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House and Senate interns are going to get paid — if Congress passes this spending bill

More than 90 percent of House members don’t pay their interns.

Senators Debate War Spending Iraq Bill And Troop Withdrawal
As it is now, most congressional interns don’t get any pay.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

It looks like congressional interns are going to get paid.

As lawmakers continue to negotiate spending bills to fund the government through 2019, they’ve agreed on one thing: They’ll budget in $8.8 million for House intern pay and $5 million for Senate intern pay, according to Michael Zetts, the House Democratic aide to Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH).

The provision will be part of the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, which the two chambers are discussing this week.

If passed, the House would add $20,000 to each lawmaker’s allowance to pay interns. In the Senate, funding would vary depending on the state but would average to about $50,000 per office. The funding for interns would have to be renewed annually, and rules around how offices can use the money will be written by the administrative committees.

As it is now, more than 90 percent of House members don’t pay their interns, according to the nonprofit group Pay Our Interns. By party affiliation, 8 percent of Republican lawmaker offices paid interns, whereas roughly 4 percent of Democratic offices do. In the Senate, 51 percent of Republican offices offered interns pay, to varying extents. Only 31 percent of Senate Democratic offices offered interns pay.

In a city like Washington, DC, which has one of the highest costs of living in the country, the lack of consistent pay has put a well-documented burden on interns in financially disadvantaged positions — and for many, it makes the opportunity untenable altogether.

Ryan — who, as the top Democrat on the House’s Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, helped spearhead the effort to lock down congressional intern pay — highlighted it as a diversity issue.

“Because the bulk of congressional internships are unpaid, they are implicitly easier for individuals from privileged backgrounds to participate in and complete,” he said.

Paying interns also has a well-documented ripple effect, increasing diversity down the career path. Research studies overwhelmingly indicate that graduating students who have completed internships are more likely to find jobs than students without those experiences.

A 2015 study with Hart Research Associates and the American Association of Colleges and Universities found that 60 percent of employers said they would be more likely to consider a candidate for a full-time job if they had completed an internship.

If passed, this spending bill would be one step toward evening out the playing field. Lawmakers are still negotiating unrelated portions of the funding package.

The deadline to fund the government through 2019 is September 30.

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