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Analysis: House May Cut Its Own Staffs, Budgets

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David Hawkings, CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Federal government budget cuts and a federal employee pay freeze have been the subject of a lot of debate recently on Capitol Hill. But this week, members of the House of Representatives are taking up a bill to cut their own budgets that could affect the way business is handled on Capitol Hill and compensation for Hill staffers.

David Hawkings, editor of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, talks with WAMU Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey about the latest on the possible cuts.

On how the bill would affect House budgeting: "They've actually cut the house's budget something on the order of 10 percent over the past two years, this would notch that up another percent or two more," Hawkings says. "What it would mean for committee staff and leadership staff … would be deep cuts."

How it would affect members' staffs: "The members themselves, they've taken an 11 percent cut in the past two years, so they would hold things steady," Hawkings says. "Which would mean pay freezes for most employees on the House side of Capitol Hill."

Whether it will be a hardship: "They're going to freeze their own salaries, and hold their own office budgets the same. But it's hard to say it's a hardship," Hawkings says. "They're still going to be able to do … all the same travel back to their districts, investigations and committee work they've been doing. But they're just not going to be able to do any more." 

On the morale of Hill staffers in light of these proposed cuts: "What is clear, and a study out this week supports this, the Hill is becoming a place of high turnover," Hawkings says. "It's always been a place where relatively young people came to work for some number of years, gain some expertise and then move on. But the turnover is happening more and more rapidly." 

What the higher turnover could mean for Capitol Hill: "The notion has always been that there's a permanent staff around that really knows what's going on," as members of Congress come and go due to election cycles, says Hawkings. "But if there's this much turnover, I think the argument could be made that there's less and less intellectual and collective institutional memory than there might need to be in order to tackle the tough legislative questions."

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