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down and out on the hill

Politico Has a New Explanation for Congress’s Ineffectiveness

First the pages, now the glorified adult pages: Politico reports that Capitol Hill staffers have joined the rest of the country in living in perpetual fear of layoffs, reduced salaries, and other poverty-induced unpleasantness. Ever since the House passed a 5 percent spending cut earlier this year, offices have been trying to downgrade in small but demoralizing ways:


Many chiefs of staff have started with small office perks: water jugs, sodas and orange juice. One Republican lawmaker told POLITICO that aides now take up a collection because the office can’t afford coffee.

According to Representative Mike Honda, the belt-tightening has had even more pernicious effects:


The California Democrat who voted against the measure, specifically cited cuts to the Congressional Research Service, which will make it harder for members to rely on the independent office to provide information during debates.

“A very critical part of our work is getting information that’s believable, nonpartisan and objective,” Honda said. “We’re cutting that and our ability to communicate with our constituents.”

Apparently, if the Senate passes a House Appropriations Committee bill, which includes an additional 6.5 percent budget cut, things will get even worse. Office heads are anticipating a brain drain, with the Hill's workforce departing for private sector jobs. And, as a former Democratic aide who did just that pointed out, the loss is hardly worth it: "Cutting members’ budgets is smoke and mirrors — it won’t make a dent in the deficit, but it will make it so good staff leave the Hill, which may ultimately result in Congress being less effective." You might think that the people in charge of these decisions would be more protective of their own employees (and the coffee they deliver) but, then again, it's not a bad excuse for why nothing ever seems to get done.

Hill staffers fear pay cuts, layoffs [Politico]

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