The Republican attack on Hill staff continues

Since then, they have enacted a series of ridiculous policies. They started by replacing recyclable and biodegradable products from House cafeterias with Styrofoam and hard plastics, regardless of the health risks and the increased reliance on energy-intensive, oil-based plastics that these products bring with them. After that, they started removing energy-efficient light bulbs around campus.

This week, their misguided assault on Congressional staff continues. Another round of cuts – pulled out of thin air — that will lead to hiring freezes, pay and benefit cuts and layoffs for staff around the Hill will go to the floor on Thursday and likely pass. Though the Speaker may call them “punk staffers,” these men and women – Republican and Democrat – have chosen to dedicate their lives to bettering their country. In some branches of government, that kind of service is met with profound gratitude. Not here. But setting that aside, there are some truly pragmatic concerns that these cuts engender.

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Earlier this year, the House sergeant-at-arms, Capitol Police and the Republican majority asked that we take measures, using our office budgets, to ramp up security for our district offices. These measures were deemed necessary to guarantee the safety of staff in our districts that are not protected on a daily basis by the direct umbrella of Capitol Police. Those of us stationed in Washington are benefited by the constant presence and enduring professionalism of our Capitol Police.

On a conference call with Capitol Police, the House sergeant-at-arms and the Speaker’s staff, which followed the tragic events in Tuscon, Ariz., I asked how we would afford security upgrades from our office budgets, given recent cuts and the potential for future cuts by the majority. Republican leadership staff pledged to make every effort to ensure that offices had the funding to provide the necessary security for district staffers. This week, we are seeing the real strength of that pledge, as the Legislative Appropriations Bill cuts funds for offices to provide that security.

The bill also ends the student loan repayment program that helps us attract and retain some of the most qualified graduates in the nation for service on Capitol Hill. Working for Congress and the American people will always be an honor of great distinction. But, does the Republican majority expect to recruit the best and brightest minds in America to work out details of raising the debt ceiling or to provide world-class service to our constituents by cutting already uncompetitive pay rates or by ending programs like the student loan repayment plan that mirror benefits offered by many in the private sector?

Shouldn’t Members advocating for these reductions be taking drastic cuts to their own pay before asking to take pay and tuition reimbursement away from a staff assistant making $25,000 who answers their phones? Or the caseworker making $35,000 who fights to ensure a disabled veteran receives the benefits that he has earned? Or the scheduler who plans their Member’s travel and drives him or her to the airport? 

The Republican majority is intent on carrying out a radical ideology guided by the foolish whims of their right wing with little regard for how it will harm much of this country and even their own staff who work so hard for them on a daily basis.  

Simultaneously they choose not to make the sacrifices for themselves or their friends, who can certainly shoulder much more of the burden. This is not the kind of sacrifice our constituents are asking for or the kind of leadership they deserve.

Dustin J. Todd is chief of staff in the office of Rep. Paul D. Tonko (D-N.Y.)

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