In a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, Ocasio-Cortez and her co-signers asked for a 21% increase in the salary budget for staffers. The lawmakers argued that low pay had "hamstrung the House in our ability to recruit and retain the talented and diverse workforce" due to the rising cost of living in the Washington D.C. area.
"For years, pay and benefits for the staff of Member offices, leadership offices, and committees have fallen farther and farther behind what is offered in the private sector," the lawmakers said. "At the same time, the cost of living here in our nation’s capital has risen substantially, placing opportunities such as homeownership, rental housing, and childcare out of reach for many.
Salaries for House staffers were "effectively cut 20.7% from the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) ten-year baseline projection," the lawmakers added. The average staffer on Capitol Hill leaves their role after three years.
Aside from Ocasio-Cortez, notable signatories included Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar, Eric Swalwell, Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler.
"It is unjust for Congress to budget a living wage for ourselves, yet rely on unpaid interns and underpaid, overworked staff just because some conservatives want to make a statement about "fiscal responsibility," Ocasio-Cortez in a statement. "The lack of diversity on the Hill can be traced directly to our failure to pay staff a living wage.
Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries penned a similar letter to DeLauro in April. Hoyer and Jeffries called for a 20% increase in staffing budgets to aid in talent retention.