Congress has an essential role come play in American democracy. That in Congress that all federal legislations are created and also passed, wherein executive branch monitor happens and where the public has a communication to voice its needs and concerns. Congress, as an institution, is the can be fried forum because that compromise, healthy and balanced political conflict and also alliance-building. And when it lives up to its ideals, it has actually the strength to change people’s lives. Congress is at its best when it demonstrates a problem-solving mind-set the helps government work much better and delivers results on problems that issue to the public.

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Yet, gridlocked, dysfunctional, polarized and also hyper-partisan are only a sampling that the adjectives offered to describe Congress today. It’s no trusted through the public. It seldom invests in its volume to listen, legislate and also lead. and it doesn’t stand for the diversity that the world it serves. Moreover, the recent shocks come American democracy—the pandemic, the recession and also the Capitol insurrection—have left the school in a breakable state.

But the future of Congress doesn’t have to it is in a grim one.

The Alliance for Congress is a new initiative the the nonpartisan, non-profit Partnership because that Public service that will occupational to construct a forward-looking Congress that functions much more effectively and also is capable of tackling huge problems because that the people it serves. This initiative is an expansion of the Partnership’s mission to construct a much better government and also to make our democracy stronger. End time, the initiative will seek to answer two wide questions: “What does a healthy Congress look like?” and “How do we develop it?”

This very first Alliance study focuses on these concerns from the view of individuals who consist of the backbone of Congress: the employee who occupational for senators and congressmen and also on Senate and House committees. This report’s objective is twofold: 1) To sell a glimpse into exactly how the employee who work on Capitol Hill check out the health of Congress and also its potential and also 2) to highlight just how a commitment to public business by House and Senate employee has contributed to the institution’s toughness and allowed it to produce pockets that success whereby Congress lives up to its mission to offer the public.

We found that Capitol Hill staff, who have a substantial role in the policymaking process and are main to helping Congress become an effective organization, see it together a poorly functioning institution. When it comes to its capacity to adapt to change, to seize opportunities and also to be an inclusive, diverse and representative institution, they say Congress encounters a major gap between today’s reality and also its potential.

Our interviews additionally revealed that congressional staff space passionate about their jobs, desire to see the school become an ext efficient and also effective, and also are committed to publicly service.

This research identifies an essential components the organizational health that have allowed congressional successes and also notes where and why those attributes are not systemic. And also it looks come the future by highlighting areas of opportunity for growth and also improvement.

Why need to organizational wellness matter because that an institution like Congress? while organizational wellness is not a traditional measure because that Congress—lawmakers have tendency to measure their success by variety of bills passed, the variety of hearings organized or days invested in session—an evaluate of performance that goes past output is vital if the school is come become much more effective and efficient. With our work, we hope to spark a conversation about the wellness of Congress and what it will take to make the legislature branch a far better functioning institution of our democracy.

In the private sector, the ide of organizational health is a usual one: businesses often measure their ability to plainly communicate vision, mission and strategy, and to adapt to adjust and take opportunities. Power audits enable organizations to regulate their work and to renew and also transform themselves. Several of these models have the right to be adjusted and used to produce a an ext holistic knowledge of Congress together an institution, that challenges and how it can overcome them.

For the purposes of this study, organizational health and wellness of Congress to be measured v an amalgamation that different sources’ strategy to the topic, and it looks at the wellness of Congress v three vast markers:

The level to which there’s alignment around a common vision, mission and also values.  The level to which Congress is able to execute ~ above that vision and mission.  The extent to which Congress adapts to change and is connected to the requirements of the civilization it serves.  

During the course of 3 months, us interviewed current and former staff from member offices and committees. We spoke to staff from all job levels and both political parties of the aisle, and asked them about what the college does well and also what it would take because that the legislature branch to thrive and far better serve the public.  

We acknowledge the answers to the three markers differ depending on an individual’s relationship through Congress. And also while members, the public, congressional assistance staff and also other stakeholders have a different understanding of the health of Congress, we concentrated on employee for three reasons: 1) Because of the crucial support duty they play, staffers space directly influenced when Congress isn’t performing favor it should; 2) Congressional staff have to be directly affected by the systemic disinvestment in conference capacity for the last 40 years; and 3) The pandemic and the Capitol insurrection have affected congressional staff in methods that should be captured, understood and also remedied if we want to make Congress healthier. Ultimately, conference staff room a an important component of any kind of effort to make Congress a far better and stronger institution. 

Being a Capitol Hill staffer method working long hours and also juggling multiple problems at any type of given time. The an ext than 17,000 congressional staffers working in the House and the Senate draft laws, aid constituents navigate the complexities the the federal government and ensure their bosses have the information and also knowledge they need to finest represent the varied interests that the public. From corresponding with constituents and also monitoring the legislature schedule, come building and maintaining open up lines of communication with the public and being in fee of details policy or monitor issues, conference staff are behind-the-scenes changemakers.

Staff are frequently directly impacted when Congress, as an institution, no healthy. Today, the absence of institutional health partially stems indigenous the reality that Congress has actually not invest in its staff in methods that complement the value they add. The lack that investment translates into declining staff levels, diminishing institutional knowledge and policy know-how, and challenges such together outdated technology and a general lack the resources. Full congressional staffing levels, committee staffing levels and also staffing level at the Congressional research Service and the federal government Accountability Office also have all declined over the last 4 decades.

From one organizational health perspective, conference must have a talented, engaged and also diverse workforce that has the sources to assist lawmakers resolve a vast array of difficult and complicated issues. Yet, congressional staff often don’t stand for the diversity of the world members of conference serve, can not afford to take it unpaid internships or perform not have actually salaries that complement the expertise forced for their jobs. Moreover, staff don’t have the sources they must do their work or, as soon as the resources are available, castle don’t have the time or the assistance of their bosses to take advantage of those resources. Finally, the pandemic and the occasions of January 6 have added a whole brand-new set of challenges for staff, varying from work-life balance to psychological health and also safety.

Lack of congressional employee diversity 

While today’s Congress is more diverse than it’s ever been, congressional staff remain largely white. The obstacles to entry because that potential employees of color are tho high, for this reason locking many people out the the opportunity to work-related on Capitol Hill. “I have actually friends who were the only person of shade in a white member’s office and there are a the majority of members who have actually no civilization of color in their office,” a residence committee staffer said.

Research native the Joint center for Political and Economic researches from 2020 mirrors that although 40% that the U.S. Population is non-white, only11% the all top staff members working in Senate workplaces were human being of color. On the residence side, another study showed that just 13.7% the top home staff members were human being of color. Countless staffers we interviewed spoke about the daunting hiring process and exactly how their gyeongju made that harder because that them to acquire a job: “It’s very challenging to get a job in the Senate, and also it’s very, very challenging to gain a project in the Senate as a black person,” a Senate employee assistant said. This absence of equitable access to jobs on Capitol Hill effects the congressional talent pipeline additional down the line, too, as the numbers show: when Blacks consist of 13.4% the the U.S. Population, only 3.1% of the top Senate staff members are Black.

This lack of diversity—which is an issue among lawmakers, as well —often method that the people who acquire to influence and also shape policymaking execute not always reflect the diversity that experiences and backgrounds of the human being they serve. “If you look in ~ the members, there’s only ever before been a few Black senators.

The house is a little bit better, yet the type of world that you desire running for office room not always the type of civilization who space running because that office,” a interactions staffer said. She continued: “There was a quote that I read the various other day that said: ‘Real people, with genuine struggles, need to be the people closest to real power,’ and also it’s kind of cheesy, but I think that’s really true and also that’s not really the instance right now.”

The difficulty of diversity, equity and inclusion is compounded by the reality that over there isn’t a systemic means for the House and also the Senate come collect demographic data on congressional staff. Beyond the surveys indigenous the residence Office of Diversity and also Inclusion and also the Senate autonomous Diversity Initiative, over there isn’t a main repository that data to assist guide initiatives to make the workforce an ext diverse. If Congress can’t tell what the assembly of its workforce is, it can’t totally address the difficulties of diversity and also inclusion.

Racial and economic inequalities for legislative interns  

Internships—the most common entry allude for junior staff on the Capitol Hill—are likewise a barrier for staff of shade and, in general, those there is no the financial means. The long hours and low pay in a city through high living costs such as Washington, D.C., often means that young human being without an economic safety net space either automatically locked the end of the opportunity at having an internship or need to go the extra mile to use for stipends or scholarships. A recent report from the team Pay our Interns discovered that the average total stipend every intern was roughly $1,986.75 in the Senate and also $1,612.53 in the House. For reference, pay Our Interns approximates the price of living because that a Senate internship to it is in $4,438 (which normally lasts 5 weeks) and $6,514 for a residence internship (which tends to critical 7 weeks).

And even after good strides were made to do paid internships the norm, the disparities persist: The same report from pay Our Interns likewise found the 76% of the world with paid internships top top Capitol Hill to be white, if 6.7% to be Black and 7.9% to be Latino. Finally, the report additionally found that “students who attended exclusive universities were far better represented in Congress than students at public universities family member to the number of students attending each type of college nationally.”

Low, uncompetitive pay 

Another challenge faced by many congressional staff is pay, which often renders a job in conference a temporary pursuit or one that has to be supplemented through a part-time job

After part time spent in Congress, numerous staff take tasks in the private sector where their skills are much more highly valued. Research shows that former Capitol Hill staffers with several years of pertinent experience can, within a year of convert jobs, make substantially much more money by ending up being lobbyists. When relenten what it’s prefer to be a conference staffer, a committee staffer sums it up: “These world work lengthy hours, have limited technological support and make tiny money.”  

Studies in the private sector and also the Partnership’s Best areas to work-related rankings show that beyond pay, determinants such as engagement and also commitment to a mission are crucial to employee retention. Nonetheless, in the instance of Congress, short pay is a main barrier to long-term company in Congress.

From 2001 come 2019, typical pay for staff in house offices largely declined. If the decrease is no as dramatic because that Senate staff, in between 2001 and 2020, for example, the average pay for press secretary lessened by 23.35%. The short pay provides living in an high-quality city prefer Washington, D.C. Challenging, and also often leads to employee pursuing other, better-paying jobs. In 2019, the typical tenure for employee on Capitol Hill to be 3.1 years.

Brian Greer, who worked in congress as defense advisor for over a decade, said that the lack of competitiveness in salaries v the private sector “gets extremely challenging as you obtain older. If you desire to perform the adult stuff like buy a house, have a family, pay for childcare, it’s an extremely hard to afford that on a congressional staffer salary”.  

The low pay and also high turnover price are, in turn, reflected in the capability of Congress to live as much as its mission to serve the civilization it represents. It takes time to learn about the rules, procedures and the many complicated issues on which Congress have to legislate. When congressional staff leave their jobs, they take institutional knowledge with them, and loss can hamper congressional efficiency and institutional health.  

Lack that resources   

A survey carried out by the conference Management structure found that just 15% of congressional staff are satisfied v their chamber’s performance in the realm of “staff knowledge, skills and abilities,” which are crucial to supporting members’ main duties.” Wilsar Johnson, that was the director of digital strategy in ~ the Congressional black color Caucus, placed it simply: “Congress is always running the end of breath to catch up and it must be the opposite. Congress has too lot responsibility without enough resources or money or people to accomplish those goals. The mathematics doesn’t include up.”

This space stems not only from the high sales rate, however from the barriers faced by staff concerning professional development. “For younger staff,” a home committee staffer said, “I would certainly say there’s yes, really no talent pipeline for how to do stuff…You have to really take it initiative or else you’ll feel prefer you’re letting under your member and also the ar they serve. While professional advance is very important, there’s little support.”

Even as soon as resources space made available, countless interviewees speak of no having sufficient time to take benefit of workshops and training sessions offered by employee associations, the Congressional staff Academy or various other organizations. It is the situation for staff and members themselves, together a expert staff member puts it: “I simply don’t have time… Or when I have actually a supervisor that I think can really use a maintain on management or on exactly how to provide feedback, castle don’t have actually time for that either. They’re running all around.” Alternatively, some staff to be unaware that the existing sources to assistance them in your roles.

New obstacles from the pandemic and January 6 

In enhancement to the challenges around diversity, equity, pay and professional development, the COVID-19 pandemic developed a new set difficulties for staff during the past year. On peak of some initial technological hurdles as result of quickly having actually to relocate congressional job-related to a virtual environment, interviewees mentioned struggling come have any kind of work-life balance when the lines between work and personal life were blurred. For many, a meeting to no letting the pandemic protect against them from working for the public kept them going during a very difficult year.

While the pandemic was huge difficulty for staff and Congress as a whole, the events of January 6, 2021, as soon as a crowd stormed the Capitol in a violent protest over the 2020 presidential election, have added a great of stress and struggle for countless and, in particular, for staff of color.

When asked around what type of sources were made available in the aftermath of the insurrection, most pointed out some therapy and also counseling sections, however were also quick come highlight that they frequently had come choose between taking care of their psychological health and showing up for work. Others talked about appreciating the possibility to have free counseling, yet said the support available to them wasn’t as all-encompassing as they would have actually liked.

Another staffer pointed out that conversations about what safety looks favor are tho ongoing, yet that the still hard to see civilization not “being organized liable or accountable” because that what happened.

Although workplace concerns were of paramount problem to the congressional staffers, all of those interviewed express a deep passion for what they do. Lot like employees in the executive branch, conference staff additionally showed a high level of commitment come public service.

While every office, committee and also political party may diverge on the method to achieve that mission, the clarity ~ above what congress is supposed to carry out was nearly unanimous: To offer the people. Indigenous an organizational health and wellness perspective, this common sense of mission has actually been crucial to the ability of congress to carry out its job and has been an especially important when the institution has been paralyzed by disagreement.

Congressional staffers’ commitment come public service, a passion for learning and also the desire to do a difference are some of crucial reasons they have actually sought to job-related on Capitol Hill.

A commitment to public service

Democratic and Republican staffers at every levels spoke of a meeting to providing back. For many, their immigrant, military or first-generation university graduate backgrounds pushed them to pursue a job in public organization by working in Congress.

“I loved, ns loved functioning there. The pace was intense, however it was an excellent to it is in doing something that matters.”

Wilsar Johnson, former director the digital strategy, Congressional black color Caucus

“I never ever met everyone there who was there for the not correct reasons.”

Alex Gallo, former professional staff member, House armed Services Committee

“A enthusiasm for public service, integrity, excellence, responsibility, teamwork. I think that’s what’s yes, really driving human being in Congress. It’s a passion to work-related in public service.”

Former Republican communications director

An chance to learn from others and to work-related with the best

Interviewees talked around being surrounded by talented people at work, and around how a career in congress is an education and learning in and also of itself. For them, it to be an opportunity for hands-on learning about the complexities of the legislative procedure from competent people, and also to work-related with individuals committed to the mission of make people’s lives better.

“My ceo is a fantastic legislator… And another thing that makes me therefore excited to involved work is my immediate supervisor. She’s for this reason smart. She to know so much, she’s a really good mentor.”

Congressional communications staffer

“It was an absolute satisfied to work-related there. Ns didn’t want to leave. Ns would execute it again in a heartbeat.”

Jason Schmid, former minority spending plan director and also Subcommittee ~ above Strategic forces staff leader

“It was possibility to make an affect and to job-related for somebody I yes, really respected and also knew I can learn from and do productive and important occupational with. In ~ the end of the day, there’s no greater honor 보다 being able to serve the general public in part way.”

Will Quinn, former skilled staff member, Senate equipped Services Committee

A chance to do a difference

Because the the complexity and magnitude of responsibilities, congressional staff are often in the distinctive position to aid craft laws that deserve to be transformational to people’s lives. Interviewees told stories about the civilization they met, the meetings they were part of and the instances when they presented opportunities to their bosses to act that led to real, tangible changes.

“Something the keeps me motivated is being able to aid an company become an ext effective with an appropriations invoice so they have the right to start investing in your capacity and do their task better. The seems like a tiny thing, but I understand that down the road it can make a big difference, and also that’s really cool.”

Professional employee member

“It was the most incredible time. I got to witness tremendous moments of history in the making, and also I got to occupational on and also pass 4,000 pages the legislation.”

Gabriel Noronha, previous special assistant because that the Senate equipped Services Committee

“Regardless of your political party or her philosophy about governing, members and also staff concerned Congress to make people’s lives better, to boost the country as a whole.”

Ananda Bhatia, clerk and research associate for the choose Committee ~ above the Modernization of conference

A common vision and values are not enough to do Congress a healthy institution. After all, commitment on the objective of congress or even a deep commitment come public organization does not immediately yield effective performance. For Congress to it is in a healthy institution, members and also staff should work and successfully execute top top that shared vision and mission. They have to seize opportunities and also be flexible sufficient so they can adapt come change.

The four examples below show what a healthy and balanced Congress looks like at a micro level indigenous the view of conference staff. Unfortunately, these success stories space the exception rather 보다 the dominance in conference today. Yet, castle shine a light on the types of models, processes and attitudes that could be scaled and systematized throughout the institution.

When conference works, leaders put their egos aside to lead readjust by being self-aware and also by engaging with staff as experts. When leaders end up being champions of diversity, equity and also inclusion, they additionally can open doors to brand-new voices and perspectives, for this reason making the work-related stronger and more representative that the diversity of the public.

Major legislature wins are still feasible when bipartisan and also bicameral collaboration are in ~ the core of the lawmaking process. And overcoming time of high uncertainty and also instability becomes feasible when the institution and its civilization are open to embracing change through development or modern technology modernization.

The an outcome are pockets of organizational health where alignment ~ above vision, mission and also values accomplish a desire to make the school work.


Leadership & Stewardship

Beyond your willingness to offer the public, many of our interviewees pointed out their bosses—members as well as other staff—as among their height reasons because that committing to a career in public service. Research shows that having a good manager is a an essential factor because that an employee’s project satisfaction, and that’s no different for conference staff. In fact, once talking around instances where Congress works, interviewees talked about leaders who:

Exhibited self-awareness and explicitly connected their meeting to working for the public and “fostering an environment where bipartisanship to be an underlying worth of just how they did your work.”Engaged employee in means that were meaningful, such as in the results of the killing of George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man eliminated by a Minneapolis police officer while gift arrested on skepticism of using a counterfeit $20 bill. Numerous staffers stated an earnest initiative from their bosses (members and chiefs of staff) to listen to those who essential a an are to talk around what his killing intended to them. Even though she was no much longer in conference then, for Wilsar Johnson, watching conference respond to what happened to Floyd to be important: “It wasn’t just about George Floyd. It wasn’t just around Black people. That was around all decimal in this country and also how Black civilization have been experiencing for so long in this country. I saw Congress react and introduce the George Floyd policing bill and I think the was a space where Congress to be seeing an chance to hear to people.”Achieved results by being entrepreneurial through legislation, detect “windows that opportunity” and empowering employee to pursue plan opportunities. Once staff and also members attain these results, a an elderly staffer said, “it’s exhilarating to acquire that win! It’s so re-energizing,” said former House staffer Brian Greer. With assistance from his boss, Greer was empowered to occupational with members ~ above both political parties of the aisle to breeze a invoice that guarantee paid parental leave for federal government employees. The bill ended up being law in 2019 and today all federal employees space entitled come 12 weeks payment parental leaving for the birth, fostering or placement of a new child.



Congress must have the talent and expertise forced to solve the biggest difficulties facing the nation today. “It take away recruiting, a an excellent mentor and also a good manager who is ready to take a opportunity on you, to press you the end there. It takes an school to invest in you and to watch you together the future of the institution,” said previous House staffer Brian Greer.

While conference has plenty of shortcomings when it comes to how that manages its workforce, there are some promising breakthroughs and existing resources that seek to:

Develop and also nurture talent v recruiting, training and offering career advancement and networking avenues for young staff. Establishments like the Congressional staff Academy and also staff associations are examples of how Congress together an college recognizes the importance of investing in talent and also giving staff the sources they have to do their jobs well.Invest in talent that’s diverse and representative that the nation. While the road to a more diverse, equitable and inclusive congressional workforce is quiet a long one, staff spoke of transforms they experienced in their members’ individual offices and also committees. “The House equipped Services Committee workforce is ending up being a small bit much more representative that the armed forces,” said former House staffer Jason Schmid. “And i think that’s a an excellent thing, especially how we’re seeing lots and lots an ext women veterans, which i think is really important.”



Gridlock and also unwillingness to compromise are typical terms offered to describe Congress today. However year in and also year out, bipartisan and also bicameral participation leads conference to pass a major piece the legislation: The national Defense Authorization Act. For 60 continuous years, the NDAA has actually authorized defense appropriations. It’s likewise a major success story of congress coming together to fulfill its mission.

For employee who have actually the possibility to work-related on the NDAA, yes sir something unique and also special around the process. Through a yearlong practice in building trust, members and also staff indigenous both sides of the aisle come with each other and, as Gabriel Noronha put it, “It’s stunning exactly how successful that is.” The success is so famous that equipped Services committee staff often tend to share finest practices with various other House and also Senate committee staff. This success, according to staff, largely stems from 3 factors:

A strong structure of trust between the committee chairs and the staff, and also an understanding from all the parties involved that the work-related is bigger 보다 they are. “On both sides of the aisle, I had a very good experience working through folks the truly take it the nationwide security and defense the the country and those who serve very seriously.” that “a replicable cycle that builds trust between the parties,” a committee staffer said. Since it wake up every year, yes an understanding that when someone’s party may be in manage for that year, that’s a short-lived situation. That, in turn, creates an inspiration for every participants (members and staff) go around the procedure in good faith.The effectiveness the the legislative process, which has a strong foundation in rules and procedures (such together placing a premium on continual order) and shies far from showmanship by keeping key parts the the process behind doors. The reputation the this performance generates, as a result, has tendency to attract talented individuals. Some interviewees pointed out that, based upon their experience, these individuals end up serving on the equipped Services committees for a lengthy time.The high level of employee expertise and also the strength of the staff relationships space able to build with one another. These two determinants are an important to well-functioning committees and also successful legislation.


Innovation and an innovation Modernization

Rapid modern technology modernization in addition to demographic and cultural developments needs Congress to it is adapted to readjust so the can continue to accomplish its mission. While most staffers interviewed well-known the slowness in ~ which congress embraces adjust and incorporates it into its rules and processes, lock were additionally quick to allude out just how the pandemic motivated a series of advancements throughout offices and also committees.

“We know the Congress is capable of adjust because we’ve watched it happen. I think among those bright clues is the method Congress adjusted to the pandemic…people obtained creative, everyone began working from home right away,” stated Ananda Bhatia, a clerk and also research associate because that the House select Committee ~ above the Modernization of Congress. Throughout the past year and half, Congress adapted to and embraced readjust by:

Providing technology resources in the beforehand days the the pandemic when everything shut down, make it feasible for conference to continue doing its job after that is workforce was no longer in the office. Although there were some technological issues during the first few days, Jason Schmid, a former House subcommittee staffer, emphasize how easily the IT department responded: “I have to give the House IT folks credit. They go a remarkable task of placing all that with each other in a an extremely short quantity of time. Ns think they go a very an excellent job the adjusting very quickly.”Establishing invention networks wherein staff worked together to construct work-from-home guides for staff on systems and also policies when workplaces on Capitol Hill transitioned to a totally remote work-related environment. Once members and also staff could not interact with each various other face-to-face—which countless agreed made the work lot harder—congressional employee were an important to the institution’s functioning during a time the human being needed the the most.

A skilled and also motivated workforce is a first necessary action toward creating a healthy Congress.

Looking ahead, Congress has an opportunity to much better prepare, equip and also invest in its experienced workforce, and also take steps to retain seasoned employee members that possess valuable expertise.

House and also Senate staff members interviewed were unanimous in their belief that a career in Congress should be do affordable come everyone—as protest to just the wealthy and well-connected. They said congressional staff additionally should be known for their commitment to public service and their work. And also they asserted that leadership should play a an essential role in ensuring that staff members have the support, the training and also the sources they need, and also that the workforce become more diverse to reflect the country population. Good, systemic data repertoire to notify those initiatives is likewise key.

Parallel come staffing improvements, our interviews discovered that in order because that Congress to become a healthy institution, it need to be an ext open to adjust and resist the urge to stick v the status quo by proactively addressing operational, managerial and also human source challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic produced many brand-new challenges because that lawmakers and staff alike, but likewise forced unanticipated innovations. This consisted of use of modern technology for remote work and also congressional hearings, for proxy voting and also for digital signatures that enabled lawmakers and also House and also Senate aides to execute their jobs more efficiently and in a for sure way.

Congress should learn lessons indigenous the pandemic experience and also expand top top the use of contemporary technology and other developments that arisen out of necessity. On concerns of leadership and stewardship, talent and collaboration, the success story outlined in this report also offer a glimpse of what is possible.

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Congress has actually the capacity to change, improve just how it attributes to much better serve the public. A key to getting to those goals contains providing increased support because that its experienced staff.