Labrador returns leftover office money, reporters skeptical

From Sean Cockerham in Washington -- Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador and seven other freshman House Republicans said today that they’ll return a combined $1.45 million in leftover office funds to the House speaker and ask that it go toward the $15 trillion national debt.

It’s not uncommon for members of Congress to return unused office funds and to tell voters how fiscally prudent they are. Reporters were skeptical at a press conference called by the eight House Republicans, asking questions implying that it was a publicity stunt. But Labrador, who said he was returning $300,000 left from his 2011 office account, said the deficit is the overriding issue for his constituents and that it's destroying the nation.

He said if all of government followed the example of returning money it would make a big difference.

“We come to Washington D.C. and people don’t take it seriously,” Labrador told reporters gathered at the press conference in front of the Capitol. “And people like yourselves question the motives of people who are trying to cut down the debt.”

The press conference came on the same day Tea Party Boise called Labrador the group’s “voice and face" in Washington D.C. and said Labrador will be announcing his bid for re-election Feb. 13 on the Idaho State Capital steps. Labrador’s office said the $300,000 he was returning represents about 21 percent of the money his office as allocated for 2011. It’s not clear that the money he and other Republicans returned will even go toward the debt.

Normally such unused money goes into a fund controlled by the House speaker and then only into the treasury if it’s not spent for two years. Labrador and the other seven members returning money signed a letter to House Speaker John Boehner asking him to allow the money to just go straight into the treasury.

"It is time for the House to put the taxpayers' money where our mouth is and dedicate our remaining (office) funds to decreasing the national debt," Labrador said.