How to Make Congress Worse

The United States is one of the most influential countries in the world, and its Congress plays a key role. With a new administration set to take office, what could wear down our representative body?

The “what is congressional approval ” is a question that has been asked many times. The answer to the question, is that Congress can be made worse by electing more members of Congress, or by not voting in elections.


Rep. Andy Levin speaks during a press conference in Washington, D.C. on May 11 about congressional workers’ freedom to form a union.

Bill Clark/Zuma Press photo

Americans dislike Congress for a variety of reasons and this week they got another one when the House decided to allow its employees to form a union.

On Tuesday, the House voted 217-202 to authorize collective bargaining, as proposed by Michigan Rep. Andy Levin. This notion has long been rejected by Congress, but progressives see it as part of their “equity” agenda.

An anonymous Instagram account called “Dear White Staffers,” which posted concerns about discrimination, wages, and working conditions, spurred the union campaign this year. The Congressional Workers Union has come up to promote the campaign, while its members prefer anonymity.

The Levin resolution grants a wide right to organize while avoiding issues about how it will be implemented. The House of Representatives has 435 offices with 9,100 workers, or 21 employees per Member. In the face of high employee turnover, each office would need to have its own union vote. The majority of Republican offices will vote no, and some Democratic offices may also vote no, resulting in a patchwork of work regulations throughout the Capitol.

Will each Member’s whole staff be included in a bargaining unit, or will employees in home state offices be able to create their own? Will offices form their own unions from scratch or join one of the 100 existing federal employee organizations? Should senior and junior workers be in the same union, and who determines who is senior? Workers in “management” or “supervisory” positions are not allowed to negotiate collectively under federal law.

Members’ agendas are meant to be promoted by staff, but unionization might place them in labor-management conflict. Staffers working for a union agenda may have sway on elected representatives since they have access to private legislative information. Prepare for political weaponization of unfair labor accusations.

Staff turnover is a concern in Congress, where compensation has failed to keep up with inflation over the previous 20 years. However, the March omnibus bill provided a 21% rise in Member’s office expenditures. Even before Speaker Nancy Pelosi set a minimum pay threshold of $45,000 per year for employees and a higher ceiling ($203,700) for maximum yearly salary, most Representatives expected to put that money into better pay.

Each chamber of Congress has its own set of rules, so the House vote this week has little bearing on the Senate, where it is unlikely to pass anyhow. If Republicans reclaim the House in November, they will almost certainly rescind the resolution. Instead of unionization, how about firing half of the workforce and improving wages for the rest? Congress may attract better individuals who will remain for a time rather than leaving for K Street fortunes.

Review & Outlook: The Administration’s new Disinformation Governance Board is likely to promote more public mistrust. Images: AFP/Express/Getty Images/AP Composite: Mark Kelly

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