First Branch Forecast

House Breaks Promise to Committee Staff On Pay Adjustment

Earlier today, the Committee on House Administration favorably reported a resolution to provide a 10% pay adjustment to most committee staff — which sounds like good news until you remember that the House had promised a 21% adjustment, in line with increases to personal office and leadership staff. I realized the discrepancy yesterday when crunching the numbers, which I’ve published below.

Congress voted to increase the appropriation line item for standing, special, and select committees by 21%, from $138 million in FY 2021 to $167 million in FY 2022, which would return them to their funding levels in 2010. But unlike funding for personal offices (funded through the Member Representational Account line item) and the Appropriations Committee (which has its own line item), funding for committees is allocated by the Committee on House Administration in a somewhat convoluted process that I’ve explained here. The short version is that it is up to House Administration to decide how much each committee will receive and they report a resolution to the House, which the House must then pass, that allocates those funds.

This is where things gets weird. For FY 2022, the actual allocations for committees, as reflected in the House resolution, increased by about $16 million. But it should have increased by about $32 million. There’s about $15 million missing dollars that should have gone to committee staff. Where did it go?

The funding resolution did not include funding levels for the January 6th Select Committee and the Economic Disparity Select Committee, although it did include other select committees.

Looking at the monthly committee activity reports, published on House Admin’s website, suggests the January 6th Committee received $5 million in 2021 and spent around $4 million. They haven’t filed all their required monthly reports, but their January 2022 burn rate was $546k, which suggests they’ll probably spent around $5 million this year, or $10 million in total. That’s 2/3s of the missing funding increase. This number is in line with what many committees spend each Congress and is reasonable considering its workload.

The Economic Disparity Select Committee spent $750k in 2021, so we can estimate they’ll probably spent $1.5 million in total. Put together with the Jan 6th Committee, and we’ve accounted for $11.5-$12 million of the $15 million, with a little money left over (the contingency) in case a committee overspends.

The House could have reasonably anticipated the costs of the January 6th Committee. The work of the committee is important and it should be funded. The House could have funded it through the various appropriations supplementals working their way through Congress. It may even have been able to reline some funds unspent by the House in 2021. But that has not happened, at least not yet, and funding for these two select committees is coming out of the pockets of nearly all House Committee staff.

Matters are only made worse when you realize that leadership, personal office, and Appropriations Committee staff were fully funded at the 21% adjustment. Everyone has earned this pay adjustment, and it’s terrible to feel left valued and left out. When committee staff and leadership realized this would happen, they should have put out a communication explaining the problem and addressing how they would make it right.

One can only hope that leadership moves quickly, perhaps through one of the many supplemental appropriations packages, to address this shortfall in funding for committee staff.

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