Key Funding Items Included in the FY 2022 Legislative Branch Bill

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.

What We Know About How House Unionization Might Work

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 hereRollCall and BGov have good summaries of the hearing.

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First Branch Forecast for March 7, 2022

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TOP LINE

The House and Senate are both in session today. This week Congress will attempt to pass the spending omnibus — which may include emergency supplementals for Ukraine and Covid-19 — before government funding expires Friday. We’re keeping our eyes out for the final Leg branch appropriations numbers, which we hope provide for a significant topline increase and also invest in transparency and capacity within FSGG and elsewhere.

SCOTUS Ethics. A hearing on the need for a code of conduct for Supreme Court justices is scheduled for tomorrow, March 8 at 2PM. It looks like federal judges will soon-ish be required to disclose stock trades over $1,000 on an online searchable database as well as their financial disclosure forms, as S.3059 recently passed the Senate and a companion measure passed the House in December. The SCOTUS is empowered to regulate itself, as if that’s meaningful, so a code of conduct may be a useful pathway to address its, uh, failure to do so thus far.

Bulk Data Task Force. Discuss congressional data this Thursday, March 10, at 2 PM. RSVP here; find the agenda here. This long running working-group, established by Congress and composed of congressional and non-governmental stakeholders, is a great place to talk about improving congressional data inside and outside Congress, including to see a preview of new tech tools in the pipeline. Our recap of the last quarterly meeting is posted here.

In honor of Sunshine week, join a panel discussion on some of the biggest transparency and accountability issues facing our world today next Wednesday, March 16th. RSVP here. Hosted by the Advisory Committee on Transparency, the event will feature remarks from Rep. Quigley, founder of the Congressional Transparency Caucus, and Rep. Kilmer, Chair of the House Select Committee on Modernization. Panelists include Shanna Devine of the House Office of Whistleblower Ombuds, Kate Oh of the ACLU, Danielle Brian of POGO, and Nick Hart of the Data Foundation. Alex Howard will moderate; he is co-director of the Advisory Committee on Transparency and director of the Digital Democracy Project. (I’m the other co-director. :)) More Sunshine week events are listed in the calendar section.

Ethics online. 36 organizations urged ethics and disclosure documents “made publicly available” at the Legislative Resource Center should actually be made publicly available by publishing them online and in a structured data format. The letter, sent to the House Administration Committee on Friday, noted that the LRC has been effectively closed to the public for more than two years. What do they have exactly? Here’s our spreadsheet of what’s available at the LRC and its Senate equivalent, the Senate Office of Public Records.

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First Branch Forecast for February 28, 2022

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TOP LINE

Calendar. The Senate is back today; the House is back tonight. We’re watching Wednesday’s House Admin hearing on unionization, the State of the Union is on Tuesday, and Demand Progress is co-hosting a panel discussion on presidential emergency powers on Wednesday (RSVP here) — ICYMI, lawmakers wrote this letter calling for an AUMF before any action by the president to introduce U.S. Armed Forces into hostilities or decline to remove any U.S. military personnel currently deployed inside Ukraine from unauthorized hostilities or imminent hostilities.

Congressional unionization is the focus of a House Administration Committee hearing this Wednesday. At the hearing, the committee is likely to consider H.Res.915, which would allow for House staff to unionize. This past week, the OCWR Board endorsed unionization in a letter that said: “The Board has conducted a thorough review and now unanimously endorses the regulations adopted by the 1996 Board and urges Congress to approve these regulations.” Per our spreadsheet, there are 152 co-sponsors of the measure and another 9 Democrats who issued a statement in support of unionization. The Congressional Workers Union has called for swift passage of the measure. For more, see our resources on unionization, Roll Call’s latest on why backers view the resolution as necessary, and LatinoRebels on the Dems who support unions, just (apparently) not in their own offices.

Curious about your rights under the CAA? The OCWR just launched quarterly training webinars to inform staff of their “rights and responsibilities” under the CAA, “including the protections against harassment, discrimination, intimidation, and reprisal.” 

Capitol Security (1). A Republican-led coalition of Members of the House called for the House to be “reopened” to tourists in a letter to House SAA Walker last month, which seems unwise to us especially as the letter doesn’t address whether they would support a mask requirement. Meanwhile, BGov is suggesting some industry lobbyists are ramping-up fly-in days and are finding alternatives to meetings in the Capitol complex. 

Capitol Security (2). Last week we covered GAO’s report on the Capitol Police, entitled “The Capitol Police Need Clearer Emergency Procedures and a Comprehensive Security Risk Assessment Process,” which should be raising alarms everywhere. With the upcoming SOTU and the arrival of a convoy of truckers protesting Covid restrictions, the National Guard authorized up to 700 members to assist local law enforcement if necessary. 

Save the date: if you’re interested in public access to legislative information (and who isn’t?), the next Bulk Data Task Force meeting has been set for March 10th. The meeting is open to the public and to congressional stakeholders. RSVP here; agenda will be posted here

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First Branch Forecast for February 22, 2022: The twos

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TOP LINE

Happy recess. Last week the Senate managed to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government through March 11. Apparently appropriators have reached an agreement on the top line numbers for the appropriations subcommittees, but we don’t know what they are, only the reactions of a few subcommittee chairs. We’re still waiting on the Leg branch number. Get ready for the State of the Union, set for March 1st.

Go to work. Senate Republicans are stonewalling nominees by not showing up to committee proceedings. The arcane and insane Senate rules are understood to require a majority of members to be physically present for a committee to report out a matter — something we warned about as a booby-trap for Senate continuity in the event of an emergency — and the absence of a majority allows for a point of order on the floor, creating yet another veto point for the minority. (When the shoe was on the other foot, committees ignored their own rules requiring minority members to be present.) There is an irony between the mantra of many House Republicans, who say that the House is not working if it’s not in person, and Senate Republicans, who won’t show up (in person) to allow work to be done on the committees. For those with long memories, members refusing to say they were present was an issue in the House in the 19th century that led to an important Supreme Court decision with the hilarious name of United States v. Ballin. (Summary here.)

Three notable hearings took place last week: House Admin’s on the IG’s oversight of the Capitol Police’s handling of January 6th (where I testified), ModCom’s on modernizing district offices; and the Budget committee on abolishing the (superfluous and counterproductive) debt limit. We cover the House Admin and ModCom hearings below; BGOV ($) has a good summary of the Budget hearing; we point you to the majority’s explainer and report on the topic.

Oh, please tell your friends to subscribe to our little newsletter.

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First Branch Forecast for February 14, 2022

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TOP LINE

Schedule. The Senate is in this week; the House has a committee workweek. Both are on recess next week. The committee calendar is light, but I’ll be busy. On Thursday the House Admin Committee will be holding a hearing on oversight of the January 6th Capitol Attack — the Capitol Police IG will be testifying, as will I. On Wednesday, the House Modernization Committee will hold a hearing on modernizing district offices.

FY 2022 Approps. A bipartisan, bicameral topline and framework have been reached for the omnibus spending bill and nothing beyond that fact is publicly known (except that we will, alas, see a huge increase on the defense side.) In an odd but hilarious twist of fate, one recent report suggests that earmarks may be making a budget deal harder to reach for some Senate Republicans — on that, we will see. The House-passed stopgap spending package, intended to fund the government through March 11, awaits a Senate vote. The CPCC’s latest explainer, uh, explains why a year-long continuing resolution is a bad idea. We will be closely watching to see the top line numbers for the Legislative branch, which will determine whether grossly underpaid congressional staff get some financial relief.

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First Branch Forecast for February 7, 2022: Legitimate political discourse

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TOP LINE

This week. The House is scheduled to be in from Monday to Wednesday, with a light legislative calendar that might get heavier to address the FY 2022 appropriations bill and unionization in the House. After Wednesday, the House is currently scheduled to be out until March 1, with a committee-only work week next week. The Senate is in on Monday, with a week-long recess scheduled for next week, which also is fraught considering the expiration of the CR on the 18th. We didn’t see anything of relevance on the committee calendar.

Remember last week when we wrote about continuity of Congress and the problems that could arise in both chambers, but most acutely in the Senate? Unfortunately Sen. Luján had a stroke last week and reportedly will be out for a while, which not only is a personal tragedy but has serious implications for the ability of the majority to act on the committees in which he serves and to advance measures on the floor.

Union! Prompted by a question from journalist Pablo Manríquez, Speaker Pelosi’s office indicated she’d support allowing House staff to unionize; Senator Schumer indicated the same. As of 1pm on Sunday, we have identified 72 members of the House and 11 members of the Senate who support allowing congressional staff to unionize. We wrote a brief history of unionizing efforts in Congress and I submitted testimony on this topic last year.

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First Branch Forecast for January 31, 2022: Proxy Voting FTW

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This week. The Senate is back today; the House is back tomorrow. Appropriations run out on February 18th, so expect a short CR, an omnibus bill, or a shutdown. Looking at scheduled committee proceedings, we see separate Tuesday HSGAC and Budget hearings on the nominations of the OMB Director and Deputy Director. Sunday was Fred Korematsu day in many states; read about him here.

Working conditions in Congress were the focus of three significant reports in the last week. We previously mentioned the House IG report, which recommends the “House establish and maintain pay parity with Executive branch salaries and make the necessary adjustments to the MRA to achieve pay parity” and has four specific implementation recommendations. The Congressional Progressive Staff Caucus released the results of its survey of 516 congressional staff (summary + data) that found that half of staff surveyed struggled to make ends meet and two-thirds are unhappy with their compensation level — the findings are summarized by Roll Call’s Megan Mineiro. And Issue One released an analysis of House expenditure data that found 1 in 8 staff are not making a living wageRoll Call’s Niels Lesniewski has a summary. All this points to what we already know: staff are overworked and underpaid and the House must make some changes, including implementing the House IG report recommendations and making sure members of Congress are incentivized to help their staff (such as by allowing them to unionize).

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First Branch Forecast for January 24, 2022: More Staff, Better Tech

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THIS WEEK

This week. The Senate returns to its regularly scheduled programming (recess) after a busy week and won’t return until Jan. 31; the House is out until Feb. 1Committee activity is minimal. The February 18th deadline to fund the government looms; Senate Republicans continue to stonewall. Last week, we watched as the Senate upheld its sacred tradition of refusing to protect the right to vote for all citizens through parliamentary maneuvers designed to accomplish the opposite of their stated objectives. Sarah Binder explains what Senate Democrats were trying to accomplish and how a tactical defeat could become a strategic victory for democracy. We fear that it is too late.

In the following sections we talk about additional threats to self-government as well as progress in reforming aspects of House operations. Of particular note is an overlooked but striking report on increasing the number of employees per member office, an excellent Fix Congress Committee hearing on implementation of its reform recommendations, and the announcement (via that hearing) of the standing up of the CAO’s House Digital Service.

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First Branch Forecast for January 18, 2022: Fire, Freedom, and Funds

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THE TOP LINE

It’s Tuesday, Lemon. The House is back today after the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday with an apparently light floor schedule; the Senate canceled recess to try again to move voting rights legislation with debate on Tuesday and a cloture vote on Wednesday, hopefully all members will be healthy, present, and prepared to take a stand for democracy. This week’s committee schedule looks quiet, but we’ve got our eyes on Wednesday’s intriguing House Rules hearing on using budget principles to prepare for future pandemics and disasters and Thursday’s ModCom hearing on the status of the committee’s recommendations for making Congress work better for the American people (witnesses have not been officially announced).

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