On June 11, the House Appropriations Committee by voice vote approved the Financial Services and General Government fiscal year 2008 appropriations bill. The recommendation includes $315 million ($2.1 million above the President’s request, and $35.7 million above fiscal year 2007) for operating expenses of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
As approved, the bill also includes $10 million for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), for grants to states, local governments, universities, local historical societies, and others to help preserve and archive materials of historic significance. $8 million of this money is allocated to grants and $2 million for operating expenses.
In report language accompanying the bill, the Committee directed that the funds provided in excess of the budget request be used first to restore the public research hours that have been reduced since October 2006, and then to help restore staffing reductions that have been made in recent years. The Committee report stated that, while it is important to continue efforts to reduce the backlog of materials for archiving, these efforts should not come at the expense of providing the public with access to NARA’s services. NARA was directed to report to the Committee within 30 days of enactment on specific steps it is taking to restore the research hours and to bolster NARA’s archivist workforce.
During the markup, the Committee rejected an amendment offered by Representative Ray LaHood (R-IL) that would have diverted $9 million of the increased slated for the Archives to a cost-of-living increase for federal judges. Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee Chairman Jose Serrano (D-NY) and Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI) spoke out strongly against the amendment, which was defeated by voice vote.
The bill is on a fast track and may go to the House floor at anytime. The Senate Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee is expected to markup its version very soon.