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Rent Relief Bill for Judiciary Introduced in House
In direct response to a plea from the Chief Justice of the United States,
legislation has been introduced in the House that would give much-needed rent
relief to the federal Judiciary.
The Judiciary Rent Reform Act, H.R. 4710, was introduced by Representative F.
James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) are co-sponsors
of the bill.
“The purpose of this legislation is to ensure the rent paid by the federal
Judiciary,” Sensenbrenner said, “is rationally and equitably related to the
actual costs of providing their facilities.” The bill would replace the
“commercially-equivalent” rent calculation that the General Services
Administration has used with a requirement that the courts pay only for the
actual operating expenses incurred in providing space.
“This simple change will result in a dramatic savings in the Judiciary’s rent
expense,” said Sensenbrenner.
Since 1986, the Judiciary’s annual rent payments to the General Services
Administration have increased from $133 million to almost $920 million. “As a
percentage of the Judiciary’s operating budget, these payments have climbed from
15.7 percent to 20 percent,” Sensenbrenner said.
In his 2005 Year End Report on the Judiciary, Chief Justice John G.
Roberts, Jr., said that the Judiciary is required to pay a large and
ever-increasing portion of its budget as rent to another part of the
government—GSA—spending almost 16 percent of its total budget. Only 3 percent of
the Department of Justice budget goes toward GSA rent, and the Executive Branch
as a whole spends less than two-tenths of one percent of its budget on GSA
“During fiscal year 2005, the Judiciary paid $926 million to GSA in rent,
even though GSA’s actual cost for providing space to the Judiciary was $426
million,” said the Chief Justice. “The disparity between the Judiciary’s rent
and that of other government agencies, and between the cost to GSA of providing
space and the amount charged to the Judiciary, is unfair. The federal Judiciary
cannot continue to serve as a profit center for GSA.”
Sensenbrenner noted that soaring GSA rent payments have compelled the federal
courts to make difficult choices, including a decision over 18 months to reduce
employee ranks by 1,850 positions.
Sensenbrenner also said there was little doubt that without Congressional
action, the budgetary pressures from rising rental costs on the Judiciary would
result in the loss of further court personnel.
“As chairman of the Judiciary Committee,” said Sensenbrenner, “I believe
Congress has a duty to act to ensure the fair, efficient, and equitable
adjudication of all legitimate issues brought before the courts. The use of the
courts as a ‘profit center’ can no longer be tolerated.”