Starting this coming fiscal year, paid congressional internships will be widely available for the first time in decades due to a funding package passed last week under the leadership of Senate Committee on Appropriations Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL).
The legislative package, which also strongly funded Veterans Affairs, military construction, nuclear security and energy and water infrastructure, will provide approximately $14 million for congressional internships – $8.8 million will be spread throughout members of the House and another $5 million will go to Senate offices.
This would add an average of $20,000 for each House member and $50,000 for each senator in an allowance to pay office interns, which is crucial considering congressional interns spend an estimated $6,000 of their own money during an internship for housing, travel, food and other expenses, according to Pay Our Interns.
A study by the same organization showed that over 90 percent of House members do not pay their interns at all, while, in the Senate, 51 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of Democrats pay their interns some sort of compensation.
Between 1973 and 1994, under the Lyndon B. Johnson Congressional Intern Program, interns were paid for two-month programs.
Interns on Capitol Hill shared stories with CNN earlier this month about the sacrifices they made to be able to work in D.C., including skipping meals and walking miles in the rain. Proponents of paid internships have argued that requiring interns to work for free inherently reduces diversity and unfairly disadvantages lower-income students, as many can not afford to put in so many unpaid hours in the nation’s capital.
Some light in the political darkness. This will lay the foundation for a more diverse, inclusive democracy. https://t.co/yLYS5ngymp
— Rachel Zuckerman (@rachelzuckerm) September 14, 2018
The publication Inside Sources also noted that paying interns will be sure to increase the talent of the applicant pool and “could potentially be real investments in human capital development.” As most staffers on Capitol Hill started their careers as interns, an increase in the competitiveness of internships may very well lead to better staffing in Congress down the road.
Plus, there is the point made by Heidy Rehman in a column for Entrepreneur: paying interns guarantees increased output by their respective organizations.
“As with anything if we don’t pay for it, we’re more likely to waste it,” Rehman wrote.
This move by a Republican-controlled Congress, with the legislation to be signed by President Donald Trump, will come as a political blow to Democrats, whose base has been growing louder and louder on this issue for years. The funding package also froze Congressional pay.
Besides Sen. Shelby’s crucial leadership in the appropriations process, Alabama counts itself lucky to have Rep. Martha Roby (AL-2) and Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-4) on the House Committee on Appropriations. If the Republicans keep the House in the November midterm elections, Aderholt will likely take over as chair of the committee, giving the Yellowhammer State the heads of both chambers’ appropriating committees.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn