Increase Congress’s Funding by 10% Says Bipartisan Coalition of Good Government Organizations

For decades, Congress has undercut its ability to meet its Constitution obligations by providing itself inadequate resources to meet its legislative, constitutional, and oversight responsibilities. Discretionary Executive branch resources, and power, on the other hand, have grown at more than double the rate of the Legislative branch. In addition, Congress has been driven to rely on lobbyists for expertise because it lacks the in-house expertise.

Today a coalition of nearly 70 individuals, good government advocates, and businesses have sent a message for appropriators: it’s time to reinvest in Congress. The letter was organized by Demand Progress and the Lincoln Network.

Less than 1% of all discretionary federal funds go to Congress and its support agencies, and while non-defense discretionary spending has increased 55% over the last 25 years, the Legislative branch budget has grown just 30% in that same period. And the vast majority of those funds have gone for non-legislative purposes, such as the Capitol Police and the Architect of the Capitol.

In the coming weeks, Congressional appropriators will set the 302(b) allocations — the top-line numbers for each of the 12 appropriations subcommittees, including the Legislative Branch Subcommittee. Congress must have the funds to hire enough staff, pay them appropriately, and give them the resources that they need. This is the only way the Legislative branch can serve as a proper check on the Executive branch and conduct necessary legislative, oversight, and constituent services work. 

We urge a 10% increase in funding to the Legislative branch, or $530.9 million, which is a tiny percentage of overall discretionary spending. While we have seen some efforts to address the underfunding of the Legislative branch, and we applaud those efforts, much more is needed. We need to help the Legislative branch modernize and meet this current moment of crisis. 

The text of the full letter is below:

            February 2, 2021

The Honorable Rosa DeLauro
Chair
Committee on Appropriations
United States House of Representatives

The Honorable Patrick Leahy
Chair
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate

The Honorable Kay Granger
Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations
United States House of Representatives

The Honorable Richard Shelby
Vice Chair
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate

Re: Strengthening American Democracy by Increasing Legislative Branch Capacity

Dear Chair DeLauro, Chair Leahy, Ranking Member Granger, and Vice Chair Shelby:

On behalf of the undersigned individuals, civil society organizations, and industry groups, we urge you to increase the share of discretionary funding available for the Legislative branch both to address the historically diminished resources available to the Legislative branch and to meet the challenges facing Congress in our current time of crisis. We firmly believe that dedicating resources to build a stronger, more capable Congress is of key importance to our democracy and is necessary for it to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities. Therefore, we urge you to increase the 302(b) allocation for the legislative branch by 10 percent as you determine spending levels for FY 2022. 

Over the decades, funding for Congress and its support offices and agencies have significantly lagged behind increases in discretionary spending for the rest of the federal government, creating a yawning gap between Congress’s legislative, oversight, and constituent service responsibilities and its capacity to meet those responsibilities. In addition, the vast majority of new funding made available for Congress have been allocated for the U.S. Capitol Police and the Architect of the Capitol, leaving virtually unchanged the funding available for policymaking and support staff even as their duties have increased geometrically. 

We appreciate and acknowledge FY 2021’s increase in the 302(b) allocation, which was a significant step towards addressing the Legislative branch’s historic diminishment of its capacities to meet its obligations as well as growing resource requirements. Unfortunately, the effects of the longstanding defunding of the First Branch have been augmented by significantly increased responsibilities and tempo of work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises.

Congress must have sufficient resources to lead in federal policymaking, provide services for constituents, and conduct oversight that roots out waste, fraud, abuse, and malfeasance. It must also modernize its information technology and digital infrastructure to meet these challenges. We respectfully urge you to increase the share of funding available for the Legislative branch by an additional 10 percent, or $530.9 million, which is a tiny percentage of overall discretionary spending and is essential to the functioning of our republic. This is a worthy investment to further rebuild Congress’s lost institutional capacity and ensure the Legislative branch is strong enough to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities to the American people in this time of crisis.

Thank you for your consideration. To discuss this further, please contact Daniel Schuman, Policy Director for Demand Progress at Daniel@DemandProgress.org or Zach Graves, Head of Policy for the Lincoln Network at zach.graves@joinlincoln.org.

Sincerely,

American Family Voices

American Library Association

American Principles Project

Bipartisan Policy Center Action

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)

College to Congress

Congressional Management Foundation

Defending Rights & Dissent

Demand Progress

Democracy Fund Voice

Democracy 21

DotGov.com

Fix the Court

Free Government Information

FreedomWorks

Government Accountability Project

Government Information Watch

GovTrack.us

Issue One

Lincoln Network

NALEO Educational Fund

National Security Counselors

Niskanen Center

Open The Government

Other98

Partnership for Public Service

Pay Our Interns Action

Project On Government Oversight (POGO)

Protect Democracy

Public Citizen

R Street Institute

Rachel Carson Council

Revolving Door Project

Senior Executives Association

Social Security Works 

TechFreedom

Union of Concerned Scientists

X-Lab

Norman Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute*

Robert Cook-Deegan, Arizona State University*

Mahmud Farooque, Arizona State University*

Lorelei Kelly, Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown*

Mike Miesen, Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs*

Jon Peha, Carnegie Mellon University*

Matt Glassman, Claremont McKenna College*

Hebah Kassem, Congressional Progressive Caucus Center*

Alex Howard, Digital Democracy Project*

Jillian Grennan, Duke University*

Kenny Gutierrez, Electronic Frontier Foundation*

Jennifer Pahlka, Former US Deputy Chief Technology Officer*

Rick Shapiro, Former Executive Director of the Congressional Management Foundation and Former Senior Consultant for Democracy Fund*

Beth Simone Noveck, The Governance Lab*

Richard Skinner, Johns Hopkins University*

Brian Baird, Member of Congress (Retired)*

Lee Drutman, New America*

Robert Seamans, New York University*

Caroline Wagner, Ohio State University*

Marci Harris, POPVOX Inc*

Sarah E. Hunt, Rainey Center Freedom Project*

Laura Manley, Technology and Public Purpose Project*

Maurice Turner, Turner Consulting, LLC*

Richard Forno, UMBC*

Brendan P. Kelly, University of Alaska Fairbanks*

Kevin M. Esterling, University of California, Riverside*

Kathleen Clark, Washington University*

 * Affiliations listed for identification purposes only.

cc: Members of the House of Representatives and United States Senate

Chairs and Ranking Members of Congressional Committees