Home Politics Congressional Staffs Face Consequences of Sequester Cuts

Congressional Staffs Face Consequences of Sequester Cuts

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As the sequester negotiations have dragged on, it has oftentimes been easy to separate the effects of the deep spending cuts from the people who may allow them. The fact of the matter is, come Friday if Republicans and Democrats in Congress can’t reach a deal, individuals employed on their staff are in for reduced pay or may even find themselves out of a job.

“The sequester will in fact hit members and their offices, and leadership offices, and committees,” Republican House Speaker John Boehner told reporters last week. “And in addition to that, other Capitol offices — whether it be the Architect of the Capitol, or the chief administrative officer — all of those offices are subject to the sequester as well.”

Because of the fact that they must vote before they alter their own salaries, members of Congress themselves are protected from any pay reductions. This means that the brunt of the roughly 8.2 percent in congressional budget reductions, equating nearly $101 million for House offices and $32 million for Senate offices, will be borne by staffers. However, 8.2 percent is a tentative figure, only standing to increase anxiety over just how much will be stripped from 2013 budgets.

While major programs like defense and education have been the focal point of sequestration woes, the congressional staff is by no means a dispensable resource. Over the centuries, the staff has become an invaluable facet of American government that is essential in keeping the capital running.

In 2011, the congressional staff was made up of roughly 24,000 members. That is a force in comparison to staffs of the early 1800s, which consisted of fewer than 20 members. Each individual member of Congress is allowed around 18 permanent employees and a few temporary ones. Though some may wonder for economy’s sake if this is too much, Jeffery B. Trammell, editor of many of the ‘90s editions of the “Almanac of the Unelected, argues that each staff member fills a specific role.

“Each of these individuals is an expert in his or her own right. They contribute to the process — to the extent that Congress is willing to deal with this incredible diversity of issues, experts are needed in these fields,” Trammell said in an interview with C-Span.

One would hope that the threat of losing such vital assets would force some sort of agreement before the first of March. However, as both sides remain dug in, the deadline is in sight and sequestration seems all the more likely.

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