SEVEN PERCENT OF THE HOUSE, or 32 Members, spoke at a Member’s Day hearing of the Fix Congress Committee, held on Tuesday, with 35 members submitting written testimony. (Video, Witness statements). The 3 hour hearing, which followed the committee’s organizational meeting that adopting committee rules, is too complex to recap, but we summarized the subject matter in this spreadsheet. FWIW, I was generally impressed by the testimony.
Of the 22 Democrats and 10 Republicans who testified, the most popular issues were staff pay and benefits (8 members), modernizing technology (6 members), and investing in the institution (6 members). Of the three, modernizing technology had bipartisan speakers. In addition, other popular items, such as addressing committee jurisdictions (e.g, fixing the budget process), cyber security, and improving the House calendar, had bipartisan speakers. Roll Call and Issue One have a summary of the proceedings. Follow the committee’s new twitter account here.
Paid interns was one of the topics at the hearing, which is fortuitous because later that very day the House Administration Committee adopted a resolution containing interim guidance, giving the go-ahead for House personal offices to draw upon a $20 special fund to hire paid interns in DC. The mid-March adoption was late enough in the hiring cycle that it was adversely affecting intern hires for the summer. Part of the conversation at the meeting concerned increasing funds available to hire interns and expanding the kinds of offices that would be able to tap into the funds. More info, including the payroll authorization form, is here.
What about committee staff? A new report from the R Street Institute analyzed committee staffing trends on the Hill with fascinating results. It’s a mistake to lump committees together. For example, average staff tenure on House Appropriations is 8.1 years, compared to 3.6 years for House Energy. The average staffer salary varies from $135k for House Financial Services to $82k for the House Oversight Committee. Service on some committees can be highly gendered, too.
The House Administration Committee heard allotment requests during its meeting — these are requests from committees to provide funds for their operations. We wrote about how House committees get their money, and their historic funding levels, back in January. Notable this go-around was that House Admin waived requiring that the Chairs/RMs testify, so long as they made a joint request. Apparently everyone asked for more money, which makes sense as the House is spending $110m less (in inflation adjusted dollars) on committees than it did in the 111th Congress, which is a 25% cut. The committee funding resolution will be considered on March 26th and voted on by the House on March 28.
The lone point of contention was Rep. Jim Jordan, who opposed any request by House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cumming to increase the Committee’s allotment. Cummings requested a 4% increase this year and 10% for the following year. The Oversight Committee would need a 22.3% increase to put it at its funding level from a decade ago, and it has 25 unfilled personnel slots, 15 Democratic and 10 Republican. Rep. Jordan appeared to object on the grounds that Congress should cut its funds to save taxpayer dollars, although it became clear that some of the concern was rooted in opposition to hearings like that where Michael Cohen testified. The discussion was contentious.
Also on Tuesday was a double-header before the House Leg Branch Approps Subcommittee, where both the House of Representatives and Capitol Police budget requests were considered. The hearings didn’t surface any information that was not contained in the written testimony, although the Capitol Police were the subject of a Roll Call story that highlighted how arrests of protests and traffic violations “dominate” their recent arrests, at least to the extent they disclose who they arrest. Roll Call tells the story of how the 2,200 member $450m budgeted USCP had its jurisdiction expanded beyond Capitol grounds in the 1990s, and cited Demand Progress’s report for the arrest data. One notable fact: the USCP has an IG that doesn’t make any reports publicly available, and USCP said that’s because they aren’t required to by federal law. Hmmm.
The USCP can’t stay out of the news as they arrested an artist for projecting the phrase “Discrimination is Wrong” onto the Rayburn House Office Building last week. The artist, who believed the projection was lawful and has done this all around town, had his equipment confiscated and won’t get it back for at least a month, prompting a go-fund-me to pay for legal fees and replace the equipment. USCP was recently in the news for leaving a gun in a bathroom and apparently roughing up some journalists. Incidentally — no pun intended — Capitol Police reported 10 arrests during the week ending March 13th. Continue reading “Forecast for March 18, 2019. The seven-per-cent solution.”