Our national economy has been through a rough time, and while we in Nebraska have been more fortunate than people in other states, Nebraskans often tell me they're watching their checkbooks very carefully these days, spending only what they need to. When I meet with business owners and civic leaders they often wonder aloud why the Nebraska way never comes across in Washington.
There's certainly a lot of talk in Washington about government spending. Pretty much everyone, Republicans, Democrats and Independents, agrees that spending is too high. Pretty much everyone also agrees that spending is one reason the federal deficit is too high. Pretty much everyone talks about the need to cut down how much the government spends.
It is one thing to talk about it and quite another to actually do it. That's why I was pleased by what Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and I recently achieved. I am chairman and she is the ranking member of the Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee and we pushed through a 2011 spending bill holding the line with no increases in spending.
We had a bipartisan agreement to lead by example. It was good news then that the full Appropriations Committee approved the 2011 Legislative Branch bill totaling $3.136 billion, slightly lower than last year.
This bill funds the salaries and operations for the U.S. Senate, Library of Congress, U.S. Capitol Police, Architect of the Capitol, the Government Accountability Office, Government Printing Office, Congressional Budget Office, and the Office of Compliance.
By holding the line on spending in the Legislative Branch, we are setting an example to all federal agencies. Congress should do all it can to reduce spending all across the government. Nebraskans know that keeping money in private hands will be good for our economy, and it will begin to curb our far too high national debt.
The Legislative Branch bill ended up $436 million below what the various agencies requested. Difficult choices had to be made. Some will no doubt feel some pain next year in senators' personal offices, in committees, in efforts to maintain the buildings and services across Capitol Hill.
There will be a slight increase for the Capitol Police to make up for a 2010 salary miscalculation and for the CBO, which provides non-partisan cost estimates of bills proposed by members of Congress. That will be offset by delaying planned projects in the Architect of the Capitol's budget. These tradeoffs are fair and necessary.
The Legislative Branch bill isn't large in comparison to the other 12 spending bills Congress approves each year to fund the government. But it is my hope that this fiscally responsible bill that holds spending flat will set the tone across the government.
This year, the government can hold the line and I'm already looking for colleagues to work with to cut spending as soon as we can, for the good of our country and our economy.