The House has finalized plans for taxpayer-paid internships on Capitol Hill. It's a symbolic watershed for efforts to enhance the long-term functionality of Congress, because there's widespread belief the legislative branch will work better if more people who aren't rich take jobs there.
Congress appropriated $9 million for paying House interns this year, enough for each of the 435 members to allocate $20,000 in stipends so college or graduate school students of modest means can afford the enormous opportunity for Washington networking and public service experience. Until now, the Hill intern pool has been overwhelmingly the province of people who could afford to spend a semester or a summer working form free although some House and Senate offices have dipped into their regular budgets to pay interns.
"Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle finally have the insight they need to open up Capitol Hill internships to all students, regardless of their family's income, and remove the extreme financial barriers that stand in the way," said Audrey Henson, the founder of College to Congress, a non-profit that provides stipends so Pell Grant-eligible students can work for Hill offices of both parties.