House looks to beef up security, braces for unions with Legislative Branch bill

Appropriators still have the Jan. 6 insurrection on their minds, plus a new staffer push to organize

The Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Tim Ryan, released its draft fiscal 2023 spending bill Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Tim Ryan, released its draft fiscal 2023 spending bill Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted June 14, 2022 at 3:44pm

House Democratic appropriators are ready to spend more than half a billion extra dollars to fortify security at the Capitol complex and bolster the Capitol Police, while also preparing for a potential wave of congressional staffers trying to unionize.  

They proposed $5.7 billion in discretionary spending in the fiscal 2023 Legislative Branch appropriations bill released Tuesday, a 20 percent jump over fiscal 2022. The bill does not include Senate-only spending.

It includes $1.3 billion for the Architect of the Capitol, a bump of $576 million from last year, in part to fund significant enhancements after the insurrection that shook the complex on Jan. 6, 2021. The bill would dole out $708 million for the Capitol Police — a $105.6 million boost from fiscal 2022 — intended for hiring more cops, improving training and fulfilling security recommendations for the agency, which has been under intense scrutiny since the pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol.

The Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a markup of the measure at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

“More than a year after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, this bill bolsters investments to further secure the Capitol complex and support the Capitol Police,” House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said in a statement that accompanied the bill summary. “It helps change the complex and culture to protect the United States Capitol and the people who work there.”

The bill would also provide $8 million to the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights, an extra $500,000 above the fiscal 2022 level. The agency told appropriators it would need that money to handle elections and other union-related matters expected to arise after a House decision allowing staff to form unions. 

The House adopted a resolution in May that effectively removes exceptions to certain labor laws for House staffers, finishing a process started in 1995. It will grant nearly 9,100 House staffers the ability to form unions once the regulations become effective on July 18. 

In an effort to continue improving retention in the House after historically high rates of staff leaving the Hill in recent years, the draft bill would give a modest boost of $35.6 million to the budgets that members use for office expenses like staff salaries. 

The cash infusion doesn’t come close to the 21 percent boost the Members Representational Allowance got in the fiscal 2022 omnibus. That was the largest hike since the fund’s inception in 1996, according to a House Appropriations Committee summary. 

House officers and employees of offices like the Clerk of the House, Sergeant at Arms and Chief Administrative Officer would get $323.6 million, an increase of $35 million from fiscal 2022. The money would go toward priorities like increasing salaries, but some would fund initiatives enhancing the personal security of members.

The bill would help create a House Intern Resource Office and provide an extra $4.1 million this year, a total of $24.3 million, in dedicated funding for hiring interns. Under the bill, each member office would get about $46,800, an $11,800 boost to help pay interns a livable wage. 

“This legislation builds off the important progress we’ve made in hiring and retaining staff and continues to remove barriers to public service for working-class Americans by providing more funding for paid internships,” said Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, in a statement. 

Democrats also suggested providing $10 million, an extra $8 million over fiscal 2022, to the House Modernization Initiatives Account, which funds projects aimed at making Congress more efficient, effective and transparent. 

That money would support the newly established House Digital Service, according to Washington Democrat Derek Kilmer, who chairs the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. At a May hearing, Kilmer also mentioned an initiative in the House Clerk’s Office that would establish a database of committee votes and adopt modern tools to help reduce conflicts among scheduled committee hearings.

The bill attempts to revive two proposals that have fallen short in recent years. It would let Congress change course and hire beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as Dreamers, overriding existing restrictions. And it would rid the complex of depictions of white supremacists, including former Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who authored the Dred Scott decision that held Black people were not U.S. citizens. 

Both proposals have been floated before but were ultimately nixed in later stages of the process. 

Other agencies under the bill include:

  • Congressional Budget Office would see funding rise from $60.9 million to $64.6 million.
  • Library of Congress (including the Copyright Office, Congressional Research Service and National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled) funding would rise from $794 million to $831.4 million. 
  • Government Accountability Office funding would rise from $719.2 million to $790.3 million.
  • Government Publishing Office funding would rise from $124.2 million to $130.9 million.