Thursday May 23, 2013

WASHINGTON -- House lawmakers are moving to protect Capitol Hill’s budget even as they’re working to slash other programs like education, health research, water projects and housing aid for the poor.

The effort by the House Appropriations Committee promises a small budget increase for legislative branch operations even as funding for labor, health and education programs would absorb an almost 20 percent cut. Federal firefighting efforts also face big cuts, as do transportation and community development grants.

The GOP-controlled panel is giving Congress a budgetary reprieve after three consecutive years of cutting Capitol Hill’s operating budget. The House budget has dropped by 15 percent to $1.2 billion over that time from the record levels established when Democrats controlled Congress.

Appropriations panel spokeswoman Jennifer Hing said the reason for the slight budget increase include greater police costs and security upgrades for the House’s oldest office building.

At issue are the 12 annual spending bills setting agency operating budgets for the fiscal year starting on Oct. 1. This so-called discretionary spending has been squeezed since Republicans took back the House in 2011 and is bearing the brunt of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that took effect in March.

The total budget for Congress is about $4 billion. The 435-member House has a slightly larger budget than the 100-member Senate and the two chambers share costs like the Library of Congress, the U.S. Capitol Police, and force and fixing the

The move is preliminary and came on an Appropriations panel vote on Tuesday in which is allocated $967 billion to the 12 annual bills. Specifics won’t be available until later this spring when detailed legislation is released.

The GOP-controlled panel is moving to make slashing, painful cuts to the largest domestic bill, which funds aid to local schools, special education, Pell Grants for low-income college students and research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health. Another measure, funding the Environment Protection Agency, the Interior Department and Indian programs would absorb a 14 percent cut.

By contrast, the legislative branch budget would receive a 1.6 percent increase once across-the-board cuts known as sequestration are factored into the calculations.