“Today is a proud moment in congressional history and portends a significant advance in the working conditions for congressional staff,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director of Demand Progress, a non-governmental organization focused on strengthening our democracy that has led a broad coalition to advocate for the right of congressional staff to unionize and pushed for higher staff pay.Continue reading “Statement on House Unionization Vote + Establishment of Minimum Wage”
Earlier today, the Committee on House Administration favorably reported a resolution to provide a 10% pay adjustment to most committee staff — which sounds like good news until you remember that the House had promised a 21% adjustment, in line with increases to personal office and leadership staff. I realized the discrepancy yesterday when crunching the numbers, which I’ve published below.Continue reading “House Breaks Promise to Committee Staff On Pay Adjustment”
President Biden signed the FY 2022 appropriations omnibus bill into law on March 15th, 2022. Included in the omnibus package was the FY 2022 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, which contains dozens of policy provisions that aim to strengthen congressional capacity, oversight, technology, and modernization. This legislation signifies a monumental investment in restoring the Legislative branch.
We and our civil society colleagues recommended dozens of items for inclusion in the bill text and committee report — see our FY 2022 Appropriations requests, FY 2022 appropriations testimony, and 2020 report on updating House Rules — many of which were considered and included.
As the FY 2023 appropriations process begins, this blogpost highlights some of the notable policy provisions reflected in the FY 2022 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bills. You can find the complete FY 22 Legislative Branch portion of the bill here and the Joint Explanatory Statement here. For resources on prior Legislative Branch Appropriations bills, go here.
We recently published a blogpost on the key funding items included in the FY 2022 Legislative Branch Bill. You can compare final line item funding for FY 21 versus FY 22 (and the proposals for FY 23) by looking at our spreadsheet. Please note that some agencies/entities are funded by more than one line on the spreadsheet.
We were curious about how the requests for the Legislative Branch for FY 2023 compared to prior years. So we took each line item for the requests published in the president’s budget for FY 2023 and compared it against the line items for FY 2022 and FY 2021. The following spreadsheet, which is also available online here, uses the raw data that we gathered by hand and does not adjust for inflation.Continue reading “FY 2023 Leg Branch Approps Requests”
The FY 2022 appropriations omnibus was passed by both houses of Congress this past week and President Biden is expected to shortly sign the measure into law. The FY 2022 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill was rolled into the package, and it is packed with good government reforms and significant investments in Congress’s capacity to legislate, conduct oversight, serve constituents, and more. This legislation takes a giant leap forward to restoring strength to the Legislative branch through its efforts to address decades of underfunding.
We and our civil society colleagues recommended dozens of items to include as part of the bill text and committee report — see our FY 2022 Appropriations requests, FY 2022 appropriations testimony, and 2020 report on updating House Rules — many of which appropriations graciously considered and included.
As Congress turns to the FY 2023 appropriations process, this blogpost highlights some of the notable funding changes reflected in the FY 2022 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill. You can find the complete FY 22 Legislative Branch portion of the bill here and the Joint Explanatory Statement here. For resources on prior Legislative Branch Appropriations bills, go here. In a future blogpost, we will look at the report language.
You can compare final line item funding for FY 21 versus FY 22 by looking at our spreadsheet. It is somewhat confusing, as some agencies/entities are funded by more than one line on the spreadsheet. We hope to have a summary version in the near future. Here is funding by line item over the last 25 years, not including the about-to-be-enacted fiscal year.
The FY 22 Legislative Branch bill appropriates $5.925 billion towards the Legislative Branch, a $625.0 million increase over FY 2021, representing 11.8 percent increase. Roughly 40 percent of the increase will go to the Capitol Police and Architect.
Among the key funding features of this legislation include:
A 21 percent increase to personal, committee, and leadership offices in the House.
The House saw a $134.4 million (21%) increase for the Member Representational Allowance (MRA) to $774.4 million, which represents the largest MRA increase since the line item was created in 1996. The House also saw a $6 million (21%) increase in Majority and Minority Leadership funding to $34.9 million, as well as a $34.2 (21%) increase in funding for House committee operations. This funding in the House signifies a significant investment in helping to rebuild congressional capacity and staff pay.
The Senate’s SOPOEA — the Senate equivalent to the House MRA — funding level saw a slight increase by $25.3 million from $461 million in FY 21 to $486.3 million in FY 22, representing a 5.5 percent increase. The Senate historically has incorporated an automatic increase in funding for its constituent service staff based upon growth in the states, so it has done a somewhat better job increasing its funding over the years.
Paying interns more.
In the House, personal offices saw a 40 percent increase in aggregate internship funding, with a $4.4 million increase to $15.4 million. Leadership office intern funds were increased by $240.5 thousand for the Majority and $197.5 thousand for the Minority, representing 20.5 percent and 19.8 percent increases respectively. For the first time, the House funded committee interns, at a level of $2.3 million.
In the Senate, funding for internships increased by $1 million, from $6 million to $7 million, representing a 16.7 percent increase. Senate committee internships did not receive any funding.
These internship funding increases should help broaden pathways for students (and veterans) from all walks of life to experience working for Congress. We note that funding for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion doubled from $1.5 million to $3 million, which means that this newly widened pathway will make it possible for more people to get their foot on the first rung of the Congressional ladder.
Substantive increases in support offices funding.
In the House, support offices like the Clerk (+14%), Sergeant at Arms (+19%), and Whistleblower Ombuds (+25%) saw significant increases. The Clerk needs the funds to support its technology operations and ongoing modernization initiatives, and the SAA has significant security components. The Chief Administrative Office, which continues to produce great work around staff and member training, saw a 9 percent increase from $177 million in FY 21 to $193.2 million in FY 22. We also note real increases for the important but often overlooked Office of General Counsel (+5.3%), Legislative Counsel (+5.8%), and Law Revision Counsel (+3.8%).
In the Senate, the largest percentage funding increase went to the Office of the Secretary of the Senate, which had a 141.5 percent funding increase from $9.5 million in FY21 to $23 million in FY 22. The Senate Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper saw a $9.68 million increase to $98.5 million, representing a 10.9 percent increase from FY 21. Policymaking support offices, like the Office of the Legislative Counsel of the Senate (10%) and Office of Senate Legal Counsel (8.5%), saw increases as well.
Increases for the legislative policy support agencies.
The Government Accountability Office saw a significant increase in funding, a $58.1 million increase to $729 million (+8.8%), although it is significantly below its historical funding levels when adjusted for inflation. Increases in funding for GAO has a high probability of leading to substantial long run savings — GAO estimates that every dollar spent on GAO has a 110-120x return on the investment.
There were increases in other legislative policy support agencies: Congressional Research Service (2.9%), Congressional Budget Office (6.4%), and Government Publishing Office (the actual amount is unclear because of how the revolving door fund works)
The Office of Congressional Workplace Rights saw no increase in funding. With the ongoing unionization push in the House, this flat funding likely will be insufficient in FY 23.
The Capitol Police Receive a Significant Funding Increase
The Capitol Police will receive an additional $87 million from $515.5 million in FY 21 to $602.5 million in FY 22, representing a 16.9 percent increase. USCP aims to use additional funding to pay for new sworn officers and civilian members, although they likely will find it hard to sustain that level of hiring. Unlikely other Legislative Branch entities, the Capitol Police are always well funded and routinely enjoy significant increases. As we have written elsewhere, the major problems at the Capitol Police lie with poor leadership, bad management, and a lack of training, something that funding cannot resolve.
The Architect of the Capitol Received a Significant Funding Increase.
The Architect of the Capitol saw an increase of $98.8 million from $675.1 million in FY 21 to $773.9 million in FY 22, representing a 14.6 percent increase. There is also an additional $16.3 million in increased funding representing a 35 percent increase, for USCP buildings, grounds, and security, which is housed under Architect funding. Funding includes $128 million to continue restoration of the Cannon House Office Building.
The House Administration Committee held a hearing on Congressional unionization on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. Congress approved legislation providing for unions a quarter-century ago and the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights (OCWR) promulgated regulations on how unionization would work at the time, but tricky language in that law requires the House to act (by a resolution) to implement labor protections for certain political and non-political staff. The hearing focused on whether the unionization regulation should be put into effect.
Witnesses included OCWR General Counsel John Uelman, who was there as an expert witness to explain how all this might work, as well as Mark Strand, who represented the conservative Congressional Institute in opposition to unionization. Demand Progress submitted this statement providing a history of how we got here, and Rep. Levin submitted a statement explaining why the time for unionization is now. In addition, a coalition of 78 organizations called on the House to protect staff’s right to unionize immediately in a letter to House leadership timed to coincide with the hearing. We’ve got the witness statements, video, and everything else you could want on the topic here.
In sum, Uelman said the current OCWR Board unanimously supports the 1996 regulations and “urges Congress to approve these regulations.” More than 160 members of Congress have cosponsored Rep. Levin’s resolution. Following the hearing, the Congressional Workers Union released a statement in support of immediate adoption of the 1996 regulations; it’s available here. RollCall and BGov have good summaries of the hearing.Continue reading “What We Know About How House Unionization Might Work”
Today Demand Progress Education Fund released model public records request regulations for the United States Capitol Police Force. If implemented, these regulations would create a FOIA-like process for the Capitol Police, which our multi-year investigation had previously revealed to be particularly secretive.Continue reading “The Capitol Police Should Issue FOIA-like Regs — Here’s our Model Regs That Show Them How”
Congressional oversight powers were the focus of a House Modernization Committee hearing this past week. We were impressed because the discussion went past many clichéd, inaccurate observations that are often advanced concerning what’s broken in Congress and moved to diagnosing the impediments to Congress holding the Executive branch to account and making recommendations on fixes.
By way of background, here is the video of the hearing and here is the written testimony for witnesses Elise Bean, Josh Chaffetz, and Anne Tindall, who all did an excellent job. Demand Progress submitted a brief report containing four major recommendations on how Congress can strengthen its oversight, and you might also be interested in our 2020 primer (with POGO) on Congressional staff clearances. We also would be remiss if we did not point you to the excellent congressional oversight handbook written by the inimitable Mort Rosenberg entitled When Congress Comes Calling.
Congress has a difficult time obtaining timely, accurate, complete, and insightful answers from the Executive branch on its activities. It is not unusual for the Executive branch to slow walk responses to Congress, provide non-relevant information, or simply stonewall demands for information.
Traditional mechanisms by which Congress can vindicate its requests for information, such as through the appropriations process, are slow and often obstructed by a combination of Congress’s consensual mechanisms, problems arising from timeliness, and Executive branch defiances. Other mechanisms, such as holding up nominations, only work (at times) in one chamber — the Senate. More direct methods to force witnesses to comply, such as through statutory contempt, must go through the gauntlets of a Department of Justice unwilling to enforce such findings and federal courts that are glacially slow, unwilling to get involved, and often partial to Executive branch perspectives.Continue reading “Strengthening Congressional Oversight: A ModCom Hearing”
On October 18, 2021, the Senate Appropriations Committee Democrats released draft bill text, an explanatory statement, and a subcommittee summary for the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill. We reviewed the contents and compared the proposed funding to the enacted levels from the last Congress.
Senate Democrats’ CJS appropriations bill includes a discretionary funding level of $79.7 billion, an increase of $8.55 billion over the FY 2021 enacted levels, a 12% increase. By comparison, the House version was favorably reported by committee but has not passed the chamber; it provided for a funding level of $81.3 billion.
We were disappointed to see that language requiring transparency for Office of Legal Counsel opinions was not included in the Senate version. This language, which would have encouraged the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to proactively release final OLC legal opinions, had been included in the House CJS Appropriations Committee Report (thanks, in large part, to the leadership of Rep. Cartwright). Here’s why final OLC opinions should be available to Congress and the public. However, so long as the explanatory language is not modified or negated in the version adopted by the Senate or agreed to by the chambers, the House’s pro-disclosure language will become operative.
The Senate CJS Committee Explanatory Statement included several notable provisions that caught our eye:
— The Foreign Agents Registration Act is the focus of a request that directs the Attorney General to evaluate the feasibility of requiring all filings be submitted in an electronic, structured data format and published in a searchable, sortable, downloadable format. (p. 89) Demand Progress had requested language on FARA be included.
— Whistleblower protection at the Justice Department is the focus of two directives within the explanatory statement. The first raises concerns that contractors are not being protected despite a mandate, and the committee directs the DOJ to explain how the agency will implement unresolved recommendations. (p. 75) In addition, the FBI must report on how it will implement unresolved GAO recommendations from 2015. (p. 94)
— Serious misconduct identified by the OIG is not being prosecuted by the DOJ, and the committee directs the Attorney General to publish the number of cases referred for prosecution, the number of cases the DOJ declines to prosecute, and the reasons why. (p. 77)Continue reading “First Reactions to Senate Democrats’ Commerce, Justice, Science FY 2022 Appropriations Subcommittee Bill”
How Congress makes sense of the world was the focus of a House Modernization Committee hearing today that honed in on the operations of three support agencies: the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service, and the Congressional Budget Office. It was one of the most insightful hearings of the 117th Congress.
Congress created its support agencies to provide the Legislative branch with information and analysis unsullied by Executive branch bias. Congress began funding its own expert policy support agencies because funding can shape an organization’s behavior and responsiveness, including the perspectives and focus of its staff.
Today’s hearing had the agency heads as witnesses: Gene Dodaro for GAO, Mary Mazanec for CRS, and Phillip Swagel for CBO; it also had a second panel of experts who provided critical insight into those agencies: Zach Graves on GAO, Wendy Ginsberg on CRS, and Philip Joyce on CBO. While the agency heads were not placed on the same panel with the experts, they were asked to respond to the experts’ recommendations that had through happenstance been released ahead of time, which provided a useful starting point. (This makes me wonder whether a best practice for committees might be to require and publish written testimony a week in advance and request that oral testimony incorporate responses to the testimony from others.)
This was a modernization hearing, not an oversight hearing, so the focus was on the direction the policy support agencies are heading and not specific details on where and why they are falling short. Oversight work generally falls upon the Legislative branch Appropriations Committees that have jurisdiction over all three agencies and, to varying degrees, the authorizing committees: House Admin and Senate Rules for CRS; House Oversight and Senate HSGAC for GAO; and the Budget Committees for CBO.Continue reading “Congress’s Policy Support Agencies”