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Politics 110 House Democrats endorse boost to staff pay

06:40  20 june  2021
06:40  20 june  2021 Source:   thehill.com

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A group of 110 House Democrats on Monday endorsed funding increases to boost pay for staff.

a large building: The U.S. Capitol is seen from the East Front Plaza at sunset on June 7 © Greg Nash The U.S. Capitol is seen from the East Front Plaza at sunset on June 7

In a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the Democratic lawmakers called for a 21 percent increase in the Member Representational Allowance (MRA), which they said would go towards increasing staff salaries.

"If we as Members are to fulfill our responsibility to govern effectively for the people and deliver on our Majority's promises to renew faith in government by ensuring that Congress reflects the American people we serve, we must be able to recruit and retain a diverse and talented workforce to help Members, leadership, and committees carry out their work," the Democrats wrote.

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They claimed that the low wages have "hamstrung" congressional offices' abilities to recruit and retain a diverse workforce, writing "the low salary available to entry-level staff continue to raise barriers to entry and advantage those who are already wealthy and connected."

"These realities have hamstrung the House in our ability to recruit and retain the talented and diverse workforce we need to serve the diversity and needs of the American people in the best way possible," the letter added.

The lawmakers said that last year, House staff salaries were cut 20.7 percent from the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) 10-year baseline projections from 2011.

They said it is "no wonder" that the average congressional staff member leaves their job after three years.

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The group also said it hopes the budget allocation for the legislative branch will "account for a need to offer more competitive benefits to staff."

"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,'" Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who spearheaded the effort, said 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," she added.

Daniel Schuman, the policy director of Demand Progress, endorsed the effort by House Democrats, writing that compensating congressional staff with a living wage is the "humane" thing to do.

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The push from the House Democrats comes after House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) in April called for an increase of the maximum pay for House staffers, claiming that salaries have become less competitive over time.

The lawmakers specifically requested a 20 percent increase for Members' Representational Allowance Funds.

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