First Branch Forecast

First Reactions to the Draft FY 2023 House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee Bill

The House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee today released its draft FY 2023 appropriations bill accompanied by a press release. The subcommittee markup is tomorrow at 11 am ET — the full committee vote is next Wednesday — and we won’t know what is in the committee report until the day before the full committee markup. We reviewed the legislation and compared the proposed funding to the enacted levels from prior years. (If you’re interested in the documents from prior Congresses, we have compiled them here.)

At first glance, this bill is packed with many smart funding decisions that will help strengthen Congress. In particular, we noticed significant adjustments to personal, committee, and leadership staff funding; improving the intern pipeline by providing a living wage and the creation of a new intern resource office; a significant investment in modernizing the House’s technology and implementing the recommendations of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, and providing adequate funding to support the House unionization process. There are also significant changes in funding levels for offices and policy agencies, including the CAO. We also note tremendous amounts of new money for the Capitol Police and the Architect. 

We applaud the hard work of Chair Ryan, Ranking Member Herrera Buetler, and all members of the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee who have demonstrated good stewardship of the Legislative branch. We look forward to seeing the many provisions that will be contained in the committee report and reflect more granular decisions concerning improving Legislative branch operations. 

Appropriators have proposed a $5.7 billion funding level, which is a $954.4 million increase over FY 2022, or a 20.1 percent increase. Please note that this does not include funding for the Senate, which will add approximately $1 billion dollars. A whopping 71.4% of the increase will go to the Capitol Police and Architect. This raises significant concerns with us, most notably because historically funding for the USCP and the Architect has resulted in significant decreases in funding for Congress’s policy apparatus, which will become more of a problem in subsequent years.

Among the major funding features of this legislation:

  • A $35.6 million increase in the Member Representational Allowance, to $810 million, which is a 4.6% increase; and a $21.9 million increase in committee funding levels (excluding appropriators) to $188.9 million, which is a 13.1% increase. This builds upon last year’s funding adjustment. While the House is still underfunded compared to its historical levels, this goes a significant way toward restoring some of its lost capabilities.
  • $24.3 million in funding for paid interns across the personal, committee, and leadership offices, which is a $4.1 million (33.7%) increase over FY 2022. This amount, enough for $46,800 for each member’s office, is an increase of $11,800 per office and will make it possible for interns to be paid at least D.C. minimum wage.
  • The House Modernization Account, which supports offices like the Chief Administrative Officer and the Clerk in modernizing technology, will see an increase to $10 million, providing desperately needed funds to continue to modernize House operations. 
  • Big increases in funding for support offices like the Clerk (+11.9%), Sergeant at Arms (+40.1%), and the CAO (+9.5%). Other support offices like Legislative Counsel (6.6%) and Law Revision Counsel (+4.1%) also saw increases. 
  • Increases for the legislative support agencies, like CRS (+3.5%), CBO (+6%), GAO (+9.2%), and GPO (the actual amount is unclear because of how the revolving door fund works).’
  • The bill includes an additional $500,000 for the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights (OCWR) to “assist with recent staff unionization efforts.” OCWR told appropriators during their budget hearing that they would need additional staff to handle the influx of work around unionization.
  • The Capitol Police will receive an additional 17.5%, or $105.6 million, to a total of $708 million, which represents a 37% increase since FY 21, not counting the additional funding for buildings and security. We understand Member concerns about security but remain concerned ourselves that without wholesale reform, no amount of money will be able to solve what is wrong at the Capitol Police. 
  • Without the Senate side, we cannot see how much the funding for the Architect will increase. The press statement suggests a $576 million over FY 2022, to $1.2 billion (yes, that’s billion), which looks like a 62.5% increase. Money will largely go to support additional security enhancements, including the $532.2 for the previously mentioned USCP building, grounds, and security. 

There are also some policy changes in the bill: 

  • The bill establishes the creation of a House Intern Resource Office, which will be responsible for advertising internships, reaching out to historically underrepresented communities, providing guidance, training, support, and assistance to interns regarding their work environment, and gathering demographic and other data about interns employed by the House of Representatives in personal, committee, and leadership offices. This will be transformational for the institution and interns alike. 
  • The bill provides $3 million in funding for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the same amount as FY 22.
  • The bill once again requests the confederate statues be removed from public view and put into storage within 45 days. (This was in the two previous bills as well, but has been repeatedly blocked by the Senate). Obviously, we are supportive of this effort.
  • DACA recipients would become eligible to work for Congress. (This provision has been previously blocked as well.)
  • Absent is a COLA for Members, which hasn’t been included in the bill since 2009, resulting in a significant decrease in real terms in pay for Members. This is a politically intractable problem and was discussed recently at a hearing held by the House Committee on the Modernization of Congress. 

We expect to see many more policy provisions in the committee report language, which won’t become available until 24 hours before the full committee markup.

What’s next?

Subcommittee markup is scheduled for tomorrow, June 15th at 11 am ET. 

Full Committee markup is scheduled for Wednesday, June 22nd.

For a more precise breakdown of the proposed funding, check out our spreadsheet comparing FY 2021, FY 2022, and FY 2023. It’s a working document and subject to change.

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