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CRS director to step down amid complaints

Staff surveys showed high turnover, low morale and lagging diversity within the agency

Mary B. Mazanec, director of the Congressional Research Service, testifies at a House Administration panel hearing in April.
Mary B. Mazanec, director of the Congressional Research Service, testifies at a House Administration panel hearing in April. (Screenshot, courtesy House Administration Committee)

Congressional Research Service Director Mary B. Mazanec is stepping down effective June 30 amid persistent complaints about leadership within Congress’ public policy research institute.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced Mazanec’s planned departure internally Tuesday afternoon, and the House Administration Committee confirmed her resignation Wednesday. The news comes after reports of high turnover, low morale and lagging diversity within the legislative support agency.

“The Congressional Research Service plays a critical role in ensuring that Members of Congress and their staff can work effectively for the American people. It is in everyone’s best interest to ensure that CRS is functioning effectively and meeting the challenges of a more modern Congress,” House Administration Subcommittee on Modernization Chair Stephanie Bice, R-Okla., and ranking member Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., said in a joint statement Wednesday.

“We thank Dr. Hayden and the Library of Congress for taking steps to ensure that CRS has strong leadership moving forward,” the statement continued.

Mazanec will step into a temporary position as senior adviser to the Library of Congress, responsible for special projects with the library’s user community. The library will announce an interim director of CRS “soon,” according to Hayden’s internal announcement.

She was appointed CRS director in 2011. Her resignation comes after an April hearing of the House Administration Committee’s Modernization subpanel and a May 3 letter from the union representing employees of CRS that laid out a series of concerns about leadership.

According to a survey of CRS employees conducted by the union, issues include “attrition and morale, a lack of a commitment to diversity and inclusion, poor communication by CRS leadership, and an overall lack of confidence and trust in CRS’s senior leaders.”

In fiscal 2022, 44 CRS employees left voluntarily, more than double the rate of voluntary separations between fiscal years 2009 and 2021, according to the union. The union says on its website that it represents more than 500 employees.

Only 23.5 percent of staffers surveyed said senior leaders “generated high levels of motivation and commitment” and 59.4 percent said they strongly disagreed with that statement, three times the number reported as recently as 2018.

Many of these issues have persisted for years, according to Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress and a former legislative attorney at CRS.

“This is a welcome opportunity to modernize the Congressional Research Service to meet the needs of Congress and the millions of Americans they represent,” Schuman said in a statement.

At the April House Administration hearing, Bice expressed member concerns about attrition and morale and questioned Mazanec on stalled efforts to modernize the agency’s technology.

Bice also asked Kevin Kosar, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former CRS employee who testified at the hearing, to name something the committee could do to improve CRS’ service to Congress. 

“If you want to effect change in the most immediate way, you change leadership,” Kosar said.

The congressional statute governing CRS does not set term limits for agency heads and gives Congress only indirect control of CRS via the Library of Congress, according to Demand Progress. 

Kosar tweeted Tuesday that he hoped a “good” acting director would be appointed and that other underperforming management would be removed.

“I hope a fine individual will become the permanent director,” Kosar tweeted. “The road is long, but today an important first step was taken.”

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