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GOP Claims Oversight Panel Got Stiffed

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 6:29 p.m. ET

In what some might call a great example of "what goes around comes around," Republican members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (OGR) are up in arms over what they consider a paltry budget increase for the panel tasked with tracking the operations and spending of the federal government. Democrats say they're practicing fiscal restraint and that oversight will continue no matter who occupies the White House.

Committee budgets are set by the Committee on House Administration, responsible for the day-to-day operations of the House of Representatives. The panel, chaired by Rep. Robert A. Brady (D-Pa.), gave OGR a 3.43 percent budget increase this year, less than the 10.9 percent bump it requested. The full House is scheduled to vote on the budget increases later this week. OGR's $22.3 million budget is second only to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"We have the second largest budget, but that number is deceiving: we have the largest staff as well," said Kurt Bardella, spokesman for OGR's Republican members.

"We’re being asked to do the same job, with the same amount of money basically while the government has committed trillions of dollars that we are charged with trying to keep account of."

Bardella also noted that 19 of 21 House committees received more funding than OGR and that Energy and Commerce's budget increased by double digits.

Democratic leadership seemed to dismiss Republican concerns.

"House Republicans famously abandoned oversight for six years of the Bush presidency; their sudden concern has no credibility and ignores the facts," said Nadeam Elshami, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"There will be no reduction in oversight. In fact, each committee was directed by the speaker to submit a clear plan to ramp up oversight activities and they have done so."

As the new congressional session began earlier this year, Speaker Pelosi shifted most responsibility for oversight of bank bailout efforts to the Financial Services Committee and instructed every committee chairman to devote more resources to oversight.

"The Committee funding resolution reflects our commitment to legislation to promote the economic recovery and energy independence, rigorous oversight regardless of who is in the White House, and spending restraint in the budget for Congress," Elshami said.

"A lot of difficult deliberation took place to arrive at the proposed committee funding levels," said House Administration spokesman Kyle Anderson. "The current economic climate calls for a stronger emphasis on fiscal stewardship and that is reflected in these funding levels." Several congressional aides also noted that the committee returned budget money last year, around $100,000 according to OGR spokeswoman Jenny Thalheimer Rosenberg.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), has held several hearings so far this year on government contracting, the financial industry's collapse and the 2010 Census. It takes the show on the road next month, beginning a series of hearings across the country about the economic stimulus package.

UPDATE: OGR ranking member Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) addressed the issue on the House floor earlier today: "President Obama told us it was going to be different. Speaker Pelosi told us it was going to be different. ... there will not be transparency in the Obama administration if government oversight isn't properly funded to do its job." (Watch video of Issa's remarks here.)

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 31, 2009; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Congress, Oversight  
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What happen to just say "no"? Ahhh...I see that only comes to helping the American public not themself. Well nothing has changes, has it?

Posted by: john_geo_smith | March 31, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

So, an almost four per cent increase is nothing...try working for a living...besides,as a loyal GOP member, don't you want to keep spending under control..Try laying off some of your staff members...

Posted by: paulgaddes | March 31, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

The PARTY of NO will always have something to grind axe on - always. They are only looking for small opennings to complain after being ASLEEP throughout Bush rampage of cover-ups.
They couldn't even account for the WAR on which they won elections back then. They would want to show their teeth at Press Conferences to pretend to be doing something for 2010 elections. These gimmicks are clearly moribond as was displayed by the empty Boerner-Cantor Budget.
Only Cheats do these type of Tricks hoping the GOOD PEOPLE OF AMERICA would take the baits. Time will tell as 2010 nears.

Posted by: Kokoma098 | March 31, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Obama and the Democrat Congress have increased government spending by 400% yet only increase oversight by 4%. Obama promised to streamline government and get rid of programs that don't work. Seems Democrats are starting by giving up on the Oversight and Reform committee. BTW, all you people who have taken the jobs Obama is creating with all that spending, how is your standard of living stacking up to his supporters at AIG?

Posted by: rpatoh | March 31, 2009 8:22 PM | Report abuse

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