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Reid: Congressional Budget Increased To Pay GOP Staffers

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More than 2,000 employers laid off more than 50 workers each in January, the Labor Department reported Wednesday.

One workplace, however, wasn't on the list: the U.S. Congress.

A ten percent increase in the budget for Congressional operations was needed because Senate Republicans wanted to retain previous staff levels despite having lost roughly 20 percent of their ranks in the 2008 elections, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said Wednesday.

Congressional Republicans have been pouncing on any instance of wasteful spending they can find, but the congressional-operations line item will likely remain safe from their ire.

The one-tenth hike brings the budget for Congress itself to $4.4 billion.

Reid, asked about the increase at a press conference, initially dodged the question, speaking instead about spending in general.

The unsatisfied reporter repeated the question about a ten percent raise for the congressional budget. "How is that going to help get out of the depression?" she pressed.

Don't blame us, said Reid.

"We had a situation -- you should direct that question to Senator McConnell," he said, referring to the Senate Minority Leader, "because we had trouble organizing this year. He wanted to maintain a lot of their staffing even though they had lost huge numbers. And the only way we could get it done is to do what we did. So you should direct that question to Senator McConnell."

A GOP leadership aide said it's unfair to blame Republicans for the increase. "I just don't know how they can get away with blaming us for that 10 percent figure," he wrote in an e-mail. "Republicans aren't getting a dime more in committee money for staff than we got last year. The entire pot of funding used to operate Senate committees and other 'inquiries and investigations' is around 3 percent of the total ($137 million of $4.4 billion). And the increase from last year's funding for the 'inquiries and investigations' account is less than 2/10ths of 1 percent of the entire bill."

He added: "For perspective: all Senate operations funding increased 7 percent, the House funding increased 7.5 percent and the Architect of the Capitol funding increased 28 percent."

A Democratic leadership aide, however, said the fact that "Republicans aren't getting a dime more" misses the point, noting that while they aren't getting extra, they aren't getting less, either, even though they have far fewer members.

"This would be funny if it wasn't from someone associated with the the so-called party of fiscal responsibility," wrote the aide. "This is the height of hypocrisy and utterly fails to acknowledge the fact that in the past, when the spread has been like it is now, the minority party gets far less money than what they eventually got. It was an unprecedented deal that is more outrageous when you realize that they will end up voting against the bill."

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