House committee slashes funding for scandal-plagued GSA

A House committee voted Wednesday to slash roughly $100 million from the scandal-plagued General Services Administration’s budget next year and deny bonuses to agency officials under investigation for misconduct.

The cuts followed revelations this spring about a 2010 GSA conference outside Las Vegas that cost taxpayers more than $800,000 and included a clown and a mentalist. Videotapes released during the investigation showed employees from the agency’s Western region mocking the lavish spending and activities.

“This bill directs funding where it will do our citizens the most good, and aims to eliminate gross mismanagement of public funds, like the GSA boondoggle in Las Vegas,” said Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., the committee chairman.

GSA Administrator Martha Johnson and agency executive Jeffrey Neely, who planned the conference, resigned in the wake of the scandal.

Missouri GOP Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee, whose amendments helped craft the legislation, said the bill also divides GSA administrative money into separate accounts, “so they can't take the rent that agencies pay and use it irresponsibly.”

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An Emerson staffer said the congresswoman also helped insert language in the bill that requires the GSA to submit quarterly financial reports to Congress and requires the agency administrator to approve future conference spending.

The fiscal 2013 budget approved by the House Appropriations Committee provides funding for the White House and such federal agencies as the Treasury Department, the Small Business Administration and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The $21 billion budget is $376 million below last year’s level and $2 billion below what President Obama requested.

The bill also is $3 billion below fiscal 2010 – the last year Democrats controlled Congress.

“This bill also cuts spending for several programs and agencies that simply do not need continued high levels of funding, or that have demonstrated poor judgment and excessive, irresponsible spending habits. Out of respect for taxpayers and our already in-short-supply treasury, this bill addresses these issues,” Rogers also said.