Center for Effective Lawmaking

Experienced Legislative Staff Crucial to Making a Difference on the Hill

Experienced Legislative Staff Crucial to Making a Difference on the Hill

A legislative staff member’s role is critical to maintaining and sustaining the operations of congressional offices. And the CEL has released a study revealing that the more experience a congressional staff member has, the better equipped they are to make the lawmaker they work for more effective.

Assessing data from 1974 to 2013, the CEL discovered that experienced congressional staff have a significant impact on a legislator’s performance in Congress. Experienced staff help members advance legislative proposals of greater significance more frequently.

Seasoned staff are particularly advantageous for committee chairmen who have the resources to make significant legislative advancements and for new legislators who are in greatest need of the aid’s knowledge and expertise. It is not the quantity but the quality of a congressmember’s staff that makes a legislator successful on the Hill. This analysis suggests that recruiting and retaining seasoned congressional employees can garner great benefits for members of Congress.

“By engaging with stakeholders, negotiating legislative details, and navigating the practices and procedures of the House more effectively, experienced staff may provide their bosses with a crucial edge in their lawmaking efforts,” the paper’s authors Craig Volden, Alan Wiseman, Geoffrey Lorenz and Jesse Crosson write. “As the total number of years of work experience of a Representative’s legislative staff increases, so too does the Representative’s legislative effectiveness.”

Mike Henry, Chief of Staff for Senator Tim Kaine, spoke to Center for Effective Lawmaking Co-Director Craig Volden extensively on the role of experienced legislative staff. Their conversation provides additional insight into the roles of legislative employees and how their expertise shapes a congressmember’s ability to be effective.

To learn more, read the CEL’s working paper on the role of effective legislative staff here.

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