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SEC. 310, P.L. 104-53
[A question from Chairman Packard and response follow:]
Question. What are your views as to the legal effect of section 310 of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 1996?
Answer. Section 310 of the 1996 appropriation act provided that:
"Any amount appropriated in this act for House of Representatives-Salaries_and Expenses-Members' Representation Allowances' shall be available only for fiscal year 1996. Any amount remaining after all payments are made under such allowances for such fiscal year shall be deposited in the Treasury, to be used for deficit reduction."
Absent a specific factual context this is a difficult question to answer. We understand that section 310's purpose is to assure that unobligated amounts appropriated in 1996 for "Members' Representational Allowances" that are closed out in accordance with law (2 U.S.C. §102a) are considered contributions towards deficit reduction.
Question. In your opinion does section 310 preclude either reprogramming_or transfers of amounts appropriated for "Members Representation Allowances" for fiscal year 1996?
Answer. The 1996 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 1996, appropriated to the House of Representatives for "Salaries and Expenses" $671,561,000, including $360,503,000 for "Members' Representational Allowances." The act does not further subdivide the "Members' Representational Allowances" account by allocating specific amounts to individual Members. Thus the "Members Representational Allowances" amount is available to pay all the authorized obligations of the Members of the House for clerk hire, official expenses and official mail costs.
As a general rule of appropriations law, reprogramming is authorized within accounts that are carried into law unless otherwise prohibited. Nothing in the language of section 310 of the 1996 appropriation act precludes reprogramming within "Members Representational Allowances". Also, while transfers between accounts are prohibited unless otherwise authorized by law, Congress has enacted permanent authority to authorize transfers among specific line item amounts in the “Salary and Expenses" account when approved by the Committee on Appropriations. 2 U.S.C. § 95a. Nothing in the language of section 310 expressly precludes the Committee on Appropriations from approving transfers of amounts as authorized by 2 U.S.C. § 95a. Mr. PACKARD. Did you have any further questions or comments, Ray?
Mr. THORNTON. No.
Mr. PACKARD. Let me conclude, then; I think we have covered virtually all the questions that I have.
Let me conclude by emphasizing and reemphasizing what my colleagues have said. We are proud of GAO. We think that they are a premier organization, and I hope you will convey to your staff and all of your employees that they do good work and they are an essential part of what we do.
I think that you should know that you will have a more difficult time perhaps in the Senate than you will here, although I am going to be very, very firm on our commitment; and hopefully you will look for ways to bring about the balance you need without the increase. But I suspect that the Senate will be more firm on that than I will be. And I will not be very willing to concede any change. You understand my difficulty of reaching our goals, as well? Mr. BOWSHER. I do.
Mr. PACKARD. And I need your help to do that.
I was gratefully appreciative of the help that we got, and I fully expect that we will have that same cooperation. So I don't want you to leave thinking that we are probably going to grant what you are requesting in terms of increase, but at the same time it will certainly be a discussion with Senator Mack and his committee, and we will come up with some determination.
I appreciate the time you have given us today, and in conclusion, also, I want to thank you, Chuck, for the remarkable service you have given to the government over the years. I have held you as one of the real professionals and one that I have great respect for, and I deeply appreciate your service.
You will be missed. And I hope I sincerely hope that in your replacement we will have the same competency and leadership and management skills that you have demonstrated. I think your colleagues that have worked with you have a deep appreciation for your leadership, as we do.
It has been a pleasure to have you before our committee over the years. It has been a good, cooperative relationship. And I have just been particularly, as I have already expressed, absolutely-not amazed, but certainly extremely grateful for the offer of reductions that you have worked on with us, particularly last year.
With that, unless you have some concluding statements—
Mr. BOWSHER. Let me just take 3 minutes, if I could, Mr. Chairman, to thank you and Ed and everybody that has worked with us here on the committee over the years because I think that with the support of this committee and the oversight that this committee has given us over the years, we have been able to modernize GAO. That was one of the reasons why we were able to make the reductions and still keep the quality and still keep the productivity.
I would like to just offer one piece of advice for the future and that is, pick a good CG for the next go-around. This is an organization that has been fortunate, I think, in having excellent leadership and leadership that has stayed in office for long, tenured time.
Also, level the downsizing off here for a number of years, because you know, articles are published from time to time now about how downsizing is not working. And I think, on the basis of my experience in the private sector, that one of the reasons that companies keep downsizing a lot of times is that they don't have the sales. But if you can level off here and give GAO a couple of years of stability so that it can balance the skills of its staff, you will have a very strong GAO that will identify savings of billions of dollars for the taxpayers.
And you will enjoy working with them because it is a fine team I am leaving behind-really a first-rate team.
Mr. PACKARD. It is, and you have been the leader of that very fine team. Again, we are grateful for your service. We hope that the rest of your-when do you leave?
Mr. BOWSHER. September 30.
Mr. PACKARD. Well, we have got a little time.
Mr. BOWSHER. I sign up for Medicare next month, and I retire on September 30.
Mr. PACKARD. Again, we look forward to working with you the balance of this fiscal year, then.
Mr. BOWSHER. I do, too.
Mr. PACKARD. To your staff that have come and your management team, we appreciate your being here and your good work. I
will insert a question on reprogrammings that you can answer for the record at this point.
[Chairman Packard's question and the response follow:]
Question. Several of your internal adjustments exceeded the 10% or $100,000, whichever is greater, criteria established with all legislative branch agencies several
For example, instead of the $14.3 million appropriated for travel in fiscal year 1995, you expended only $12.6 million. How did that come about?
We aren't being critical-it's just that we would like to see the explanations in your budget presentation.
For the record, please include all reprogrammings requested last year and the dispositions of each by the Appropriations Committee.
Response. During fiscal year 1995, we did not submit any requests for reprogramming to the committee. We have always complied with the committee reprogramming process by requesting committee approval for reprogramming where we needed to increase the funding in an account by more than 10% or $100,000 (whichever is greater) than what the committee approved.
Ďuring fiscal year 1995, we moved about $600,000 out of our travel account, within committee guidelines, to cover video-conferencing costs. During the last quarter of the fiscal year, we lost a number of high-level staff through the Separation Incentive Program we implemented. This, combined with the closing of several of our regional offices, had a negative effect on travel and other plans.
With that, our hearing will be adjourned, but I would like to bring to the attention of all of us that we will convene next Tuesday morning at 9:30, and we will be taking up the Joint Committee on Printing and the Government Printing Office, GPO. And then in the afternoon of that same day, the Library of Congress at 1:30, and that will be our next hearing.
So our hearings are adjourned. Thank you very, very much.