Speech ● Congress
For Immediate Release: 
April 15, 2021
Contact Info: 
Margaret Mulkerrin 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – This afternoon, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) testified before the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress at their Member Day hearing. Below is his testimony as prepared for delivery:

Click here to watch the remarks. 

“Thank you, Chairman [Derek] Kilmer and Vice Chair [William] Timmons, for the opportunity to testify before the Select Committee today. First, I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman and all the Members of the Committee, for your efforts last Congress to gather input and offer the recommendations included in your March 2020 report.

“One of the most important reforms that we have been able to make since the start of the 117th Congress is the return of Congressionally Directed Spending. I have been pushing for the return of this system for years, and I was very glad that we were able to bring it back this year. Members know the needs of their communities better than executive branch officials in Washington, which is why the framers of our Constitution gave Congress the power of the purse. With the transparent system we’ve put in place, Members can now have a greater say in how Congress invests taxpayer resources.

“Over the last two years, we’ve also made strides in modernizing Congress’s technology and public access to data. When I spoke at this same hearing two years ago, I called on this Committee to modernize the House’s outdated technology. I am pleased by the significant progress made in this area. Specifically, I called for a new ‘Congressional Digital Service,’ and this Committee has since successfully piloted that idea. I hope that a permanent version of the program can be established in the 117th Congress.

“The technological strides we’ve already made proved critical over the past year, when the pandemic led to Congress adapting to remote and virtual work like never before it its history. H. Res. 965 proved very successful in ensuring that the House could continue its work for the people unabated much because of the progress we made with technology in the years that preceded the pandemic. Once the pandemic is behind us, I hope that this Committee will examine which technologies ought to continue in use and how best we can prepare for future contingencies.

“Modernizing Congress, however, is about more than just upgrading technology. It includes changing the way we think about our greatest assets: our staff. Today, I want to speak about how we can improve the way we recruit and retain talented, hardworking, and diverse staff. In my experience, those who come here to work as Congressional staff are deeply committed to public service and would remain on Capitol Hill longer if they could afford to do so.

“While private-sector employers have been investing in their workforces with better pay and benefits policies, Congress has failed to do the same. Sadly, each year we lose talented and experienced staff with deep institutional knowledge to the private sector because we do not offer competitive compensation and benefits. At the same time, we are failing to recruit and retain the more diverse workforce that we have said we want to attract.

“There are a number of other reforms that I believe would help bring Congress into alignment with current best practices in employee recruitment and retention and help us add to the diversity of our workforce. First, we need to modernize our approach to staff pay. That includes: de-linking staff pay from Members’ pay levels; guaranteeing House staff a cost-of-living adjustment similar to those received by executive branch employees; & increasing the Member representational allowance across the board, to allow for staff raises. Of course, I also believe that Members ought to be provided with automatic cost-of-living adjustments so that we are not reducing the purchasing power of a Member, as has happened over the years.

“In addition, the House ought to consider benefits changes to help attract and retain employees. We should review the benefits offered by the private sector that make them attractive employers. Some of the items we should look at include: providing a child-care subsidy so that staff don’t have to choose between caring for children or continuing in their careers; offering a tax-advantaged college-savings benefit or ‘529 plan;’ making Congressional staff eligible for the public service loan forgiveness program; launching a fund to help staff meet the costs of adoption or fertility treatments not covered under insurance; creating a first-time homebuyer assistance benefit; & giving staff the option to return to the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program.

“These are among the issues I urge the committee to explore as we look at ways to modernize Congress as a workplace. I thank you for your consideration and for your continued efforts to ensure that Congress not only serves the American people well but reflects the best of our country.”