and Anne Sokolov and Ryan Keating from my office. As a former staffer, I know how hard they work. Their nights and weekends spent at the office show in this bill.
And of course I want to thank Ranking Member Lowey and Chairman Frelinghuysen for their support and leadership.
As has been noted, the fiscal year 2018 Legislative Branch appropriations bill before us provides $3.58 billion for the Legislative Branch of the Federal government, excluding the Senate. This is a 2.87% increase over the level in the 2017 omnibus.
The bill provides $1.194 billion for the House of Representatives, which is the same level as fiscal year 2017 plus $5 million extra given to the Sergeant at Arms for the security of Members, staff, and visitors to our offices in light of the recent, tragic shooting at a Congressional baseball game practice. I’m thankful that our colleague Congressman Scalise is improving, the officers and staff injured are recovering, and no one other than the attacker was killed. Hopefully with these resources we can prevent the next potential incident entirely.
The bill also provides $347.7 million for the Capitol Police, a $29.2 million increase, which includes $7.5 million for overtime, equipment and training requested in the wake of the shooting, as well as the funding the Police asked for to bring on more civilians and the maximum number of new sworn officers next year. Our goal is to give them the resources they need to maintain security on the Capitol campus and also increase their coverage of Members and gatherings of Members that might be targeted.
As I noted at Subcommittee markup, and as I’m sure my colleagues understand as acutely as I do, the recent shooting has made everyone out there realize how few of us actually have details to protect us. Until this month there was definitely an impression among the public that we all had men with dark glasses and earpieces guarding us. Now that the news accounts of the shooting have made clear that’s not the case unless you’re in leadership, there’s no telling how many unbalanced people out there might want to try and take a shot at one of us. As we move forward with prioritizing the use of this additional security money, I hope we will take the care to evaluate what the best uses of our limited resources are, and also whether added flexibility is warranted to permit each of us to use those dollars in the manner most appropriate to our individual circumstances. Maybe my district office is a weak point, for some of you maybe it’s your home. It is the responsibility of the House – using the funds provided in this bill – to look out for our safety and the safety of our constituents and staff.
I’m pleased that the bill gives $2 million more than last year to the Congressional Budget Office. We’re still below their requested level but hopefully the additional money will help them maintain the same level of professional, non-partisan budgetary analysis they’re known for.
The Architect of the Capitol receives $577.8 million, a 9.1% increase over last year. At that funding level AOC will be able to complete many of the important projects we know are necessary to maintain the buildings belonging to the Congress, the Library, the Police, and the Botanic Garden, and catch up on some of the deferred maintenance. I know the Architect’s House Office Buildings budget and the House Historic Buildings Revitalization Trust Fund did not receive the funding many of us had hoped for, and I hope we can find a way to remedy some of those shortfalls today and in conference.
The Library of Congress and its sub-agencies -- the Congressional Research Service and the Copyright Office -- are given sorely needed increases for IT modernization. The bill provides $648 million -- a $16.1 million increase compared to last year. I would have preferred that we come closer to the budget request, which would have allowed the Library and CRS to meet their personnel needs, in addition to their technology needs. We do meet the request of the Copyright Office, however, and based on what I’ve learned about Copyright’s needs since joining the Leg Branch Subcommittee, I’m convinced that’s a good thing.
The Government Publishing Office, Open World and the Stennis Center all receive the same level of funding as last year.
I sincerely hope when we get to conference we can find a way to fund the Government Accountability Office more generously. There has never been a greater need for oversight of the Executive Branch. GAO is charged with conducting investigations and audits on behalf of Congress, and rooting out waste, fraud and abuse. It really is unprecedented that agencies across the Trump Administration have adopted blanket policies of refusing to respond to legitimate oversight requests if they come from Democrats. GAO would be better able to help us overcome that intransigence if we gave them the funding they need. With funding at just about exactly the same dollar amount as last year, GAO will end up with over 200 fewer staff at the end of the year, because of cost increases.
I will also repeat what I said at our Subcommittee markup -- that even a bill worthy of our support, as this one is, should be part of a coherent budget strategy. It doesn’t appear that the majority has one. In fact, according to the reporting, Republicans are further away from agreement on a budget this week than they were last week. I do want the Library of Congress and the Architect of the Congress to get the resources provided to them in this bill, but shouldn’t we all know what will be left to run the rest of the government if we pass this bill? Will we be able to adequately fund medical research at NIH? Job training and worker safety programs? We have a budget process to help us make informed decisions, and we aren’t following that process.
In closing, I urge my colleagues to join me in voting to report this bill favorably. Again, I want to thank Chairman Yoder and congratulate him on a job well done so far. Thank you and I yield back.