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In anticipation of the passage of the so-called "October Surprise" Task Force, for which funding would come directly from the contingent fund, I have several questions as to how this fund operates.
The Congressional Budget office has estimated this Task Force would cost between $1.2 million and $2.5 million. Are there sufficient funds available in the contingent fund to cover these costs? If not, would funds be available through reprogramming or would we have to do a supplemental appropriation? Does money left over from Members allowances go into the contingent fund? When would we know if sufficient funds were going to be available for this Task Force?
I would also like to request that GAO do an audit of those expenses from the contingent Fund of the House which require the signature of the Chairman of the committee on House Administration. The audit should cover fiscal Years 89, 90 & 9i.
Your immediate attention to this request would be appreciated.
In response to your November 19, 1991, letter, we are providing information regarding the contingent fund of the House of Representatives. Specifically, you asked us to respond to four questions concerning funding for H. Res. 258. We discussed the contingent fund in a meeting with your office on January 9, 1992.
The contingent fund is not a discrete fund established by law. Instead, the House has applied the term to appropriations for certain expenses and certain revolving funds established to support House operations. These appropriations include appropriations for
"Contingent Expenses of the House (Standing
"Contingent Expenses of the House (House
"Contingent Expenses of the House (Allowances and Expenses)."
When expenses arise for activities that are not otherwise specifically provided for by appropriation or fund account, the practice has been for the House to pass a resolution authorizing the payment of expenses from the appropriations for contingent expenses.
The Committee on House Administration, which has jurisdiction over appropriations for contingent expenses, approves vouchers for the payment of contingent expenses.
FUNDING FOR H. RES. 258
Reported to the House on November 19, 1991, H. Res. 258 would, if adopted, create a task force of Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to investigate certain allegations concerning the holding of American hostages by Iran in 1980. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that H. Res. 258 would cost between $1.5 million and $2.5 million. However, CBO estimates that $750,000 to $1.5 million of the cost would be for staff detailed from, and budgeted for, elsewhere in the government. (See H.R. Rep. 102-296, Part 1, 102d Cong., 1st Sess., 9 (1991)). Under the resolution, funding for the task force would be paid from the contingent fund. You asked four questions related to that funding. 1. Are there sufficient funds to cover the costs of the
At the start of each session of the Congress, each committee submits a proposed expense resolution setting forth its budget for the session to the Committee on House Administration. The Committee on House Administration considers each such resolution and reports to the House either an individual expense resolution for each committee or a unified one for all committees . As of January 30, 1992, the Committee on House Administration had not reported an individual or unified committee expense resolution to the House. Thus, funding for the task force may be considered during House deliberations on the committee expense resolution. If the Foreign Affairs Committee expense resolution does not budget for the task force, section 9 of H. Res. 258 would authorize use of the contingent fund to pay the task force's expenses in an unspecified amount. If, pursuant to section 9 of H. Res. 258, the contingent fund is used to fund the task force, steps could be taken to ensure that there are sufficient funds available to fund the task force by either (1) administratively assuring that sufficient funds are available to meet the task force's expected expenses from funds available for this purpose or (2) legislatively limiting the task force to a known amount of available resources.
Can funds be made available through reprogramming or a supplemental appropriation?
If adopted, section 9 of H. Res. 258 would authorize payment of task force expenses from the contingent fund of the House. Subject to any requirements of the House or its committees, the appropriation account for "Contingent Expenses of the House (Standing Committees, Special and Select)" can be reprogrammed to fund the task force. In addition, the Appropriations Committee can approve a transfer of funds from another House appropriation account, pursuant to authority contained in section 101 of the Legislative Branch Appropriation Act for 1992. A supplemental appropriation can also be provided.
In recent years, unexpended House appropriations available for transfer have lapsed in amounts greater than the $1.5 million to $2.5 million the CBO estimates the task force would cost. Beginning in 1991, many House appropriations subject to transfer became no-year appropriations. Any unobligated balances in the no-year appropriations are available for transfer to the account for "Contingent Expenses of the House (Standing Committees, Special and Select)" to fund the task force.
Do funds left over from Members' allowances remain in the contingent fund?
Members' allowances are funded through appropriations for "Contingent Expenses of the House (Allowances and Expenses)." Any unexpended balance of a Member's allowance is part of the contingent fund.
When would we know if sufficient funds were going to be available for the task force?
We will know if sufficient funds are going to be available for the task force when one of the following three actions
the House includes funds for the task force in the Foreign Affairs Committee expense resolution for 1992;