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THE TOP LINE
Former Maryland police chief Tom Manger was sworn in as the US Capitol Police Chief. The Capitol Police are in disarray, with a dysfunctional and inadequate oversight structure, a poorly designed administrative structure, a well-founded absence of confidence in its senior leaders, a funding cliff that prompted the USCP to hold off on purchasing protective equipment like ballistic helmets, and have been pursuing the wrong mission — policing instead of protection — in an accountability-free environment that snubs committee oversight, the press, and the public and has left many police officers suffering with their trauma.
• A torrent of new money will eventually cascade on the well-heeled but financially depleted agency, just as it always has. The Chief spoke to Politico in a short interview — unusual in of itself because ex-acting police chief Pittman did not view it as part of the USCP mission to talk to the press — where he expressed a non-committal willingness to hold briefings and a desire for Pittman, who is reviled by the rank and file, to stay on his leadership team.
Meanwhile, the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the Capitol, which I guess we’re not supposed to call the Trump Insurrection Committee, will hold its first hearing on Tuesday. They don’t seem to yet have a website and the official meeting announcement has little info, but Reuters has their statement that the hearing will include testimony from USCP & MPD officers, which we found mirrored on Speaker Pelosi’s website. I won’t #bothsides our analysis, which is that Minority Leader McCarthy is just as opposed to allowing this committee to go forward as he was opposed to the commission — and for the same base political reasons — which is why he suggested two uncongenial members in the hopes of blowing it up when Speaker Pelosi declined to concur with the appointments. Minority Leader McCarthy gets to make his political point, I guess, but step-by-step he has moved into very dangerous territory for our democracy. With the appointment of Reps. Cheney and Rep. Kinzinger, he will lose the “bipartisan” talking point that has always been a reductivist and unhelpful way to talk about a pluralist political system.
COVID. Some Republican leaders are stepping up to encourage their members and staff to get COVID vaccines and even — gasp — to wear masks. Can you believe Minority Leader McCarthy didn’t get a first COVID shot until last week? It’s too soon to consider ending remote deliberations when we hear there are long lines and extended hours to accommodate staff (and members) who have yet to get the vaccine. Even if you wish to make a rhetorical point about this being a personal choice, you still have to exercise personal responsibility in actually getting one. Scientific modeling suggests a steep rise in COVID deaths, peaking in the middle of October, at 60,000 cases and 850 deaths per day under the most likely scenario, with a worst case for the most likely scenario of 240,000 cases and 4,000 deaths per day.
The House will consider up to ten appropriations bills next week, including this minibus, State & Foreign ops, and of more interest to us: Leg branch approps and CJS. More below on the 37 Leg branch floor amendments. The minibus will be considered by the Rules committee on Monday, and the rest on Tuesday.
• Making matters more complicated is that the Senate Armed Services Committee decided that the House’s proposed increase to defense spending, which constitutes nearly half of the $1.5 trillion in total discretionary spending for everything, is not enough. They proposed to increase overall defense spending to $777.9 billion, including $740 billion for DOD, which is a $25 billion boost for the department over Biden’s already generous proposal which is on top of decades of generous funding. This places Armed Services numbers way out of line with the top line numbers proposed by Pres. Biden and those approved by House Appropriators. And of course they did it all essentially in secret, so only Lockheed Martin knows the nature of their deliberations. As a useful point of comparison, vaccinating the entire world would cost $50 to $70 billion, and paying for that would contribute mightily to improving global security. And, unlike a lot of Pentagon programs, the vaccine actually works.
The Senate plans to hold markups on FY 2022 Agriculture-FDA, Energy and Water, and Military Construction-VA bills before breaking for the August recess. The rest comes after? And sometime between now and then, the debt limit must be raised or suspended — it expires on August 1st — and Sen. McConnell is urging Republicans to oppose this effort in what some deem hostage-taking, which risks destroying the U.S.’s ability to borrow money on favorable terms.
In some good news, two of my favorite bills are on suspension in the House this week. The Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act, S 272, which is the Senate companion to HR 22, would put all agency congressional budget justifications online in a central place so you can actually find them. It will go to the president. And the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, H.R. 2485, would require all non-confidential legally-required agency reports to Congress be published online at a central website, and also for Congress to maintain a full list of these reports. The House has passed ACMRA many times before, and it enjoys bipartisan support and has been favorably reported by HSGAC several times. But, you know, the Senate….
Several right-of-center organizations and former Republican Members of Congress wrote to Senate Appropriators in support of strengthening Congress and restoring the balance between the executive and legislative branches, favorably citing funding increases included in the House appropriations bill. The letter underscores the need for lawmakers to assert congressional authority, leverage the power of the purse, and pare back excessively broad executive orders. This is a strong conservative case for why we need a strong Congress.
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