Today, 110 Members of Congress delivered a letter to the House Appropriations Committee asking they provide sufficient funding to retain competent House staff. Currently, the average House staff member leaves after only three years, and recent reporting suggests the House may be facing a staff exodus.
Incredibly, House staff salaries last year were effectively cut 20.7% from the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) ten-year baseline projection for House staff salaries and expenses from 2011. Today’s letter urges a 21% increase in the Member Representational Allowance (MRA), committee budgets, and leadership office budgets for fiscal year 2022 to erase that gap. The full letter is available here. Quotes from sponsoring Members follow.
“It is unjust for Congress to budget a living wage for ourselves, yet rely on unpaid interns and underpaid, overworked staff just because some conservatives want to make a statement about “fiscal responsibility,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a statement. “The lack of diversity on the Hill can be traced directly to our failure to pay staff a living wage. Low-pay also contributes to the undue influence of money in politics, with experienced Hill staffers frequently leaving to work for lobbyists and other special interests. This investment will create a stronger Congress and better policy for the country.”
“My mission in Congress is to support working people—to bring them better jobs, better wages and better protections. I’d be a hypocrite not to do the same for the people who work for me. Better pay for House staff isn’t just a labor issue, it’s a good governance issue. The American people benefit when staffers have valuable experience and come from diverse backgrounds. Funding for staff salaries will ensure the House workforce isn’t made up of the wealthy and well-connected, but of dedicated public servants who bring the knowledge and passion needed to best serve the working people of this country,” said Rep. Andy Levin
“Our staff provide critical services to constituents every day. If we are going to attract and retain an expert and diverse workforce, we have to remain competitive with the private sector. This investment will help keep our talented staff and stem the brain drain from public service,” said Staff Director on Subcommittee on Government Operations, Wendy Ginsberg
“Increasing the pay and benefits for the staff of Member offices, leadership offices, and committees is common sense,” Rep Eric. Swalwell said. “For years, these salaries have fallen further and further behind what is offered in the private sector making it difficult to recruit and retain a diverse and talented workforce. If we want the halls of Congress to look more like the districts we represent, this increase should be a no-brainer.”
“Capitol Hill is full of bright public servants who want to improve the lives of the American people. But Hill staffers are paid notoriously low salaries, which contributes to high turnover rates and makes it difficult to recruit individuals from diverse backgrounds. And D.C. is an expensive city to live in!Increasing the MRA will allow each office to retain talented staffers and build a strong, experienced Capitol Hill workforce that reflects America,” said Rep. Gwen Moore.
“Congress could not run without the countless public servants who work tirelessly behind the scenes. For far too long, low Congressional staff salaries have deterred many working-class and people of color from pursuing a job on Capitol Hill. Right now, 70% of Congressional staff are white. In my office, we have paid all of our interns and staff a living wage to maintain a staff that reflects the diversity of our district. Expanding the MRA will increase the applicant pool for Congressional staff positions and overall help reflect the diversity of America,” said Rep. Ilhan Omar.
“As we advocate for living wages for all working people across this country, we must do the same for those who work tirelessly to keep our offices — and our government — running,” said Congressman Mondaire Jones. “Allowing congressional staff to live in dignity is about reducing staff turnover, building institutional knowledge in the halls of Congress, and diversifying the pool of public servants who can afford to work in our government. That’s why I’m proud to stand with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and our colleagues in urging Appropriations Chairwoman DeLauro to increase our yearly budget by 21 percent. It’s time we pay our staff the salaries they deserve.”
“My commitment to ensuring all Americans earn a living wage begins right here in my own office,” said Congressman David Trone. “In order to attract staffers that will mirror the diversity of America and understand constituent needs, we must increase staff salaries and offer more competitive benefits, such as child-care subsidies. This funding will open doors for many, and infuse Capitol Hill with bright, new talent.”
“Our staff should look like the communities we represent. They work every day to serve our constituents diligently with passion and commitment. As living costs go up, it is a matter of logic and principle to provide them with living wages so they can continue serving our constituents without having to worry how will they pay rent or if they will have to get a second job to make ends meet,” said Congresswoman Sylvia R. Garcia (TX-29).“We need to make sure we are providing them with enough incentives, so we can retain diverse talent, especially from communities of color and the Latino community, who will bring innovation to the way we tackle our society’s most pressing issues.”
“Congressional staffers perform critical work because they believe in the importance of public service. Every day, they draft legislation, perform important services for constituents, and keep our government working,” said Rep. David Cicilline (RI-01). “They have continued serving our country through a pandemic and the worst attack on the U.S. Capitol since the Civil War. Yet, their wages have continued to fall further and further behind the private sector. We should want the best and brightest to stay in public service. That’s why it’s so important to restore these cuts and make it easier for more talented individuals to serve their country.”
“A career in public service shouldn’t translate to unsustainable, unlivable low-wages,” said Rep. Khanna. “If we want to continue to recruit the best and the brightest to inspire change in the halls of Congress, we need to pay them a living salary. While I’m proud to offer my team comprehensive paid leave and livable salaries, I recognize that other staffers across the building are not so fortunate. Increasing the MRA will allow Congressional staff to spend more time crafting policy and less time at their second or third jobs.”
“In Congress, there is no resolution, no bill, no hearing, and no money appropriated without the hard work and diligence of congressional staff,” said Congressman Al Green in a statement. “I proudly stand with 109 of my colleagues by co-signing this letter to the Appropriations Committee, requesting sufficient funding to pay our staff because I support the people that not only support Congress but support our nation as a whole.”
“Paying Congressional staff a living wage will help diversify the halls of Congress, ensure a diversity of lived experience at the decision-making table, and increase opportunities for staff from historically marginalized communities—all while offering fair compensation for hard work,” said Rep. Pressley. “This critical investment is a long overdue, common-sense solution that will help strengthen our democracy long-term.”