Sunday, June 13, 2021

Prospects for Hill Hill’s wage increases remain cloudy as Congress tackles shrinking staff, brain drain

Assistants to congressional staff are seldom in the public eye, except during television committee hearings, when they take seats behind the senators and representatives, handing over useful notes and important documents to lawmakers while cross-examining witnesses.

They may be unclear to taxpayers, but Hill’s assistants are one of the most influential groups in Washington that make up the country’s laws. They do most of the necessary research, draft bills, deal with lobbyists and headline hearings.

Most importantly, Hill assistants regularly have direct access to individual senators and representatives with whom the K-Street lobbyists are best connected.

Nevertheless, Hill Assistants is one of the cheapest realtors in the Capitol in the country, which according to the average remuneration is 20 percent less than employees of the executive, according to Question Progress Fund Fund Policy Director Daniel Schuman.

As a result, it is common for a representative legislative director Earn $ 90,000 Regularly with Best Career Manager takamptenare Earn $ 120,000 or more, as well as lobbyists who take home significantly higher compensation than one of the two. But it is the legislative director who can make or break a legislative proposal.

Another consequence is a serious brain drain from Congress, as Hill assistants often spend a few years learning the legislative ropes and making useful contacts, and then going to executive positions or at K Street lobbying firms. join.

The problem is reflected in chronically high turnover rates for members’ personal offices and committee aids that may be overshadowed by more experienced bureaucrats and lobbyists with a better resource.

Brain drain

“It’s a combination of factors,” Zach Graves, managing director of Lincoln Network, told The Epoch Times. ‘Overall, I think there is a lack of policy capacity on the Hill, and I think that salaries, especially for more junior posts, make an important contribution to the brain drain.

“If you look at legislative directors and legislative assistants on the House side, I think it’s a big factor to get the right talent in the right positions.”

The Lincoln Network is a conservative, non-profit organization that describes itself as ‘dealing with tough technological problems for the cause of freedom’.

Representatives rely on their legislative directors and assistants to read and research the hundreds of bills introduced in each Congress, and their advice is often a deciding factor in the way representatives vote on the floor of the House.

The size of congressional staff also failed to keep up with the huge growth in the scope and power of the executive’s regulatory activities, Graves said.

The growth, in turn, has caused an explosion in the number of lobbyists, and as all roads in Washington eventually lead back to Congress, bureaucrats and lobbyists are constantly working on the Hill.

“It’s also the number of staff members, especially in committees, that is a big challenge. Since the 1990s, our staff has decreased quite significantly in committees,” he said.

Funding

The root of the problem is the refusal of Congress among Republican and Democratic majorities to keep pace with the funding of staff and resources needed for effective legislation and oversight of the executive.

The data compiled by Shuman’s group shows the most recent highlight for staff budgets occurred in 2010 when the Members’ Representation Grant (MRA) – the total amount each Home Legislator receives to run his or her congressional office, including hired staff – totaled nearly $ 786 million (adjusted to $ 2020). The low point in 2018 was $ 586 million. For 2021, the total MRA budget is $ 640 million, an increase of 9.2 percent over 2018.

For the Senate, the MRA equivalent is the Senators’ Official Staff and Office Expenditure Account (SOPOEA). The 2010 SOPOEA figure in 2020 dollar was $ 502 million, compared to the 2017 low of $ 414 million and the total in 2021 of $ 461 million.

The House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (HSCMC), formed in 2018, recommends multiple reforms to improve the effectiveness of the legislative branch, including better pay for staff.

Kevin Kosar, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Epoch Times that progress is largely slow because members are afraid of the political costs associated with using tax money to make their jobs easier.

“Spending more money on Congress as a general concept is not attractive if you approve of Congress so little,” Kosar said. “To complicate matters is to spend more money on your own office against the popular misconception that members of Congress are manned.”

Kosar was previously at the R Street Institute and the Working Group Capacity Working Group, both of which were instrumental in the effort that led to the establishment of the HSCMC.

Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), The HSCMC chairman, told The Epoch Times that he believes that “it has long been unnecessary for Congress to make the necessary investments to attract a diverse, talented workforce. Congress staff play play a vital role in fulfilling our representative and legislative responsibilities, and we know that offering competitive salaries is an important way to retain our country’s best and brightest. ”

“High turnover rates and offices that do not have enough resources have led to a system that relies too much on lobbyists for policy expertise and has hampered the ability of representatives to serve the American people effectively.”

HSCMC Vice Chairman Rep. William Timmons (RS.C.) told The Epoch Times that attention is also needed for ‘staff training, [and to] consider improved benefits, and explore ways to create a better work-life balance. ”

Timmons said that “improving policies and programs here in the House that help us retain our most experienced and talented staff will ultimately make Congress work better for the American people.”

Congress correspondent Mark Tapscott can be reached at mark.tapscott@epochtimes.nyc.

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