FY22 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill strengthens and modernizes Congress

Today, the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations released its draft fiscal year (FY) 2022 Legislative Branch funding bill. Issue One Executive Director Meredith McGehee issued the following statement: 

“The COVID-19 pandemic, a national reckoning over racial injustice, and the January 6 siege of the Capitol have strained our democracy, underscoring the need for a strong, well-prepared Congress. Americans expect and deserve leadership in times of national uncertainty. Through this year’s appropriations process, Chair Rosa DeLauro, Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Ryan, and the members of the Appropriations Committee have taken key steps to equip Congress with much-needed additional resources to address these modern challenges. While more work remains, this bill and its proposals are an important step to help ensure that Congress can uphold its responsibilities to the American people.” 

In April, Meredith McGehee submitted testimony to the Subcommittee on Legislative Branch Appropriations, complementing key appropriations items that Issue One recommended.

For FY22, the draft bill appropriates a total of $4.8B, a 13.8% increase over 2021 funding levels. The Committee included the following recommendations in its package

  1. Boosting funding for House offices: In May, Issue One signed onto a bipartisan letter calling for the House Committee on Appropriations to boost funding for Members’ Representational Allowances (MRA), the budget from which House offices compensate their staff, run district offices, lease office equipment, pay for official travel, and perform official duties. In this year’s bill, the Committee increased MRA funding by 21%, from $640M to $774.4M. This shift will better equip Members with the resources they need to fully serve their constituents and more fairly compensate congressional staff. 
  2. Investing in diversity and inclusion: This year’s appropriations package doubles the funding available for the House Office of Diversity and Inclusion, from $1.5M to $3M. This office helps attract a diverse workforce and maintain an equitable workplace environment. 
  3. Paying interns: Internships are the gateway to a career on Capitol Hill. The FY22 Legislative Branch appropriations package expands the funding for House offices to pay interns by 40% (from $11M to nearly $15.5M). The bill also provides for increased intern allowances for majority (20.3% increase) and minority (19.7% increase) leadership offices. Finally, the FY22 bill creates a new allowance of $2M for House committees to compensate interns, a policy that was included in Issue One’s FY22 recommendations to the Committee. These funds will help ensure that Congress can employ interns that are representative of all American communities, not just those that can afford to cover the costs of an unpaid internship. 
  4. Supporting congressional modernization: The FY22 draft bill reallocates $2M into an account to be used by the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress to make the institution more effective, efficient, transparent, and representative of all Americans. 
  5. Bolstering oversight and efficiency: The FY22 draft bill calls for a 10.3%, or $68.1M increase, in funding for the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Since its creation, the GAO has provided consistent financial benefits to the federal government and for taxpayers, returning close to $100 for every dollar invested. This funding will allow GAO to hire nearly 200 additional staff to meet its large workload and strengthen Congress for the American people. 

Beyond its funding shifts, the Appropriations Committee’s draft bill makes a number of important policy changes, including the following:

  1. Employing DACA recipients: Included in the bill is language that allows Congress to employ residents of the U.S. who were brought to this country as children without proper documentation status, but who hold employment authorization under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
  2. Removing offensive statues: Recognizing the need to challenge systemic racism within the institution of Congress, this year’s Legislative Branch appropriations package directs the Architect of the Capitol to remove statues or busts in the United States Capitol that represent figures who participated in the Confederate Army or government, including those of Charles Aycock, John C. Calhoun, James Paul Clarke, and Roger B. Taney.

Today, the efforts of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, the advocacy and expertise of outside congressional experts, and the commitment of House appropriators came together to make the House of Representatives a stronger institution. Issue One will continue to advance these and additional recommendations through and beyond this year’s appropriations process.