B-4843, JULY 14, 1939, 19 COMP. GEN. 61

B-4843: Jul 14, 1939

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EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION COMMISSION - ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSE STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION - COMPENSATION BENEFITS OF EMERGENCY RELIEF APPROPRIATION ACT OF 1939 A LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF A SUBSECTION OF AN APPROPRIATION ACT SHOULD BE AVOIDED WHERE SUCH INTERPRETATION WOULD BE INCONSISTENT WITH THE BROADER PROVISO OF A PRIOR SUBSECTION WHICH WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN NECESSARY HAD THERE BEEN ANY INTENT THAT THE MORE RESTRICTIVE PROVISION BE GIVEN THE LITERAL INTERPRETATION. 1939: I HAVE YOUR LETTER OF JULY 10. 1940" IS INTERPRETED BY THAT OFFICE TO MEAN THAT NOT MORE THAN $75. THIS APPROPRIATION WAS MADE AFTER THE COMMISSION HAD PREPARED AND SUBMITTED TO THE BUREAU OF THE BUDGET AN ESTIMATE OF THE COST OF ADMINISTRATION AND COMPENSATION BENEFITS FOR THE EMERGENCY WORK PROGRAM AND AFTER A HEARING BY THE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES UPON SUCH ESTIMATE.

B-4843, JULY 14, 1939, 19 COMP. GEN. 61

EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION COMMISSION - ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSE STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION - COMPENSATION BENEFITS OF EMERGENCY RELIEF APPROPRIATION ACT OF 1939 A LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF A SUBSECTION OF AN APPROPRIATION ACT SHOULD BE AVOIDED WHERE SUCH INTERPRETATION WOULD BE INCONSISTENT WITH THE BROADER PROVISO OF A PRIOR SUBSECTION WHICH WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN NECESSARY HAD THERE BEEN ANY INTENT THAT THE MORE RESTRICTIVE PROVISION BE GIVEN THE LITERAL INTERPRETATION. THE LIMITATION IN SUBECTION 7 (C) OF THE EMERGENCY RELIEF APPROPRIATION ACT OF 1939, PUBLIC RESOLUTION NO. 24, 76TH CONGRESS, 53 STAT. 931, THAT NOT MORE THAN THE AMOUNT STATED THEREIN MAY BE EXPENDED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES OF THE UNITED STATES EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION COMMISSION IN ADMINISTERING COMPENSATION BENEFIT PROVISIONS, MAY BE CONSTRUED AS AUTHORIZING THE EXPENDITURE OF THAT AMOUNT FOR THE PURPOSE AND NOT AS SPECIFICALLY LIMITING TO THAT AMOUNT THE AMOUNT OTHERWISE SPECIFICALLY AUTHORIZED FOR SUCH ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES BY SUBSECTION 7 (A) OF THE SAID ACT.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL BROWN TO THE CHAIRMAN, UNITED STATES EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION COMMISSION, JULY 14, 1939:

I HAVE YOUR LETTER OF JULY 10, 1939, AS FOLLOWS:

THE COMMISSION HAS BEEN INFORMALLY ADVISED BY THE BUREAU OF THE BUDGET THAT THE PROVISION IN SECTION 7 OF THE EMERGENCY RELIEF APPROPRIATION ACT OF 1939 ( PUB. RES. NO. 24, 76TH CONGRESS) READING AS FOLLOWS:

"/C) NOT TO EXCEED $75,000 OF THE AMOUNT APPROPRIATED IN THIS SECTION SHALL BE AVAILABLE DURING THE FISCAL YEAR 1940 FOR THE PURPOSES SPECIFIED IN THE APPROPRIATION FOR SALARIES AND EXPENSES OF SUCH COMMISSION IN THE INDEPENDENT OFFICES APPROPRIATION ACT, 1940" IS INTERPRETED BY THAT OFFICE TO MEAN THAT NOT MORE THAN $75,000 MAY BE EXPENDED OUT OF THIS APPROPRIATION FOR ADMINISTRATIVE PURPOSES.

SECTION 7 (A) OF THE EMERGENCY RELIEF APPROPRIATION ACT OF 1939 APPROPRIATES TO THIS COMMISSION FOR THE FISCAL YEAR 1940 THE SUM OF $5,250,000 FOR THE PAYMENT OF COMPENSATION AND ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES TO CARRY OUT THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 24 OF SUCH ACT WHICH EXTENDS THE BENEFITS OF THE FEDERAL EMPLOYEES' COMPENSATION ACT TO PERSONS PAID FROM THE RELIEF APPROPRIATION FOR SERVICES RENDERED AS EMPLOYEES OF THE UNITED STATES. THIS APPROPRIATION WAS MADE AFTER THE COMMISSION HAD PREPARED AND SUBMITTED TO THE BUREAU OF THE BUDGET AN ESTIMATE OF THE COST OF ADMINISTRATION AND COMPENSATION BENEFITS FOR THE EMERGENCY WORK PROGRAM AND AFTER A HEARING BY THE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES UPON SUCH ESTIMATE.

THE ESTIMATE OF THE AMOUNT NEEDED BY THE COMMISSION TO COVER THE COST OF ADMINISTERING THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 24 OF THE RELIEF APPROPRIATION ACT OF 1939 WAS PREPARED TO SHOW IN DETAIL THE COST OF VARIOUS ITEMS OF ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSE AND THE COST OF THE COMPENSATION BENEFITS. THE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS HAD BEFORE IT THIS ANALYSIS OF PROBABLE COSTS AND THE PRINTED RECORD OF THE HEARINGS RELATING TO THE APPROPRIATION FOR THE COMMISSION WILL DISCLOSE THAT MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE MADE SPECIFIC INQUIRIES AS TO THE VARIOUS COSTS INVOLVED, INCLUDING CERTAIN ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS.

IN THE COURSE OF THE HEARING ONE OF THE MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS, MR. LUDLOW, ASKED WHETHER ANY OF THE 367 EMPLOYEES FOR WHOM PROVISION WAS MADE IN THE SUBMITTED ESTIMATE WERE TO BE EMPLOYED TO DO THE REGULAR WORK OF THE COMMISSION AS DISTINGUISHED FROM WORK ASSOCIATED WITH RELIEF ACTIVITIES. THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE NORMAL ADMINISTRATIVE FUNCTIONS OF THE COMMISSION, THE COST OF WHICH IS PAID FROM FUNDS PROVIDED BY THE ANNUAL APPROPRIATION " SALARIES AND EXPENSES," CARRIED IN THE INDEPENDENT OFFICES APPROPRIATION ACT, AND THE EXTRAORDINARY ACTIVITIES ARISING OUT OF THE FEDERAL EMERGENCY RELIEF PROGRAM IS FULLY UNDERSTOOD BY THE APPROPRIATION COMMITTEE AND THE BUREAU OF THE BUDGET. THIS INQUIRY ADDRESSED TO THE COMMISSION BY MR. LUDLOW PROVOKED A COLLOQUY CONCERNING THE ADVANTAGE OF INCLUDING LANGUAGE IN THE RELIEF APPROPRIATION ACT THAT WOULD PERMIT THE USE OF PART OF THE RELIEF FUNDS APPROPRIATED TO THE COMMISSION FOR REGULAR ADMINISTRATIVE FUNCTIONS. THIS COLLOQUY, WHICH IS REPORTED IN THE HEARINGS BEGINNING AT PAGE 284, IS AS FOLLOWS:

" MR. LUDLOW. LET ME ASK YOU ANOTHER QUESTION: THIS IS PRESENTED AS AN ESTIMATE ASSOCIATED WITH THE EMERGENCY RELIEF. YOU HAVE SET UP 367 EMPLOYEES FOR 1940. HOW MANY OF THOSE WILL DO REGULAR WORK, NOT ASSOCIATED WITH RELIEF, IF ANY, OR WILL THEY ALL BE ASSOCIATED WITH THE RELIEF ACTIVITIES?

" MR. MCCAULEY. ALL THESE EMPLOYEES ARE EXCLUSIVELY IN CONNECTION WITH THE RELIEF PROGRAM.

" MR. KEEGAN. RIGHT ON THAT SUBJECT, I THINK THERE IS ONE PHASE OF IT THAT SHOULD BE CONSIDERED IN THE INTEREST OF ECONOMY TO THE GOVERNMENT, AND AT THE SAME TIME SAVING TROUBLE AND DELAY. THAT IS THE SUGGESTION OF SOME NEW LANGUAGE IN THE LAW PROVIDING THAT A PORTION, SAY $75,000, OF THIS APPROPRIATION MIGHT BE USED BY THE COMMISSION WHERE THERE IS AN OVERLAPPING BETWEEN THE WORK UNDER THE DIFFERENT LAWS. YOU SEE, WE ARE ADMINISTERING THREE DIFFERENT LAWS. WE MIGHT HAVE AN INVESTIGATOR IN ANY EMERGENCY CASE IN A CERTAIN LOCALITY, AND AT THE SAME TIME WE WOULD HAVE, UNDER THE 1916 COMPENSATION ACT, CERTAIN CASES TO BE INVESTIGATED IN THAT SAME LOCALITY. NOW, INSTEAD OF SENDING TWO MEN THERE, WORKING UNDER TWO DIFFERENT LAWS, WHEN A SITUATION OF THAT KIND AROSE, IF WE COULD HAVE ONE MAN DO THE WHOLE JOB, IT WOULD BE ECONOMY.

" MR. LUDLOW. YOU MEAN YOU WOULD NEED SOME LANGUAGE PROVIDING FOR FLEXIBILITY?

" MR. KEEGAN. PROVIDING FOR FLEXIBILITY.

" MR. LUDLOW. AND NOT INCREASING THE APPROPRIATION?

" MR. KEEGAN. NOT INCREASING THE APPROPRIATION, BUT ALLOWING THAT MUCH LEEWAY IN THE USE OF THE FUND.

" MR. LUDLOW. MR. CHAIRMAN, WHY WOULD IT NOT BE ALL RIGHT TO ASK THE COMMISSION TO SUGGEST SUCH LANGUAGE, IF IT WOULD FACILITATE THEIR ADMINISTRATION OF THE LAW?

AS A RESULT OF THIS INVITATION FROM THE COMMITTEE, THE COMMISSION SUBMITTED LANGUAGE DESIGNED AND INTENDED TO CARRY OUT THE PURPOSE REFERRED TO IN THE QUOTATION ABOVE, NAMELY, TO PERMIT THE COMMISSION TO USE A SUM NOT EXCEEDING $75,000 FROM THE RELIEF APPROPRIATION FOR THE SAME PURPOSES SPECIFIED IN THE APPROPRIATION " SALARIES AND EXPENSES" IN THE INDEPENDENT OFFICES ACT OF 1940, AND THUS TO SUPPLEMENT THE LATTER TO THAT EXTENT. THE COMMITTEE ADOPTED THE LANGUAGE SUBMITTED BY THE COMMISSION, WHICH IS NOW PARAGRAPH (C) OF SECTION 7 OF THE RELIEF APPROPRIATION ACT. THERE WOULD SEEM TO BE NO QUESTION IN RESPECT TO THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH THIS SECTION WAS INCLUDED IN THE ACT.

THE APPROPRIATION COMMITTEE AND THE CONGRESS HAVE RECOGNIZED THE ALMOST INSURMOUNTABLE DIFFICULTY OF DETERMINING IN ADVANCE THE EXPENSE ATTACHED TO THE ADMINISTRATION OF WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION BENEFITS FOR A CURRENT WORK PROGRAM DEPENDS ON MANY FACTORS WHICH CANNOT BE DEFINITELY FORETOLD, SUCH AS THE SIZE OF THE PROGRAM, THE NATURE OF THE WORK, THE MAN-HOURS OF EMPLOYMENT, AND OTHER FACTORS DEPENDENT UPON THE MANAGEMENT OF THE WORK PROGRAM. THESE FACTORS MAY AND OFTEN DO CHANGE DURING THE COURSE OF THE FISCAL YEAR. FOR THIS REASON, THE ONLY LIMITATION PLACED UPON THE AMOUNT OF THE RELIEF FUNDS THAT MAY BE USED BY THE COMMISSION FOR ADMINISTRATIVE PURPOSES IS THAT REQUIRING THE APPROVAL OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE BUREAU OF THE BUDGET UPON THE AMOUNT ESTIMATED BY THE COMMISSION AS NECESSARY FOR THAT PURPOSE. SECTION 7 (A) OF THE RELIEF APPROPRIATION ACT PROVIDES:

"* * * THAT SO MUCH OF THE APPROPRIATION IN THIS SECTION, AS THE COMMISSION, WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE BUREAU OF THE BUDGET, ESTIMATES AND CERTIFIES TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY WILL BE NECESSARY FOR THE PAYMENT OF SUCH COMPENSATION AND ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES, SHALL BE SET ASIDE IN A SPECIAL FUND TO BE AVAILABLE AND TO BE ADMINISTERED BY THE COMMISSION DURING THE FISCAL YEAR 1940 FOR SUCH PURPOSES: * * *"

IF IT HAD BEEN INTENDED BY THE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS THAT THE USE OF THESE FUNDS FOR ADMINISTRATIVE PURPOSES SHOULD BE LIMITED TO A SPECIFIC AMOUNT GREATLY BELOW THAT SHOWN IN THE ESTIMATE THEN BEFORE THE COMMITTEE AND UPON THE BASIS OF WHICH THE APPROPRIATION WAS MADE, APPARENTLY SUCH AN INTENTION NATURALLY WOULD HAVE BEEN INCLUDED IN SECTION 7 (A) IN LIEU OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE PROVISION LEAVING ITTO THE DISCRETION OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE BUREAU OF THE BUDGET TO FIX THE EXACT LIMITATION.

THE ESTIMATE SUBMITTED BY THE COMMISSION TO THE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS FOR EXPENDITURES CONNECTED WITH THE PAYMENT OF COMPENSATION BENEFITS ARISING OUT OF INJURIES OCCURRING N WORK-RELIEF PROJECTS DURING THE FISCAL YEAR 1940 PROPOSED A TOTAL EXPENDITURE OF $5,250,000. THE ESTIMATE SHOWS THAT $4,983,141 WAS ESTIMATED AS THE COST OF COMPENSATION BENEFITS, AND $266,859 AS THE COST OF ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES. SINCE THE APPROPRIATION PROVIDES THE TOTAL AMOUNT ESTIMATED BY THE COMMISSION, IT IS A REASONABLE INFERENCE THAT THE ESTIMATE WAS ACCEPTED AS PRESENTED AND THAT THE INTENTION WAS TO LEAVE IT TO THE DISCRETION OF THE BUREAU OF THE BUDGET TO FIX A PROPER LIMIT IN KEEPING WITH SUCH ESTIMATE. TO HOLD THAT THE ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSE IS ARBITRARILY LIMITED TO $75,000 WOULD MEAN THAT CONGRESS, NOTWITHSTANDING THE ESTIMATE SUBMITTED, AND THE KNOWN NECESSITIES AS SHOWN BY CURRENT EXPENDITURES, INTENDED TO REDUCE THIS NECESSARY ADMINISTRATIVE WORK TO SUCH AN AMOUNT AS COULD BE PROCURED FOR THAT SUM--- OR A REDUCTION OF MORE THAN 70 PERCENT.

IT IS HARDLY CONCEIVABLE THAT THE COMMISSION COULD BE EXPECTED TO HANDLE AND ADJUDICATE THE 250,000 CASES OF INJURIES ANTICIPATED FROM THE 1940 WORK PROGRAM AT AN ADMINISTRATIVE COST OF ONLY $75,000. IN ORDER TO DO SO, IT WOULD BE NECESSARY TO KEEP THE COST OF ADMINISTRATION TO AN AVERAGE OF THIRTY CENTS PER CASE. ON THIS BASIS THE COMMISSION'S OVERHEAD WOULD HAVE TO BE REDUCED TO LESS THAN TWO PERCENT OF THE COMPENSATION BENEFITS PAID, ACTUAL EXPERIENCE HAVING SHOWN THAT BETWEEN EIGHT AND TEN PERCENT IS NEEDED FOR THIS PURPOSE. THEREFORE, IN THE EVENT THE LANGUAGE OF SECTION 7 (C) IS SO CONSTRUED AS TO LIMIT THE COMMISSION'S ADMINISTRATIVE COST TO $75,000, THE COMMISSION WOULD HAVE NO ALTERNATIVE BUT TO SUSPEND ALL OPERATIONS IN CONNECTION WITH THE RELIEF PROGRAM EARLY IN THE CURRENT FISCAL YEAR. THE COMMISSION DOES NOT BELIEVE THAT IT IS NECESSARY TO GIVE THIS CONSTRUCTION TO SECTION 7 (C). ON THE CONTRARY, IT BELIEVES THAT THE LANGUAGE OF THIS SECTION MAY PROPERLY BE CONSTRUED TO GIVE EFFECT TO THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH IT WAS INCLUDED IN THE LAW. TO DO OTHERWISE WOULD ENDANGER THE ENTIRE PURPOSE OF SECTION 24 OF THE EMERGENCY RELIEF APPROPRIATION ACT.

IF THE INTERPRETATION OF SECTION 7 (C) ANNOUNCED BY THE BUREAU OF THE BUDGET IS TO BE ADOPTED AS CONTROLLING THE ACTION OF THIS COMMISSION, IT WILL BE NECESSARY FOR THE COMMISSION TO SEEK ADDITIONAL LEGISLATION TO GIVE EFFECT TO THE REAL PURPOSE INTENDED TO BE EMBODIED IN THAT PROVISION. IN VIEW OF THE IMMINENT POSSIBILITY OF THE EARLY ADJOURNMENT OF CONGRESS, THE COMMISSION RESPECTFULLY URGES THAT YOU WILL AS SOON AS POSSIBLE ADVISE IT AS TO THE INTERPRETATION WHICH WILL BE PLACED BY YOU UPON THE PROVISION IN QUESTION, IN ORDER THAT IF IT SHOULD BE NECESSARY THE COMMISSION MAY HAVE OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE THE MATTER UP FOR APPROPRIATE ACTION BEFORE THE ADJOURNMENT OF THE CONGRESS.

WHILE A LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF SUBSECTION (C) OF SECTION 7, QUOTED IN YOUR SUBMISSION, WOULD PRECLUDE THE USE FOR ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES OF MORE THAN $75,000 OF THE $5,250,000 APPROPRIATED UNDER SUBSECTION (A) OF SAID SECTION, IF SUCH HAD BEEN THE INTENT THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO OCCASION FOR THE REFERENCE TO ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES IN THE FIRST PROVISO IN SAID SUBSECTION (A), WHICH READS:

* * * THAT SO MUCH OF THE APPROPRIATION IN THIS SECTION, AS THE COMMISSION, WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE BUREAU OF THE BUDGET, ESTIMATES AND CERTIFIES TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY WILL BE NECESSARY FOR THE PAYMENT OF SUCH COMPENSATION AND ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES, SHALL BE SET ASIDE IN A SPECIAL FUND TO BE AVAILABLE AND TO BE ADMINISTERED BY THE COMMISSION DURING THE FISCAL YEAR 1940 FOR SUCH PURPOSES; * * * IN FACT, A LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF SUBSECTION (C) WOULD BE INCONSISTENT WITH THE QUOTED PROVISO.

ALSO, IT WOULD BE UNREASONABLE TO ASSUME THAT THE CONGRESS INTENDED TO PROVIDE ONLY $75,000 FOR ADMINISTERING EXPENDITURES AMOUNTING TO OVER $5,000,000. AS STATED IN THE OPINION OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES IN THE CASE OF UNITED STATES V. KATZ, 271 U.S. 354, 357:

ALL LAWS ARE TO BE GIVEN A SENSIBLE CONSTRUCTION; AND A LITERAL APPLICATION OF A STATUTE, WHICH WOULD LEAD TO ABSURD CONSEQUENCES, SHOULD BE AVOIDED WHENEVER A REASONABLE APPLICATION CAN BE GIVEN TO IT, CONSISTENT WITH THE LEGISLATIVE PURPOSE. * * *

THE LEGISLATIVE HISTORY OF THE PROVISION HERE IN QUESTION SHOWS CLEARLY THAT ITS PURPOSE WAS TO AUTHORIZE THE USE OF $75,000 OF THE AMOUNT APPROPRIATED UNDER SUBSECTION (A) TO AUGMENT THE REGULAR ANNUAL APPROPRIATION FOR SALARIES AND EXPENSES OF THE COMMISSION AND WAS NOT TO LIMIT TO $75,000 THE AMOUNT OTHERWISE SPECIFICALLY AUTHORIZED TO BE EXPENDED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES UNDER THE APPROPRIATION MADE IN SUBSECTION (A).