House Democratic leaders made the rain come last week for congressional staffers and Capitol Police officers, with the passage of their $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill.
At a time when record inflation and gas prices have eroded the purchasing power of American consumers, Congress delivered a 21 percent increase to the Members Representational Allowance, which funds the offices of lawmakers and various congressional support offices.
According to a summary of the bill, “this is the largest increase in the MRA appropriation since its authorization in 1996.”
While the salaries of lawmakers will remain steady at $174,000 (leadership salaries are slightly higher), the additional funding will allow them to hire additional staffers and to increase the pay of existing staffers, some of whom earn up to $199,300. The summary explains the increase will enable members of Congress to “recruit and retain a talented and diverse workforce,” which many taxpayers would argue is completely unnecessary.
Roll Call reports that “low pay and high turnover have plagued workers on Capitol Hill for years.” It is hoped that plumping up their salaries will improve their morale.
Frankly, most taxpayers probably don’t care about the morale of congressional staffers. If they’re unhappy, they can leave their posts and find work in the private sector. In fact, many Americans likely think the U.S. government is already too big.
The bill also increases the budget of the Capitol Police Department by nearly 17 percent over the previous fiscal year.
According to Roll Call, Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger told Congress in January the department was down by 447 officers and said he would be hiring 280 new officers this year. He added that 150 officers had either resigned or retired last year.
In a statement on the Senate Committee on Appropriations website, Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, chair of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, tells us why the budget needed to be raised. “This bill is essential to keeping our democracy and the legislative branch of government functioning in a safe and accessible manner. At a time when the U.S. Capitol and the Capitol Police continue to operate amidst immense challenges, this agreement ensures they have the resources and staffing to protect the Capitol complex.”
The committee’s website says the boost in funding for the Capitol Police Department will help protect democracy.
The department received an “emergency supplemental” last July, which the committee said was necessary to secure the United States Capitol.
Now, about that supplemental.
As part of H.R. 3237 which passed on July 30, the Capitol Police received an appropriation of $37,495,000 for salaries, $33,169,000 for general expenses and $35,396,000 for United States Capitol Police “Mutual Aid Reimbursements.” These appropriations total $106,060,000 which is slightly over 20 percent of their fiscal year 2021 budget of $515,500,000. Not exactly chump change.
The same people who tried to reduce or even defund police departments throughout the U.S. not so long ago suddenly felt the need to increase their own security.
My guess is that most Americans typically pay little attention to spending bills and don’t realize just how much Congress increased government spending last week. By boosting the budgets for congressional offices, the MRA, Congress gave itself a 21 percent raise.
And on top of an emergency supplemental of 20 percent, the Capitol Police received a 17 percent raise.
Meanwhile, Americans are paying record high prices for gas and food. Even with pay increases, their paychecks are buying less than they did one year ago.
But I’m sure they’ll be very relieved to know that the morale of congressional staffers and Capitol Police officers has improved.
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