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D.C. Notebook: Congress is not immune from sequestration

Published March 10, 2013 4:14 pm

Politics • No paycuts, but some belt tightening
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah's members of Congress have talked incessantly about the need to cut federal spending and now they have to do it in their own offices. Under sequestration, their personal office budgets are going to be cut between 8 and 11 percent.

While the White House is warning that its staffers face furloughs, Utah's members of Congress say their employees are not going to face any pay cuts. But that doesn't mean the offices haven't felt any impacts.

Rep. Rob Bishop has decided to leave a couple of positions open, while Sen. Mike Lee is asking his chief of staff to do double duty as his district director for a few more months to save salary. A handful of people have left Sen. Orrin Hatch's office in the past few months and at least three positions are being eliminated.

Hatch spokesman Matt Harakal argues the cuts were organization changes that shouldn't hurt the office's performance.

"We have been and will continue to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars while still serving Utahns in the way they have come to expect from Senator Hatch and his office," he said.

Droning on about drones • Sen. Mike Lee participated in an old-school filibuster this week, joining Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who held the floor for nearly 13 hours to talk about drone policy. Lee mentioned a leaked white paper that summarized the position of the Obama administration, but before he jumped into the substance of his argument he ruminated on the color of the document.

"I always thought that was an interesting phrase, 'white paper.' I don't know why they feel the need to call it that, why they don't just call it a paper," he said on the Senate floor. "Normally, we don't have legal analyses or other important documents which are written on green paper, orange paper or any other color of paper. Nonetheless they call it a white paper."

We note, however, that for a senator with a pocket Constitution, Lee should probably know that America's most important documents — the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — were all written on parchment, which at the time was treated animal skin. They're not white, for the record.

Internal affairs • Rep. Rob Bishop made the list of 10 members who House Speaker John Boehner placed on Congress' version of internal affairs — the Ethics Committee. It's quite possibly the least desired committee assignment on the Hill. Think about it, who wants to police their colleagues?

Bishop isn't saying anything about his new post. That may be because, while many see the ethics panel as the rotten tomatoes of assignments, Boehner has served him up plenty of plums, too. Bishop still leads the Public Lands Subcommittee, returned to his spot on the Armed Services Committee and is on the powerful Rules Committee, which decides what bills go to the floor and under what restrictions.

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Thomas Burr and Matt Canham report from Washington, D.C. They can be reached at tburr@sltrib.com or mcanham@sltrib.com or via Twitter @thomaswburr or @mattcanham.






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