Over the past few decades, the reach of government has grown, but the legislative branch has shrunk. A member of Congress today has a smaller pool of resources to draw on than a member 40 years ago, in the form of member offices, committees and especially nonpartisan supporting agencies such as the Congressional Research Service and the Congressional Budget Office.
It’s an unavoidable truth that getting things done requires people to do the work—and Congress is starved of people. More money is now spent on lobbying than the whole of the legislative branch. The staffers Congress does employ, meanwhile, frequently flee Congress for the private sector after very short stints on the Hill. This is because they are paid frustratingly low wages and must endure exceptionally trying work environments. This churn hobbles the legislature’s ability to develop the institutional knowledge needed for sound lawmaking and effective congressional oversight and makes it easier for lobbyists to gain sway.
It is not fashionable to say that government needs to be bigger, and the optics of Congress increasing its own $3.8 billion budget are admittedly terrible. But in fact, the legislative branch is long overdue for a capacity boost to meet its challenges,and if there’s one starting point for a committee trying to put Congress back in the driver’s seat, this is it.Their other proposals: