Chairman Ryan Statement at Full Committee Markup of FY 2020 Legislative Branch Funding Bill
Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH), Chair of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Appropriations Committee's markup of the fiscal year 2020 Legislative Branch bill:
I’m pleased to present the 2020 appropriations bill written by our Legislative Branch subcommittee.
This is a good bill. It reflects the participation and hard work of our subcommittee members, as well as good ideas we received from many sources, including our House colleagues and outside experts and advocates.
The bill provides increased funding to support the staff and other resources that Congress needs to do its job well, to build analytic capacity in the Legislative Branch, and to address high-priority needs in information technology and security.
After our subcommittee markup, we were fortunate to receive a modest increase in our spending allocation—the result of some adjustments in the “302(b) allocations” made after the Congressional Budget Office released updated budget estimates. In a few minutes I’ll offer an amendment to make use of that additional allocation. The largest increase in that amendment will go to the Members Representational Allowance, or “MRA”.
With that amendment, the bill will provide a $41 million increase for the MRA, which covers staff, district office space, and other necessities. Part of that increase is needed to bring appropriations in line with currently authorized spending, and the rest is intended to support a 4 percent increase in the allowance in 2020, which works out to an average of about $55,000 per Member office. Among other benefits, the additional funds will help retain experienced staff to help us serve our constituents.
Our bill also increases the allowance for paying interns, from $20,000 to $25,000 per Member office. Internships provide valuable work experience and open doors to future employment. That opportunity should be available to all; not just to those who can afford to work for free.
The measure also includes almost a 6 percent increase for committee staff and operations, to help them do their jobs of developing legislation and conducting oversight. And it provides resources to help the main analytical agencies in the Leg Branch continue building their capacity, including the Congressional Budget Office, Congressional Research Service, and Government Accountability Office.
Further, the bill begins the re-start of another member of that team—the Office of Technology Assessment, which was de-funded in 1995. To do its job in this modern era, Congress needs a good understanding of the benefits, risks, and choices posed by rapidly emerging technologies. A restored OTA will once again be a valuable resource for accurate, well-informed, and neutral advice.
Finally, language in the bill will permit people holding employment authorization under the DACA program—people we often call the “Dreamers”—to work for the House and other Legislative Branch agencies. It does so by overriding language in another bill that restricts federal employment of non-citizens to people who hold certain immigration statuses—a list that doesn’t currently include DACA. I hope we can address this issue government-wide this year. In the meantime, though, let’s welcome these members of our national community to seek employment in our part of the government.
I ask for your support for this bill.