Republicans tout cuts in House spending

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans say spending for House operations, including lawmaker offices, has dropped by more than $200 million since they took control three years ago.

GOP lawmakers said Thursday they saved the money mainly by trimming the budgets of committees, leadership offices and individual lawmaker offices.

The House imposed an 8.2 percent reduction on lawmakers’ personal office budgets in March, after automatic, across-the-board cuts in most federal programs took effect. That came on top of 11 percent cuts to office budgets during 2011 and 2012.

Committees also took an 11 percent hit this year.

“Many families and small businesses are cutting back, and it’s only right that the House of Representatives lead by example,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

Congress “should not be immune to our economic hardship, which is why Republicans have implemented the largest cut to the House’s operating budget in recent history,” said House Administration Committee Chairman Candice Miller, R-Mich.

They said the operating budget in fiscal 2013, ending in September, was $1.16 billion, down from about $1.37 billion in 2010, the last year Democrats were in the majority.

House members, who receive annual office budgets of more than $1 million, say they are economizing by traveling less, putting off new office purchases and not hiring new staff. While furloughs have largely been avoided, House maintenance projects have been delayed, retiring employees are not being replaced and Capitol Police have closed some entrances and side streets to cut back on overtime. The Senate has initiated similar, if smaller, cuts in office and committee budgets.

Lawmaker salaries, which are set by law, are unchanged at $174,000 for rank-and-file members.

“I’m wondering whether or not this is going to hurt what we are doing here,” said Rep. Robert Brady of Pennsylvania, top Democrat on the House Administration Committee. “How do you attract people who are qualified to do the job?” when policy staffers, who already may earn two or three times less than what they could get in the private sector, see their salaries cut and staff sizes frozen, he asked.

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