Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA) / Legislative Assistant / Legislative Correspondent / Legislative Director
Employment Summit – Three Skills You Can’t Do Without – Stacy Cervenka
The first paid staff on Capitol Hill were hired by committees before the Civil War. By World War II, there were approximately 2,000 people in the personal offices of members of the House and Senate. Today, that number is approximately 14,000.
The congressional offices are like 535 small companies all individually dealing with organizational structure and staffing issues. While there are some common attributes, there are unique features within each office that do not correspond to any other office. Some offices even share Washington, DC, staff for positions such as computer professionals. Educational levels and experience vary widely with the more junior positions such as staff assistant and legislative assistant. Advanced degrees and management experience are more common among top staff. Overall, the majority of staff for any given office are recruited from that member’s home state, but this is less often the case for the more senior positions, where more varied experience, such as previous work in another member’s office, is more often the case.
Being a staffer is not a nine-to-five job. Members can require staffers to work ten or more hours a day, often six days a week. Each member decides office policies on vacation and sick leave. Each staffer individually negotiates salary with the member, the member’s chief of staff, or, possibly, an office manager. Most personal staff are young and white, and a substantial portion are female. Senior positions are held predominantly by men. Many staff are recent college graduates with little previous full-time job experience.
The Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA) is the budget authorized by the Committee on House Administration for each Member of Congress in support of the conduct of official and representational duties to the district from which elected. For Legislative Year 2011, the MRA ranged from $1.3 – 1.9 million. For Legislative Year 2016, the MRA ranged from $1.17 – 1.80 million. The Statement of Disbursements (SOD) is a quarterly public report of all receipts and expenditures for House members, committees, leadership, officers and offices. The House has been required by law to publish the SOD since 1964. See Statement of Disbursements.
Each House member has a member’s representational allowance (MRA), which allows a member to hire up to eighteen permanent and four other staff, such as paid interns. Staff are divided between the Washington and district offices. The maximum House personal staff salary in 2011 was $168,411. Each employee must be paid at least minimum wage.
Members’ Representational Allowance, House Ethics Committee
In the Senate, a senator’s administrative and clerical assistance allowance varies with the size of a senator’s state. For 2011, the allowance ranged from $2,512,574 for a senator representing a state with a population of less than 5 million people, to $3,993,206 for a senator representing a state with a population of 28 million people or more. The maximum staff salary in a senator’s office in 2010, the latest year for which a figure was officially available, was $169,459. In addition, in 2011, the legislative assistance allowance authorized for each senator for the appointment of three legislative assistants was proposed at $508,377.
House Appropriations Committee Votes to Give Small Pay Increase to Underpaid Congressional Staff
Job titles and responsibilities vary from office to office.
Legislative Assistant / Legislative Aide (LA): Congressional staff person with responsibility for handling one or more issue areas for a member of Congress, but generally without managerial responsibility. The LA drafts legislation and amendments (usually working with the Office of Legislative Counsel), monitors committee and floor action, and deals with constituents and lobbyists. In some offices, the LA also answers constituent correspondence. In most Senate offices, the LA works with a legislative correspondent.
Alternate Job Titles:
– Junior Legislative Assistant, Legislative Counsel, Senior Legislative Assistant
Legislative Correspondent (LC): Congressional staff charged with the task of preparing answers to large volumes of constituent mail, including form emails received from constituents. A legislative correspondent typically provides research for and responds to constituents’ correspondence. These duties might include drafting, proofreading, and printing letters, and providing administrative support to legislative aides or legislative assistants as needed.
Alternate Job Titles:
– House: Legislative Aide and Legislative Correspondent, Legislative Correspondent/Legislative Assistant.
– Senate: Constituent Services Representative/Caseworker, Counsel, Grants and Projects Coordinator, Office Manager, Scheduler (Washington, DC), Legislative Aide, Staff Assistant (Washington, DC).
Joe Becker, Rep. Ron Paul’s Legislative Director
Legislative Director (LD): Congressional staff person in charge of managing several legislative staff people and overseeing several (if not all) legislative issue areas within the congressional office. An incumbent in this position typically manages office legislative activities, and may supervise a member’s legislative staff. A legislative director might assist in the development of policy positions and legislative initiatives, or monitor and report to the chief of staff or member on floor activity.
Alternate Job Titles
– House: Administrative Assistant, Deputy Chief of Staff, Legislative Counsel, Policy Director.
– Senate: Chief of Staff, Constituent Services Representative/Caseworker Counsel, Legislative Correspondent, Office Manager, Systems Administrator, Legislative Aide, Senior Legislative Aide.
Cap South: Crazy Constituent Calls 1
- Statement of Disbursements – House
- 2 U.S.C. § 5341 – Representational Allowance for Members of House of Representatives
- United States Congress employee salaries – Glassdoor
- Pay and Perquisites of Members of Congress, Including A History of House and Senate Salaries
- “Congressional Staff: Duties and Functions of Selected Positions,” CRS Report RL34545 (16-page PDF)
- “2006 U.S. Senate Employment, Compensation, Hiring and Benefits Study,” Office of the Secretary of the Senate (97-page PDF)
- “2010 House Compensation Study: Guide for the 112th Congress,” Chief Administrative Office, U.S House of Representatives (79-page PDF)
- “Congressional Salaries and Allowances,” CRS Report RL30064 (15-page PDF)
- “Congressional Staffing: A Selected Annotated Bibliography,” CRS Report 81-5 (1981) (33-page PDF)
- Keeping Congress Competent: Staff Pay, Turnover, And What It Means For Democracy, November 2016, Sunlight Foundation
- Congressional Operations Briefing – Capitol Hill Workshop
- Drafting Federal Legislation and Amendments
- Writing for Government and Business: Critical Thinking and Writing
- Custom, On-Site Training
- Congressional Operations Poster, with Federal Budget Process Flowchart
- Federal Budgeting, a Five-Course series on CD
- Congress, the Legislative Process, and the Fundamentals of Lawmaking Series, a Nine-Course series on CD
The Federal Budget Process 2E
Citizen’s Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials: A Guide for Citizen Lobbyists and Grassroots Advocates
CongressionalGlossary.com, from TheCapitol.Net
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