One of the first things done by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi after taking control of the big gavel was to appoint the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress to recommend measures to bring the First Branch into the 21st Century of organizational management.
In its first hearing, the modernization committee heard testimony from 30 members representing both sides of the aisle, including Rep. Kathleen Clarke (D-Mass.) who provided a concise assessment of worrisome staffing trends:
- “We don’t have enough staff: Google employs roughly 6.5 times as many staffers to run its company as the House and Senate combined have to oversee the entirety of the United States federal government.
- “Overall staff numbers have declined: Between 1980 and 2014 the House actually lost staff. In fact, our Committees now employ roughly half as many staffers as they did in 1980.
- “We pay our staff less: Between 2011 and 2015 the average, inflation adjusted salary for House professional staff went down 12%, the salary for House legislative directors went down 6%, and the salary for House legislative assistants went down 6%.
- “We overburden our staff: Because House staffing has not kept pace with the growth in the size of government, an individual House Appropriations Committee staffer is now responsible for overseeing 52% more federal dollars than they did 16 years ago.
- “We retain staff for shorter periods of time: A 2016 survey of House staff found that 50% of House legislative directors had been in their position for less than 2 years and only 12% stayed on the job for more than 5 years. Meanwhile the median tenure for a House legislative assistant is just over 1 year.
“Simply put, we don’t have enough staff to do our jobs, and the staff we do have are underpaid and don’t stay very long.”
Clarke also offered a number of suggested reforms, including increased salaries, financial incentives for longevity and others, as a means of upgrading the working conditions for Hill staff. Go here to read Clarke’s entire testimony.