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House Democrats push to raise intern pay to $15 per hour

House Democrats push to raise intern pay to $15 per hour

A pair of House Democrats is pushing for a spending package coming to the House floor this week to include funding so lawmakers can pay their interns a minimum wage of $15 per hour.

Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Armed Services chairman unsold on slashing defense budget | Democratic Senate report details 'damage, chaos' of Trump foreign policy | Administration approves .8B Taiwan arms sales Democratic House chairman trusts Pentagon won't follow 'unlawful orders' on election involvement Democratic chairman 'unconvinced' by arguments to slash defense budget, but open to debate MORE (D-Wash.), who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Andy LevinAndrew (Andy) LevinInslee calls Biden climate plan 'perfect for the moment' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: 20 states sue over Trump rule limiting states from blocking pipeline projects | House Democrats add 'forever chemicals' provisions to defense bill after spiking big amendment | Lawmakers seek extension for tribes to spend stimulus money House Democrats add some 'forever chemicals' provisions to defense bill after spiking major amendment MORE (D-Mich.) submitted an amendment to an appropriations package that would increase the intern compensation allowance by $2.7 million over the $11 million currently set aside in the legislation to pay interns who serve in House offices.

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Smith and Levin's amendment would offset the increase to the intern fund by cutting an equal amount from accounts for the Architect of the Capitol and the Library of Congress.

The House Rules Committee is expected to meet later Monday and on Tuesday to decide which amendments to the spending package will get floor votes. 

Smith introduced legislation in late April that would permanently authorize funding to pay interns at a rate of at least $15 per hour, which would increase with changes in the consumer price index each year.

Smith and other lawmakers advocating to move away from the unpaid internship model say it helps ensure people from diverse backgrounds can work on Capitol Hill, where the cost of living is high. 

“Paid internships help to bring a diversity of ideas and backgrounds to both the Washington, D.C. and local district offices, and expand equality of opportunity for all to participate in our democracy," Smith said in a statement at the time.

Lawmakers enacted legislation last year that allows each member office to use up to $20,000 per year to pay their interns. 

The $11 million currently allocated in the spending package for paying interns would increase the annual member office allowance from $20,000 to $25,000, which would amount to a $12 hourly wage for a full-time, 40-hour-per-week internship, up from the current $9.62 per hour. 

 
 
 
The push to increase funding for intern pay comes with a spending package that would allow lawmakers to get a $4,500 cost-of-living adjustment for the first time in a decade. Lawmakers had included language in appropriations bills starting in 2009 that blocked an annual raise as established in a 1989 ethics law.

Several lawmakers, including Democrats in swing districts, submitted amendments to block the cost-of-living adjustment from taking effect.