House to vote Thursday on 5 percent cut to office expenses

The House will vote Thursday on a resolution cutting House office expenses by 5 percent, one day after Republicans take over the chamber.

The GOP estimates that the budget cuts will save $35.2 million in 2011, according to a House aide. The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), will cut salaries and expenses at personal and leadership offices by 5 percent, according to a copy of the proposed legislation. 

Democrats appear poised to support the resolution.

“In terms of what we are facing this week, do not expect the leadership to oppose the 5 percent cut,” a Democratic leadership aide said.

“Clearly, it is a demonstrable way to show we take spending seriously during a time when working families are hurting,” the aide said.

The aide noted that Democrats had already denied members a cost-of-living salary increase over the past few years.  

The legislation will be considered under suspension of rules, which will require two-thirds of members to approve. 

The resolution would be effective for the next two years. Cuts to leadership offices save $1 million; committee reductions save $8.1 million; and cuts to members’ office budgets save $26.1 million.“While only a first step, these cuts provide real savings for the American people and demonstrate our commitment to ending the culture of spending here in Washington,” Walden said in a release Tuesday.

The resolution takes an extra bite out of the Appropriations Committee, reducing its budget by 9 percent.

Incoming House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) has vowed to restructure the committee so that staff can be reduced by 20 percent. In his successful campaign to head the committee last month, he said he needed to “curb excessive growth” of the committee.

A Democratic committee aide said that the committee staff should be able to handle the task of passing 2012 appropriations bills despite the reduction in staff.

Fiscal conservatives said they are pleased that the new majority is tackling wasteful spending in the legislative branch, but they are eager for it to identify bigger ticket items to cut. Some point out that in 1995 Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) famously cut ice service to congressional offices but by the next year was embracing earmarks as a reelection strategy for vulnerable House Republicans.

“I hope that federal agencies across the spectrum will follow suit and find ways to cut their own budgets. If not, we’re happy to do it for them,” incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement.

This story was updated at 4:20 p.m.