Congress

Library of Congress and Architect of the Capitol both request 2020 funding boosts

Senate appropriators will weigh requests against budget authorities

The Library of Congress and the Architect of the Capitol are both seeking budget increases for fiscal 2020. Agency heads appeared before the Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee led by Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate appropriators dug into budget requests from the Architect of the Capitol and Library of Congress on Wednesday at the Legislative Branch subcommittee, with both agencies seeking increases for fiscal 2020.

Chairwoman Cindy Hyde-Smith opened the hearing with a warning tone for her first meeting running the panel.

“Absent a new budget agreement, we are looking at significant decreases to discretionary spending across the government,” the Mississippi Republican told agency heads.

Librarian of Congress Carla D. Hayden submitted a request for $803 million to fund the world’s largest library, which is a 6.8 percent increase over the library’s fiscal 2019 enacted appropriation.

The library is embarking on a massive five-year strategic plan and parallel digital blueprint to increase engagement with library users, as well as an update of technology across the agency.

Hayden also announced the appointment of Karyn Temple as the 13th register of copyrights.

Acting Architect of the Capitol Christine A. Merdon is requesting a sizable budget boost as the agency tries to tackle massive restoration projects and to fend off cybersecurity threats.

Merdon submitted an $832 million request for fiscal 2020, which would be a $98 million, or 15.9 percent, increase over previous enacted levels.

“We are in a race against time to maintain our infrastructure. Stone from this building can crumble in your hand,” she warned lawmakers.

The budget request includes an additional $60 million for projects to maintain major campus landmarks, including 25 multiyear projects.

More projects mean more managers. And Merdon said the agency’s requested 24 percent increase for its Capitol construction and operations management account would pay for more project managers, safety and fire professionals, and contracting officers.

Last year’s Legislative Branch funding measure included a requirement that the AOC work with the Government Accountability Office to review the operations of the Senate Employees’ Child Care Center. Situated just off campus, the center has a waitlist that stretches years. Some kids on the waitlist are halfway to kindergarten before they get one of the coveted spots.

Connecticut Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, asked Merdon for an update on that effort but didn’t get much information.

Merdon said that the AOC hired a consultant to develop a report on the child care center, but there was an issue with the contract. So the agency is back to square one, seeking a contractor with experience in child care regulations and design. She said lawmakers can expect to get the report in late spring.

Also watch: A year later, how Congress is spending school safety grants

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