Pay Congressional Staff More! Says Bipartisan Group of 30 Orgs to House Approps

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 17, 2021

CONTACT: Daniel Schuman, policy director, Demand Progress, daniel@demandprogress.org, 240-237-3930

30 organizations and 11 congressional experts sent a bipartisan letter to House appropriators today calling to restore funding levels for congressional personal office and committee staff, amounting to double-digit percentage increases. The bipartisan letter was organized by the progressive organization Demand Progress and the conservative organization Lincoln Network. 

“For years the House of Representatives slashed funding for its staff, undermining the Legislative branch and dashing its abilities to meet the challenges facing the country. Turning the clock back to 2010 for funding levels for personal and committee staff would be a huge step forward to allow Congress to address its staff retention and diversity problem,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director, at Demand Progress. “We desperately need a Congress that addresses the problems facing our country, and redressing staff resources will improve Congressional capacity to get that job done.”

“Congress’s long-running loss of staff capacity, particularly in committees, has severely undermined its ability to oversee and rein in the federal government’s sprawling administrative bureaucracy,” said Zach Graves, head of policy at the Lincoln Network. “As we’re facing unprecedented new levels of spending and debt, it’s imperative that Congress invest in itself to preserve balance between the three branches, ensuring that our government remains accountable to the American people.”

A lack of adequate personal and committee office funding is a bipartisan problem, with lawmakers of both parties expressing support for funding increases. Several weeks ago, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) expressed their support for a 20% increase to personal office funding. House Modernization Committee Vice Chair Timmons (R-SC) put his support behind increasing House funds to address staff capacity and retention. 

You can read the full letter from Demand Progress, the Lincoln Network, and a group of bipartisan organizations here and below:

May 17, 2021

The Honorable Rosa DeLauro
Chair
House Committee on Appropriations
H-307, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Kay Granger
Ranking Member
House Committee on Appropriations
H-307, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Re: In support of a 20% increase in the House Member Resource allocation and increased committee funding

Dear Chair DeLauro and Ranking Member Granger:

We urge the House of Representatives to restore funding levels for Members Representational Allowances (MRA) and House committees to their FY 2010 levels, as adjusted for inflation. This would help address high turnover among congressional staff by addressing the twin issues of low pay and an unsustainable workload.

Members of both parties have spoken out about this problem, and expressed support for sensible adjustments to the MRA. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) expressed their support for a 20% increase to MRAs.1 House Modernization Committee Vice Chair Timmons (R-SC) has argued for an increase in funding for the Legislative Branch in excess of 10%2, and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) spoke eloquently before the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress on the difficulties of retaining experienced staff.3 And the late Elijah Cummings (D-MD), in his capacity as Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, testified during the last Congress about ways in which funding cuts have hindered bipartisan oversight of waste, fraud, and abuse.4

Providing staff appropriate compensation for their work and ensuring sufficient staff levels in offices are essential to retain expert staff, promote staff diversity, and ensure sufficient staff expertise. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives made double-digit percentage cuts to funding levels for personal and committee oversees over the last quarter century. 

From FY 2010 to FY 2021, funding for MRAs has decreased by just over 20%, or $161.7 million dollars, adjusted for inflation. This is illustrated in the chart below, which shows the past 34 years. Furthermore, unlike the Senate, the House does not provide rebalance funding for constituent services staff based upon population growth in the district, so workload per staffer has increased even as the maximum number of staff has held constant.

The decrease in funding can also be seen at the committee level. From FY 2010 to FY 2021, funding for House Committees has decreased by nearly 21.4%, or $44.5 million, adjusted for inflation.5 The chart below reflects this decrease in funding. 

Funding levels for personal and committee office staff are unsustainably low. They have created a crisis that is overwhelming the staff that work in the halls of Congress, not to mention the Members and committees that they support. While restoring funding for the House committees to FY 2010 levels will not resolve the issue, it will make an appreciable difference. It would help to stabilize the current situation while the House enacts additional policies to strengthen its ability to recruit and retain a capable and diverse workforce. 

Thank you for your consideration. We welcome the opportunity 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

Bipartisan Policy Center Action

College to Congress

Congressional Management Foundation

Consumer Action

Courage California

Demand Progress

Government Accountability Project

GovTrack.us

Indivisible

Institute for Democratic Engagement & Accountability (IDEA) at the Ohio State University

Issue One

Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

Lincoln Network

NALEO Educational Fund

National Security Counselors

New Jersey Association on Correction

Niskanen Center

Partnership for Public Service

Pay Our Interns 

Professional Managers Association

Progress America

Project On Government Oversight

Protect Democracy

Rachel Carson Council

Revolving Door Project

RootsAction.org

Senior Executives Association

Win Without War

Kevin Kosar, American Enterprise Institute*

Norman Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute*

Robert Cook-Deegan, Arizona State University*

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

Todd Wells, Federal Managers Association*

Casey Burgat, George Washington University*

Samantha Feinstein, Government Accountability Project*

Mike Miesen, Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center*

Kevin M. Esterling, University of California, Riverside*

John Leary, DotGov.com*

Rick Shapiro, Strategic Assets Consulting*

* Affiliations listed for identification purposes only.

cc: 

Representative Tim Ryan, Chair of the Legislative Branch Subcommittee on Appropriations

Representative Jamie Herrera Beutler, Ranking Member of the Legislative Branch Subcommittee on Appropriations

Members of the House Committee on Appropriations

[1] Letter from Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD-05) and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08) To House Appropriators, April 28, 2021 https://www.majorityleader.gov/sites/democraticwhip.house.gov/files/HOYER-JEFFRIES%20STAFF%20PAY%20AND%20BENEFITS%20LETTER%204-28-2021.pdf

[2] Comments of House Modernization Committee Vice Chair William Timmons at a Hearing on Boosting Internal Expertise in Congress, June 26, 2020 at 53:16 https://youtu.be/-hExfpd_BrA?t=3196

[3] Testimony of Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-04) Before The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress Member Day Hearing, April 15, 2021 https://docs.house.gov/meetings/MH/MH00/20210415/111434/HHRG-117-MH00-Wstate-M001143-20210415.pdf

[4] Testimony of Chairman Elijah E. Cummings Before The Committee on House Administration, March 12, 2019 https://docs.house.gov/meetings/HA/HA00/20190312/109052/HHRG-116-HA00-Wstate-C000984-20190312.pdf

[5] For additional information on the FY 2022 committee funding numbers, see “How House Committees Get Their Money”, The First Branch Forecast, April 28, 2021 https://firstbranchforecast.com/2021/04/28/how-house-committees-get-their-money-2/