House votes to cut its own funding

chart_congress_spending.top.gif By Charles Riley, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The new Republican-led House of Representatives voted Thursday to cut its operating budget by 5% -- a move meant to reflect the GOP's desire to reduce the size of the federal government.

The measure, which GOP aides claim will save $35 million, passed 410-13. The "no" votes were cast by Democrats.

Of course, the $35 million won't make a dent in the nation's deficit. The cuts amount to 0.001% of Washington's $3.5 trillion annual federal budget.

"Thirty-five million is absolutely nothing in terms of debt. It's not even a decimal point," said Craig Jennings, the director of federal fiscal policy at OMB Watch, a group that monitors federal spending.

But for 435 lawmakers, who last year were allotted about $1.5 million each, the cut will mean trimming their budgets by $75,000 -- the equivalent of about 1.5 full-time staffers.

Republicans insist the cut is a good starting point before pushing larger spending reductions.

"It is a down payment on the future actions of this House," said Dan Lungren, a Republican from California.

The measure focuses on reducing the operating budgets of House committees, leadership offices and individual member offices. It does not affect Senate funding.

Each lawmaker is responsible for deciding how to allot individual office funds, and can choose how to implement his or her share of the cut.

But not every House member is going to be looking under the office couch for loose change. Republican Jason Chaffetz of Utah said Thursday that his office has been well under budget -- to the tune of more than $600,000 -- over the past two years.

"I run one of the leanest offices in the Congress without compromising constituent service," Chaffetz said in a statement.

Chaffetz's thriftiness is a bonus for taxpayers. By law, any unspent funds from a lawmaker's budget are used to reduce the deficit.

Some lawmakers might try to find other places to cut so they can keep staff salaries at their current levels.

"If the 5% comes out of salaries of staff, that could be pretty ... painful for them, because a lot of the staff are very young professionals who don't get paid much to begin with," Jennings said.

A congressional chief of staff on Capitol Hill might make more than $130,000 a year, but other staffers -- schedulers, legislative assistants and staff assistants -- make less than $50,000, according to the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation.

A 5% cut is just slight enough to avoid "cutting into the bone," according to Bradford Fitch, CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation, a non-partisan organization focused on improving the efficiency of Congress.

For lawmakers, that might mean fewer trips to their home districts, the consolidation of district offices or scaling back communications expenses.

If that's the case, constituents might suffer.

"It could have a real impact on constituent services," Fitch said. "The mail might not get answered."

-CNN's Alan Silverleib contributed to this report. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,828.24 0.49 0.00%
Nasdaq 4,791.63 4.31 0.09%
S&P 500 2,067.56 -5.27 -0.25%
Treasuries 2.19 -0.04 -1.79%
Data as of 4:52am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Kinder Morgan Inc 41.35 -0.97 -2.29%
Halliburton Co 42.20 -5.14 -10.86%
General Electric Co 26.49 -0.38 -1.41%
Bank of America Corp... 17.04 -0.07 -0.41%
Apple Inc 118.93 -0.07 -0.06%
Data as of Nov 28

Sections

Union-backed demonstrators are protesting outside some Walmart stores Friday, asking the company to pay workers at least $15 an hour. More

From their smartphones, tablets or laptops -- and the comfort of the living room or Thanksgiving dinner table -- Black Friday shoppers could find deals all week that rivaled the in-store doorbusters. More

Natalie's Cakes and More has raised $84,000 through GoFundMe after protests trash store. More

Retailers are promising big deals this Black Friday, but are the savings actually worth the shopping mayhem? Test your deal-sniffing skills. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.