Chairman Ryan Statement at Subcommittee Markup of FY 2021 Legislative Branch Funding Bill

2020-07-07 13:00

Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH), Chair of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's markup of its fiscal year 2021 bill:

Welcome to our subcommittee’s markup of the 2021 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act. I very much appreciate the hard work and collegial attitude of all the members of this subcommittee, and particularly the contributions and cooperation of our Ranking Member Ms. Herrera-Beutler. 

There are a lot of needs and good causes within the jurisdiction of our subcommittee, and we’ve tried to take care of the highest priorities throughout the bill with the amounts available to us. Fundamentally, our bill provides the necessary increases to support the staffing and other resources needed by Congress to do its job well, to maintain and build analytic capacity in the Legislative Branch.

For example, the bill provides a $25 million increase for the Members’ Representational Allowance, which covers staff, district office space, and other necessities. I also believe this funding is sufficient to address our new normal as Members move to higher tech means of interacting with constituents. Our bill creates a new House Modernization Initiatives Account and provides a down payment of $2 million start the process of modernizing the House.  I believe this funding is necessary to bring the House into the 21st Century. The bill also provides increases to the main analytical agencies in the Leg Branch to continue building their capacity, including the Congressional Budget Office, Congressional Research Service, and Government Accountability Office.  

Now that I have mentioned all the parts of the bill that I know there is broad consensus on I want to discuss some items that require a tough conversation. First, I once again included language in the bill to permit people holding employment authorization under the DACA program to work for Congress and other Leg Branch agencies. DREAMers are Americans and should be able to serve their country in this body.  I included it because it is the right thing do. I hope we can address this issue government-wide at some point this year, but in the meantime, I want to welcome these members of our national community to seek employment with Congress and the Leg Branch agencies.

Second, the bill flat funds the Capitol Police, however the bill does make the necessary adjustments to ensure that the staffing levels in FY 2020 can be maintained in FY 2021. In addition, included in the report are various requirements to bring greater transparency to the Capitol Police, if we are going to demand change throughout the country, we must show that we are willing to start in our own backyard.

Third, the bill includes language blocking the cost of living adjustment for Members.  Right now, with everything going on in our country, I believe this is necessary. However, I would like to point out that this will be the 12th consecutive year that no cost of living adjustment has been provided.  We cannot keep turning this into a gotcha moment.  Right now, every federal judge, from the District Court to the Supreme Court is compensated at much higher rate than Members. In fact, some Senior executives in the executive branch are paid at higher rates. As of May 2020, average rent for an apartment in Washington, DC is $2339.  We have Members sleeping in their offices to save money. So, we need to have a real discussion on this issue and stop using it to score easy political points.

Finally, the bill includes long overdue language directing the Architect to remove the statues or busts in the U.S. Capitol that represent figures who participated in the Confederate Army or government, as well as the statues of four white supremacists, including Roger B. Taney. I hope that this action will begin a larger conversation we need to have about other statues in the Capitol representing figures who oppressed various minority groups. And there may be portraits throughout the Capitol complex that need to be reevaluated.

I know this is part of a larger national debate that other Appropriations subcommittees will address, but we need to make a statement now on something we CAN control – the removal of statues that many visitors to the Capitol find offensive. This is the People’s House so let’s make sure ALL people are welcome. I ask for your support for this bill.

116th Congress