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The Incredible Shrinking Congress: Budget Bill Diminishes Legislative Capacity

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Congress will shed significant legislative capacity if the budget bill approved earlier today by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch becomes law. The legislative branch faces a $227 million (or 6.39%) cut from FY 2011, with the brunt borne by GPO (16% cut) and the Library of Congress (8% cut). These two entities have significant responsibilities for making government information available to the public.

It's likely that there will be fewer congressional staff (or they will earn less money) if the $84 million (or 6.46%) cut to the House of Representatives goes through. Added to the FY 2010 budget, money for the House of Representatives has decreased by 10.4% in two years, making it more likely that competent staff will leave Congress for greener pastures with lobbying firms and think tanks.

The bill also includes an unfortunate provision that prevents the Library of Congress from publishing (or preparing for publication) any publication without prior approval. As I testified previously, this provision has been twisted by CRS into a justification for not releasing its reports to the public. A coalition of organizations wrote a letter to appropriators in April that asked them to refrain from including that provision in this year's bill. (More on CRS's future here).

The legislation still need to be approved by the full House Appropriations Committee, the Senate, and signed by the president.