Human capital and institutional decline in congressional appropriations committees

Key Points

As the size of the federal budget has continued to increase, House and Senate Appropriations Committee staffing levels have not kept pace. As a result, each House Approps. staffer is responsible for 52% more federal dollars than he or she was just 16 years ago. And each Senate Approps. staffer’s workload has increased 30% during the same period.
Appropriations committee posts are known as premier jobs on the Hill. We confirm that staffers on these committees earn higher salaries and maintain longer tenures when compared to their peers. But, there are still very real gender discrepancies both in terms of what types of jobs women hold on the committees, and in being paid less than men despite holding the same title.
Because of these capacity deficiencies, Congress is unable to provide vital oversight over the $4 trillion they appropriate each fiscal year and we can fully expect the new normal of funding the federal government through short-term and omnibus legislation to continue.

Members and experts alike often call for a return to regular order in the appropriations process. But Congress is fast approaching a point where very few current members or staffers were around the last time regular order was followed. Can we reasonably expect to return to something no one has experience doing?

Press release: R Street policy report: How congressional staff levels adversely affect the federal budget

Image credit: Orhan Cam

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