Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

GOP Conducts Chopping-Block Audit of Congress

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

GOP Conducts Chopping-Block Audit of Congress

Article excerpt

THE Botanic Gardens at the foot of Capitol Hill are chock-a-petal with everything from African herbs to lady-slipper orchids.

The huge greenhouse, run by Congress at a cost of $3 million a year, grows the plants that adorn federal buildings and brighten public functions - everything from Kentia palms to Norfolk Island pines. Now Republicans are going to poke their noses in and see if Congress should be smelling so many roses.

The Botanic Gardens is just one of hundreds of items House Republicans, under Speaker-to-be Newt Gingrich (R) of Georgia, plan to review in their push to shrink the size of government.

Though the Botanic Gardens budget may or may not end up being pruned, the perusing of its functions by the Republicans underscores the extent to which they are rethinking how the legislature works after 40 years of Democratic rule.

Even as Mr. Gingrich and others lay the philosophical outlines of their revolution, a committee's worth of GOP members and staffers are digging through the minutiae of Capitol Hill to determine where cuts and changes could be made.

Their audit currently covers some 40 categories, ranging from parking privileges at National Airport to the duties of the "doorkeeper of the House" - an office with several dozen staffers.

It may seem odd to spend time searching for savings in, say, the way the House chaplain conducts his activities when there are big-ticket items like military spending to deal with. But Republicans argue small savings add up - and the public has spoken loudly about the size of government.

"You've got to get your own house in order first," says Ed Gillespie, spokesman for the GOP transition team. "I don't know when the practice of delivering a bucket of ice to each member each day began, or how much it costs, but I imagine there might be some savings there."

One segment of the GOP review focuses on the 31 congressional groups known as legislative service organizations (LSOs). These are issue-specific caucuses that provide information to members. …

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