June 30, 2021

Cárdenas Proposal to Study Recreation of Centralized House Internship and Fellowship Office Included in Fiscal Year 2022 Legislative Branch Funding Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week,  the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2022 Legislative Branch funding bill and report, which includes a directive, proposed by Congressman Tony Cárdenas, Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, Congressman Charlie Crist and Congresswoman Cori Bush, to have the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) conduct a feasibility study on recreating a centralized U.S. House of Representatives internship and fellowship office.  

“For decades, Congressional internships have served as stepping stones for those interested in devoting their careers to public service. Unfortunately, we’ve seen the current system create barriers for potential candidates who don’t have the means or time to spend a semester at our nation’s capital. Not only does this process favor a specific group of applicants, but it also keeps the next generation of diverse leaders from serving their communities in the halls of Congress. Our proposed centralized House internship program will make positions on Capitol Hill more accessible and equitable for students of all backgrounds. We thank Chairman Tim Ryan and Members of the House Appropriations Committee for joining us in the fight to help build a diverse workforce reflective of each of our districts,” said Congressman Cárdenas.

“As the branch of government designed to be closest to the people, it is important that those employed in the House of Representatives look like and share similar backgrounds as the people we are privileged to serve. Countless House staffers begin their careers as interns, so it is crucial that this starting point is equitable and ensures that the best and the brightest are given the same opportunities as anyone else, no matter their circumstances. A centralized House internship program provides an excellent framework for intern applicants of all different backgrounds to access critical support systems and have a fair shot at the honor of serving the American people,” said Chairman Jeffries.

“I am proud to be linking arms with Chairman Jeffries, Rep. Cárdenas, and Rep. Crist to push for the establishment of a House Internship and Fellowship program in coordination with the House Office of Diversity and Inclusion. This new program will bolster outreach to diverse candidates, including those from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), for meaningful experiences on Capitol Hill. Black, Indigenous, and other students of color deserve intentional and deliberate pathways for career advancement in Congress, and our country will undoubtedly benefit from the rich experiences, insights, and backgrounds of a more diverse group of House interns,” said Congresswoman Bush. 

The proposal is supported by a coalition of stakeholders, including Demand Progress and Pay Our interns. 

"We applaud House appropriators for directing a study on creating a centralized House internship program, which we believe is a critical investment that would further support the current interns and allow more Americans to experience Congress up close," said Taylor Swift, policy advisor for Demand Progress. "Members of Congress often directly hire from their intern pool and broadening who has the opportunity to serve will create a stronger, more equitable, and more representative pipeline to public service." 

“Internships on Capitol Hill matter. They train and socialize young people to lawmaking, and provide a pipeline to paid employment and elective office,” said Habiba Mohamed, Federal Affairs Manager at Pay Our Interns. “We are glad to see the House take this first step and request a feasibility study for a centralized House internship program. Creating this office would help offices implement equitable internship programs, recruit and connect interns to resources and improve data collection and transparency.”

Similar to the Lyndon Baines Johnson internship program from 1974 to 1994, the proposed office would provide support services, such as housing, training, and professional development, to Congressional interns as well as serve as a resource hub for Standing Committees, Leadership Offices and House offices. The feasibility study will also examine how to address inequities in access to congressional internships and include the viability of establishing an intern stipend program for interns from underrepresented backgrounds, including those who attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges or Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).