Under usual procedures, the House of Representatives passes a resolution early in the first year of each two year Congress authorizing funds for the operation of each of its committees. The House Committee on Administration develops the resolution by holding hearings at which each committee chairman testifies on the needs of the committees for that two year Congress. H.Res. 279, which provided funds for committee operations during the 111th Congress, generally gave each committee a maximum of a 4.78% increase for 2009. This percentage corresponded to the 2009 cost-of-living increase for Federal employees in Washington, D.C. For 2010, the committees were to receive an across-the-board increase of an additional 3.9% which, the House Administration Committee estimated, would be needed to maintain staff pay at the level of inflation.
The resolution also provided a few committees with some additional funds - - the Judiciary Committee to undertake mandated inquiries into judicial impeachment, the Energy and Commerce Committee to deal with energy policy, the Financial Services Committee to deal with the ongoing financial crisis, the Small Business Committee to deal with health care, and the Ethics Committee to deal with the conduct of House Members.
Rep. Brady (D-PA), who was leading the Democratic support for the resolution, said: “Over the last Congress, the committees of the House conducted far more hearings and did far more work than in recent years. They did all this without an increase in funding. Last Congress we were not even able to keep up with inflation . . . (and) have even more work to do in this Congress because of the challenges of our economic situation and other legislative priorities. At the same time, we know that the economic status of the nation means that we must do more with less.”
Rep. Lungren (R-CA), who was leading the Republican support for the resolution, said it represented a “commitment to tighten our collective fiscal belts (but it) cannot come at the expense of our constitutionally mandated role of providing oversight over the federal coffers. . . .” Lungren also noted: “When Republicans assumed the majority in 1995, we started what has been an ongoing tradition of ensuring the minority party receives at least one-third of the committees resources, an amount I believe necessary to carry out the minority's responsibilities as the party of `loyal opposition.’ ” He said he was pleased that the Democrats have included the same percentage for the Republicans in the resolution.
The only opposition to the resolution was voiced by Rep. Issa (R-CA). He said he was “disappointed” that inadequate funds were allocated to the Government Oversight and Reform Committee. Issa first noted that President Obama and House Speaker Pelosi had emphasized the importance that oversight was going to have during the 111th Congress. He then argued that, with the hundreds of billions of additional dollars being spent in programs aimed at dealing with the economic downturn “with virtually no rules and real questions about how much has already been lost . . . “, that committee should have had its funding increased.
Rep. Capuano (D-MA), a member of the House Administration Committee, responded to Rep. Issa by noting that House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) “has specifically asked each and every one of the 20 standing committees to do more oversight on their own. . . (and) all of those committees are already doing more oversight this term than they have done in the past.”
The resolution was approved by a vote of 288-136. Two hundred and forty-five Democrats and forty-three Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and thirty Republicans and six Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House approved the resolution providing the funding for all its committees for 2009 and 2010.