Don’t Slash Hill Staff Pay Says Left-Right Coalition

There’s a growing effort this appropriations season to decrease Member Representational Allowance (MRA) funds, which would inevitably result in lower pay for congressional staff, something a new coalition led by Demand Progress is fighting.

Today, Demand Progress sent a bipartisan letter to leadership on the House Committee on Appropriations, urging them to retain MRA funding levels to the FY23 amount.

Why? Low staffer pay fuels the revolving door and drives a high turnover rate on Capitol Hill —  a staff exodus hit a 20-year high in 2021. When Congress loses institutional knowledge like that, it’s less able to govern and conduct oversight. It’s more likely to let lobbyists sway policy.

“Cutting MRAs is a horrible return on investment for the Legislative branch. For decades, Congress underpaid its own staff, self-inflicting a wound of diminished capacity, which undercut its ability to oversee and rein in the federal government’s sprawling administrative bureaucracy,” said Taylor J. Swift, senior policy advisor at Demand Progress. “To retain expert staff and promote a strong workforce, it’s essential Congress pays its staff at least as much as their counterparts in the Executive branch and private sector.” 

Read the full letter here and below:

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Demand Progress Education Fund Affirms Right to Unionize by Congressional Staff in New Analysis of House Rules that Sought to End Unionization

Unions in the House of Representatives in the 118th Congress,” a new report released today by the Demand Progress Education Fund, analyzes how the new House Rules aimed at rolling back the rights of House staff to unionize fall short of achieving that purpose. Its analysis shows House staff can assert their rights to organize unions in the 118th Congress. The report was written by Kevin Mulshine, former Senior Advisor and Counsel on the first staff of the Office of Compliance/Office of Congressional Workplace Rights.

The report explains in detail the employee protections under the Congressional Accountability Act — a Gingrich-era congressional workplace law that allowed Legislative branch staff to unionize — and how that law applies today. House political and non-political staff earned the right to unionize last year with the passage of H.Res.1096

“House staff can assert their rights to organize unions in the 118th Congress,” said Kevin Mulshine, special advisor to Demand Progress Education Fund and author of the report. “Contrary to what the House Rules may have intended to proscribe, staffers who want to exercise their rights to collectively organize should have little fear of a loss of legal protections for their actions.”

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House Staff Overtime Pay Approved

Within a week of our action with allies Congressional Progressive Staff Association (CPSA) and the Congressional Workers Union, the House approved overtime pay regulations for House staff to go into effect next year.

Outgoing CHA Chair Rep. Zoe Lofgren introduced a resolution Monday to implement the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights (OCWR) regulations to update Fair Labor Standards Act overtime provisions for congressional staff with a “nifty procedural move” according to CQ Roll Call’s Jim Saksa.

This is one of many reforms the House has passed this year to improve congressional staff pay and benefits that we have championed.

“This is an incredible investment in the congressional workforce and affirms the House’s commitment to improve workplace conditions, benefits, and pay for congressional staff” said Taylor J. Swift, senior policy advisor at Demand Progress. “This has been a paramount year for improving staffers’ rights in the House, and now it’s time for the Senate to take action to ensure their staff have the same overtime pay rights. We applaud congressional leadership for approving this overtime pay provision, and we laud outgoing CHA Chair Lofgren for her swift action to include it in the Continuing Resolution.”

We will continue to work with our coalition partners on the Hill to ensure Senate staff can enjoy the same rights.

Demand Progress Education Fund Releases Primer on Union Organizing Rights for Congressional Staff 

Report Authored by Kevin Mulshine, former Senior Advisor and Counsel on the first staff of the Office of Compliance/Office of Congressional Workplace Rights

Demand Progress Education Fund released today Union Organizing Rights on Capitol Hill to equip staff in the US House of Representatives with guidance on how they can implement newly won rights to collectively bargain. Written by former counsel from the Congressional office responsible for implementing House union rules, this primer covers topics including how House staffers can select a union representative, the value of collective bargaining in House offices, and what a contract might guarantee. Author Kevin Mulshine also discussed Congressional union rights at a Demand Progress virtual briefing the week the unionization rules went into effect.

“Now that staff in the House of Representatives have won the right to unionize, they need non-partisan, factual information that describes what they can negotiate for under a collective bargaining agreement in order to create a smoothly-functioning workplace,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress Education Fund. “Along with recent reforms to improve the Congressional workplace and redress longstanding deficiencies, the ability for staff to negotiate for fair working conditions will allow the Legislative branch to continue to make course corrections to meet the needs of employers and employees, thereby sustaining Congress’s ability to recruit and retain diverse public servants dedicated to working on behalf of the American people for years to come.”

Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress Education Fund

The Union Organizing Rights on Capitol Hill report explains:

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First Branch Forecast for August 29, 2022: Letter of Note


This week, recess continues.

Last week saw two big announcements from the White House: (1) the partial student loan forgiveness program, which incidentally could help 2,000 staffers (or more!) on the hill, and (2) making federally-funded research free and publicly available, which will improve the availability of information for policymaking deliberations.

You didn’t ask us, but congressional student loan repayment assistance should be centrally administered, available to all regardless of the view of a particular member, and not subject to clawback if a staffer moves on.

Pay your interns. On the topic of centrally administered programs — did you like that segue? — check this opinion piece from my colleague Taylor Swift and Pay Our Intern’s Habiba Mohamed that calls for the creation of a House Intern Resource Office.

Mark your calendars. The Library of Congress announced its next virtual public forum on will be held this September 21 from 1:30 to 4:30 PM. To attend you must RSVP online. The Library also has an online feedback form for those who wish to submit comments individually. See you there.

They’re running. Reps. Jamie Raskin, Gerry Connolly, and Steven Lynch have all announced they’re running to succeed Rep. Carolyn Maloney as top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. This committee, which grew out of the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments, and itself was created from 11 separate House committees that oversaw government spending, is rooted in House committee efforts to oversee federal spending that go back at least to 1814.

Whistleblower powers. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced legislation last week, the Congress Leads by Example Act of 2022 (H.R. 8743), to grant Legislative branch employees greater whistleblower and other antidiscrimination protections for occupational safety and health complaints. The bill would put into effect recommendations from the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights to:

  • Bring the Legislative branch in line with the legal requirements of private sector employers and the Executive branch;
  • Provide subpoena authority to OCWR to conduct inspections and investigations into OSHA violations;
  • Prohibit Legislative branch offices from making adverse employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s wage garnishment or involvement in bankruptcy proceedings; and
  • Bolster the CAA’s recordkeeping requirements.
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First Branch Forecast for August 1, 2022: Reconciliation


This week. The House floor is closed until Sept.13 (with committee work starting on Sept. 6); the Senate is in for its last scheduled week until Sept. 6. The Senate will stick around until it passes the “Inflation Reduction Act,” AKA mini-reconciliation, timing depending on Democratic Members not testing positive for COVID; and the House is expected to return to pass that bill during August recess.

In Senate committee news this week: the Judiciary Cmte will hold a hearing on antitrust remedies (but Sen. Schumer still hasn’t scheduled antitrust bills for a floor vote). HSGAC will hold a markup of a few good-government bills. And Senate Rules Cmte will hold a hearing on the Electoral Count Act, following up on the bipartisan proposal to reform the ECA. We note some Members are voicing dissatisfaction with the proposal — as Rep. Raskin told Politico, the effort is “fine and necessary, but not remotely sufficient to meet the magnitude of the threat against democracy now.” (The Jan. 6 panel reportedly plans to release its own slate of recommendations for stopping the stealing of elections this fall, a time when there is the least amount of legislative runway.)

Last weekSenate Democrats published their FY 2023 approps bills. We’ve added the bill text, explanatory statements, and summaries to our tracker (toggle to the Senate tab) and will be working through the bills in the weeks to come. It seems obvious to us that there won’t be a markup process in the Senate, just like last year, and everything will get worked out — if anything gets worked out — behind the scenes. Sen. Leahy says he hopes the release of draft bills encourages good-faith Republican negotiation and emphasized the high stakes of repeating last year’s delays. Senate Republicans published a list of demands for items they consider “non-starters” and threatened a long term CR. It’s clear we’re heading for a short term CR, probably until after the heat of the election. We likely will hear a lot of carping about budget reconciliation as well.

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FY23 Appropriations Bill Text Tracking

It can be, at times, somewhat difficult to track appropriations bill text, report language, and press releases and the legislation goes through its paces. maintains a thorough appropriations page, but as of the time of this writing it still has not been updated for FY2023. It’s UI could also be improved.

So we are trying an experiment and will see if we can track the bills as they go through their paces — at least the initial paces. Accordingly, find below our FY 2023 appropriations bill text, report, and press release tracking spreadsheet. Let us know what you think.

First Branch Forecast for May 16, 2022: A better Congress

First Branch Forecast Logo


This week. The Senate is in today as is the House. Next week is a House committee-only work week, followed by the Memorial Day break in both chambers. On suspension on the House floor is a bill to strengthen the VA IG. The committee schedule is filled with appropriations hearings, but we also note that the House Judiciary Cmte has a hearing on potential reforms to emergency powers and the House Leg Branch SubCmte is holding a Member Day hearing.

Because this IS appropriations season, here is our list of appropriations deadlines for member testimony and public witness testimony in both chambers.


The big news. Many political and nonpolitical House staff will be able to unionize now that Rep. Levin’s resolution, H.Res.1096, passed the House last week. The OCWR must publish the regulations in the Congressional Record and (oddly) the OCWR has not (yet?) exercised its authority to shorten the 60 day waiting period, which starts upon publication in the Congressional Record, for the protections to go into effect. OCWR had testified to House Admin that the House could speed up implementation if it elucidated good cause to shorten the window, suggesting (at the time) that those views could be published in an accompanying committee report. Maybe there’s some other way they could be communicated?

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Statement on Vote on May 10, 2022 to Allow House Staff to Unionize

“Today’s vote to allow House staff to unionize portends a significant advance in the working conditions for congressional staff and is a high point in efforts to restore Congress’s strength as a robust institution capable of working on behalf of the American people,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director, Demand Progress.

“In the wake of a series of revelations about mistreatment of congressional staff and in the aftermath of decades of neglect, House political and non-political staff will finally be able to organize and negotiate for better working conditions without fear of retaliation.

We applaud all the congressional staffers and particularly the Congressional Workers Union for their ceaseless advocacy in support of improving staff working conditions; we commend Representative Andy Levin for his championing of the congressional unionization resolution, co-sponsored by a wide array of Members of Congress; Representative Zoe Lofgren for conducting thorough oversight through the Committee on House Administration; and Speaker Pelosi and senior leadership for bringing the measure to the House floor.

In combination with adjusting office funding levels by 21%, providing significant investments in Congress’s oversight capabilities, ensuring that no staffer earns below a living wage, and strengthening workplace protections, this House of Representatives has done more to strengthen the Legislative Branch than any Congress in the last 30 years.”

All Non-Confidential CRS Reports Should be Available Online

The public does not have access to a comprehensive database of non-confidential Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports. Recently, Demand Progress, American Enterprise Institute, and Free Government Information, and a coalition of 39 other organizations and 21 experts on Congress, including many CRS analysts, wrote to Representative Zoe Lofgren and Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Chair and Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on the Library, requesting they direct the Library of Congress to publish all non-confidential CRS reports online.

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