3. Why are most Congressional internships unpaid and what are the consequences of this tradition?
Congressional interns were paid from 1974-1994 as part of the LBJ Internship program named after President
Lyndon Baines Johnson. It allowed offices to host 2 LBJ interns per year and granted a stipend of $500/month for
two months. Approximately 300 interns worked in Congress due to this program. Unfortunately, the program was
cut as part of budget negotiations 1994 and remained unfunded until 2017 when C2C and other organizations
started advocating for paid internships. In 2018, Congress voted and appropriated funding for interns, with House
receiving $20,000 and Senate offices receiving $50,000.
In any industry, unpaid and low paid internships create a significant barrier to entry for students with financial
constraints and a limited network. They simply cannot find a realistic way to make money and take care of all the
other responsibilities that come along with the opportunity. If you don’t have family or friends in a city it makes
the cost burden even higher. Washington, DC is one of the most expensive cities in America. It can cost upwards of
$10,000 to afford a summer here when you consider required expenses and everyday living.
When students forgo applying to these opportunities we are missing out on the critical voices, perspectives
necessary to solve our nation’s toughest challenges because the people with lived experiences and cultural
competencies are not at the table.