Forecast for April 19, 2021

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TOP LINE

White nationalism has no place in Congress and yet several representatives on Friday were gathering support to start the America First Caucus, ostensibly focused on Anglo-Saxon “political traditions,” per PunchBowl.news. The America First Committee, the obvious antecedent, was formed in 1940 to keep the U.S. from intervening in WWII against the Nazis and was led by the most prominent anti-semites of the day. In recent times, America First has been invoked by Pat Buchanan and Donald Trump. You don’t need German shepherd ears to hear this fascist dog whistle.

But you have to work very hard to avoid connecting the dots from the Trump administration to election rejection to the Trump insurrection to this caucus. Will Republican leaders continue their deal with the devil in hopes of regaining political control? The clearest signals so far are the continued caucusing of America First representatives with the Republican party and voter-suppression legislation across the country. It’s not like we do not know how to fix the minority-rule doom loop just like we already know who is digging the grave of our democracy.

A commission proposal aimed at nailing down the “scope, composition, and resources necessary to seek and find the truth” of the euphemistically-described “January 6th” events is being re-sent to Republicans by Speaker Pelosi. Just as before, there will not be any takers to do anything meaningful — Sen. McConnell will reject this proposal as he rejected the previous one, by calling it partisan. That’s a neat trick: by definition a proposal is partisan unless Sen. McConnell says otherwise, even though rejection does not negate its wisdom. Calls for bipartisanship to fix our broken politics in a two-party system where one party’s leadership by-and-large rejects fundamental democratic principles is a fools’ errand beloved by editorial page writers, cable news bookers, and reputation launderers. Either pro-democracy Republicans must retake their party, which is increasingly unlikely, or they must follow Rep. Amash’s example and start anew. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

America has a long history of one-party rule at the state level. At the federal level, one-party rule has been manifested as a minority veto — the modern incarnation of nullification. Nullification is the mid-19th century political theory advanced by Sen. Calhoun that held a state could invalidate federal laws it did not like, and southern states did not like restrictions on slavery and the implications for their wealth derivered therefrom. Here’s how Sen. McConnell has described the modern incarnation of nullification, the filibuster: “So while Yarmuth calls the filibuster a ‘minority veto’, it’s really ‘Kentucky’s veto….’ It protects Jeffersontown and Shively from being steamrolled by Brooklyn and San Francisco. Last year, the voters rehired me to use Kentucky’s veto and protect our values.” We must ask: whose veto, Sen. McConnell? Which values? For what cause?

All is not lost, at least not yet. A handful of Republicans voted to impeach Pres. Trump and a third of the party stood for upholding the election results. Many more are privately horrified by what is happening but are unwilling to risk their positions. We are rapidly passing the point where only a political career is at stake. Only luck and happenstance prevented the Trump insurrection from decapitating Congress and murdering the Constitutional line of succession. We know what is necessary to save our democracy and we know the people who are standing athwart progress, yelling stop. It is not America they are putting first, but themselves.

WHAT’S NEW

The US Capitol Police Inspector General testified & released two reports on the insurrection, focused on inadequate planning, failures of intelligence, and a dysfunctional civil disturbance unit. Notably the USCP IG does not have jurisdiction over the Capitol Police Board.

A committee funding resolution was reported by House Admin, with an average 5% increase that leaves committees still almost 20% below their levels from a decade ago

The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress held a Member day hearing

The Senate Legislative branch appropriations committee has its first hearing scheduled this week, with testimony expected from USCP Acting Chief Pittman, AOC Blanton, and the new Sergeant at Arms

Deadlines for written testimony for House Legislative branch appropriations were announced and Member witness days are beginning to be announced. Notably, House appropriators are not inviting the public to testify “in person” this year.

A joint report on the Trump insurrection at the Capitol from HSGAC and Senate Rules is expected in the coming weeks.

The timing of the Security Appropriations Supplemental is unclear despite prior reporting. In fact, I’ve begun to distrust the vast majority of reporting on its size and contents and timing. The only report that makes sense is a lack of communication between the chambers. As you know, Demand Progress has recommendations for what should be in the supplemental.

House Admin’s activity report for the 116th Congressis out. It contains a lot of new and unreported information, from COVID adaptations and security reviews to new franking regulations. Admin has oversight of the Capitol Police, and its report provides insight on their activities to reform the USCP before it became a high profile issue.

The Advisory Committee on Transparency is hosting a webinar on Star Wars day, next Tuesday, May 4th, on Transparency in the 117th Congress. The webinar will provide an overview of transparency in the federal government, with a focus on where Congress likely will concentrate its attention and the status of past legislative efforts. Panelists include the Project On Government Overight’s Liz Hempowicz and yours truly, with GovExec’s Courtney Buble moderating and an additional panelists TBA. RSVP here.

Continue reading “Forecast for April 19, 2021”

Forecast for April 12, 2021

Welcome to the First Branch Forecast, your weekly look into the Legislative branch and government transparency. (Was this email forwarded to you? Subscribe here.)

TOP LINE

Welcome back, Congress. Send me a final out-of-office email so that I know you missed me.

Biden’s $1.5 trillion skinny budget was finally submitted to Congress on Friday. It would increase non-defense discretionary spending by 16% to $769.4 billion and increase defense discretionary spending by 1.7% to $753 billion. The proposal would finally end the so-called emergency Overseas Contingency Operations fund — an additional, bloated defense slush fund that was not counted against the so-called spending caps — by merging it with the base defense budget. On that point, CRS has a new report on the expiration of discretionary spending limits and you should read Mandy Smithberger’s testimony on ending OCO. The president can propose whatever he wants, but Congress sets the spending priorities.

A security supplemental will soon be taken up by the House, per an announcement from House Approps Chair DeLauro. Presumably this would pay for the costs of the Trump insurrection and fixing the flaws it revealed: addressing “intelligence collection and review, bolster the capacity and training of the Capitol Police, and make physical security improvements to the Capitol Complex.” Demand Progress published a menu of recommendations for the security supplemental recommendations that address additional failings of the Capitol Police, congressional cybersecurity, and contingency planning for the continuity of Congress.

The Capitol Police Inspector General will testify Thursday before the House Administration Committee on their preliminary findings concerning the Trump insurrection. Per orders of the Capitol Police Board, the USCP IG does not release its reports to the public, which contradicts best practices for IGs on political independence and fostering accountability.

What should appropriators do? Demand Progress published 56 appropriations recommendations with an emphasis on strengthening Congress and government accountability.

The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress will hold its Member Day Hearing on Thursday. Members who wish to testify must complete this form by COB today.

What’s due in April? Congress often requires Legislative branch support offices and agencies to submit reports to Congress, and we track what’s due when. See our April update, which includes several reports from the CAO and a nifty graphic.

Continue reading “Forecast for April 12, 2021”

What Items Are Due to Congress: April 2021

Congress routinely requests Legislative branch support offices and agencies provide reports to Congress on their activities, but there’s no central place to keep track of what they’ve requested.

So, we built a public spreadsheet that maintains a catalog of projects, broken down by item due, entity responsible, and due date.

The catalog covers reforms and requests ordered by the House and Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittees, the Committee on House Rules, and the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. At the moment, the catalog includes major resolutions and measures: H. Res. 8 (the House Rules for the 117th Congress), Legislative Branch Appropriations FY 2021, and H.Res. 756 from the 116th Congress. We continue to update this list each month for what’s due and what’s outstanding. Here are the February and March editions. Scroll down to see April’s.

Continue reading “What Items Are Due to Congress: April 2021”

Forecast for April 5, 2021.

Welcome to the First Branch Forecast, your weekly look into the Legislative branch and government transparency. (Was this email forwarded to you? Subscribe here.)

TOP LINE

Capitol Police officer William F. Evans died and another officer was injured on Friday after sustaining injuries when a vehicle driven by Noah Green apparently tried to break through a barrier on the Constitution Avenue side of the Capitol Complex. Capitol Police said Mr. Green had a knife; USCP officers shot him; Mr. Green subsequently died. Capitol Police held a press briefing just hours after the attack (full video here). USCP said there is no ongoing threat, and Tim Barber, a new spokesperson for the USCP PIO, said the department will continue to release updates. Our condolences to Officer Evans and those who knew him. We remind everyone that early news reports are often wrong. More recent reporting by the Washington Post, for example, suggests Mr. Green may have suffered from mental illness; it also says he did not stab the officers, as other reporting suggested. We encourage members of the Congressional community to visit Capitol Strong if they are experiencing feelings of trauma.

It is almost infrastructure week. Yes, Pres. Biden and congressional Democrats are getting ready to use budget reconciliation to move a long overdue infrastructure repair + jobs bill in the House by July 4th. Yes, Sen. McConnell is saying no Republicans will support the measure (per BGOV’s ($) Laura Litvan). Yes, the filibuster is distorting the political process, further incentivizing broad-based Republican opposition, which is why reconciliation is being used. Yes, we will learn shortly whether it’s possible to use reconciliation more than once per fiscal year, a process which James Wallner explains here. Yes, this doesn’t address the rest of the Democratic agenda — including overturning minority rule and protecting the ability of everyone to vote — which likely will require curtailing or eliminating the filibuster.

What should be in the appropriations package? Demand Progress and a variety of civil society organizations put together a menu of ideas to strengthen our democracy — focused particularly on strengthening Congress — for consideration by appropriators. The 56 recommendations are here. Additional recommendations for the security supplemental are here. (We have released recommendations for prior appropriations cycles, including FY 2021FY 2020, etc.) More to come as the groups begin to submit their written testimony and we surface additional proposals.

Former Speaker John Boehner’s new book is coming out so we will be seeing teasers everywhere. The former Speaker recycled a few paragraphs for POLITICO, available here, which explains how exactly Michelle Bachmann ended up on the Intel Committee, how the Steering Committee works, and how the vicious conservative media cycle used to make “people who used to be fringe characters into powerful media stars.” Oh? “By 2013 the chaos caucus in the House had built up their own power base thanks to fawning right-wing media and outrage-driven fundraising cash.” Grab a glass of merlot and read along. (By the way, Rep. Bachmann’s appointment suggests that a Speaker cannot be entrusted with keeping politics out of appointments to HPSCI, so perhaps we were right that the appointment process to that select committee should be reformed.)

Continue reading “Forecast for April 5, 2021.”

Forecast for March 29, 2021.

Welcome to the First Branch Forecast, your weekly look into the Legislative branch and government transparency. (Was this email forwarded to you? Subscribe here.)

TOP LINE

We made it. The House and Senate are on recess for the next two weeks. With members at home, at fundraisers, or on CODELs, staff will have an opportunity to catch up on deferred work and prep for another burst of action. Everyone is back the week of April 12th. Today marks 68 days since Biden was inaugurated and 82 days since the Trump insurrection. (We note that the House’s innovation of committee-only workweeks has been a success.)

Funding levels for Senate committees is the topic of our newly-released report, which found the Senate has made strides to undo decades of damage to their capacity to legislate and conduct oversight, but much more needs to be done. Specifically, Senate committees received an $18 million or 8% boost over the 116th Congress, but even this higher level of funding is still down by $59 million or 20% from the 111th Congress (2009-2010). The median increase in funding for each committee over the last Congress was $900,000 or 11%, and faithful readers have come to expect that we break out the details for each committee — indicating who got what — in the full article. (Our numbers exclude the Appropriations committee, which funds itself through a separate line item and usually has twice the funding of the next largest committee.)

The House Modernization Committee got organized this past week and held a listening session with 23 witnesses, including our very own Taylor J. Swift. We have more on this hearing below.

GAO is reviewing whether Biden’s freeze on border wall construction is in violation of federal law, Caitlin Emma reports. At issue: whether the freeze violates rules intended to keep Congress’s fingers on the federal purse. The GOP request for the review is here. One smart measure to protect Congress’s prerogatives, the Power of the Purse Act, would remedy many of the abuses we saw in the last administration.

The outer Capitol fence is gone, finally, but the inner fence remains for now — and maybe forever. Sens. Blunt and Von Hollen introduced legislation to ensure there is no permanent fence, which is a companion bill to House Del. Holmes Norton’s legislation. We co-led a civil society letter with the Lincoln Network that opposes a permanent fence.

Congress’s approval ratings have more than doubled over the last three months, from 15% in early December to 36% in March, per a Gallup poll. The last time it was this high was March-May 2009. Per Gallup, 59% of Democrats, 34% of independents, and 9% of Republicans approve of Congress’ performance. We underscore their caveat: “much of the recent increases is a function of partisanship,” which suggests Congressional approval ratings are a partisan indicator and thus a poor way to assess whether Congress is functioning properly.

Continue reading “Forecast for March 29, 2021.”

How Senate Committees Get Their Money

Senate committees are at the heart of the legislative process, but what resources are provided for them to do their work? We reviewed the funding levels for Senate committees this Congress as compared to last Congress and over the decades. Here is what we found: 

Senate committees are funded at $238.2 million for the 117th Congress. This represents an 8.2% or $18 million increase from last Congress’s $220.2 million funding level. There is an average increase of $1 million or 8.7% per committee.

Senate committee funding is down by $59 million or 19.9% from the 111th Congress, where it peaked at $297.3 million. Funding this Democratically-controlled Congress also falls short of the Republican-controlled 109th Congress, when Senate committees were funded at $248 million.

Half of Senate committees experienced cuts in funding levels between the 107th and 117th Congresses. In addition, just one committee received a 20% increase from 2001 to 2021 — the Intelligence Committee.

(Please note this analysis excludes funding for the Appropriations Committee, which is funded through a separate mechanism, and we are using constant 2021 dollars.)

Continue reading “How Senate Committees Get Their Money”

Forecast for March 22, 2021

Welcome to the First Branch Forecast, your weekly look into the Legislative branch and government transparency. (Was this email forwarded to you? Subscribe here.)

TOP LINE

The security supplemental funding bill could reach $2 billion, according to Billy House, and is intended to strengthen security at the Capitol and enhance member protection. To place this number in context: combined funding in FY 2021 for the Capitol Police and the Architect of the Capitol was $1.2 billion; total funding for the entire Legislative branch was slightly over $5 billion; and the AOC & USCP asked for more than a 20% increase in funding this year — and already said their requests will significantly increase in light of the Honoré report.

There are likely billions in “deferred” or otherwise necessary maintenance in the Capitol complex, so an infusion of billions in multi-year funds would be welcome if it addresses these unmet needs. By contrast, throwing money at the Capitol police, unless we first reform its management and oversight structures, likely would squander those funds. Members are terrified about their personal security, but giving money to an incompetently-managed security force without fixing it will only promote the illusion of security.

• We are gravely concerned that the carrying costs for the new personnel — the Honoré report recommends 854 new full-time employees (FTEs) and the AOC wants nearly 100 FTEs — would simply crush Congress’s budget. The Legislative branch is the lowest funded of the 12 appropriations subcommittees — the next smallest subcommittee is 5x larger — and all those costs must be borne somewhere. The last 25 years of growth in USCP & AOC budgets has come at the expense of Congress’s policymaking capabilities, including personal offices, committees, GAO, CRS, and the like. If not addressed, the current trend would result in beautiful, well-protected buildings filled with no one experienced enough to do the policymaking work.

• How to fix this? There are three big options that we can see. First, we can increase the amount of funding for the Legislative branch. We naively called for a 10% increase in Leg branch funding, but self-evidently we need much more than that. In addition, there should be a firewall that separates funds for policymaking against those for protecting the campus. A second option is to draw funding for the USCP and the AOC for other sources — such as defense discretionary spending (050) — which would be logical because a big portion of the Capitol’s post-9/11 expenses are defense related and this would provide a huge new pot of funding, and are where a few hundred million dollars wouldn’t be missed. A third option is to have the other appropriations subcommittees provide funding for components in the Legislative branch that serve the rest of the government, such as the GAO. (We already have the Judiciary kicking in for the Capitol power plant, so there is precedent.) In this schema, you could imagine a pro-rata assessment of the other 11 appropriations subcommittees to cover GAO’s funding, which would free up obligations from the tiny Leg branch budget.

The outer layer of the Capitol fencing is coming down, according to acting House Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy P. Blodgett. The inner layer around “capitol square” will remain. For how long? Good question. Last month, we led a coalition letter opposing permanent fencing.

The Capitol Police’s misconduct report for 2020 is one page long and raises more questions than it answers, according to Emmanuel Felton. His article draws from our report: from what we can tell, more than 40% of charges against USCP employees were substantiated by department investigations. The report from the USCP is virtually worthless as is, and raises more questions and answers. We note that most people don’t know how to file a complaint concerning the USCP. This is one of many areas where the USCP needs more transparency. Our recs for immediate next steps are here.

Congress’s embrace of technology during the pandemic was crucial for its continuity, according to me and POPVOX’s Marci Harris. Even more importantly, Congress must continue to innovate.

Hearings. We note in particular House Oversight’s hearing on DC statehood on Monday; House Rules & House Foreign Affairs hearings Tuesday on War Powers; Wednesday’s Senate Rules Committee hearing on S.1, the democracy reform bill that mirrors H.R. 1; and the first meeting of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress on Thursday.

Appropriations deadlines. Now that the House has started to release guidance on its deadlines for Members and the public to submit their testimony, we have begun to track it here.

Solidarity. Asian Americans continue to suffer attacks and mistreatment on the basis of race. Our country has a long history of otherization of Asian Americans, and only now is that fact starting to break through into mainstream consciousness. For example, we need only look to the Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese Internment Camps. We stand in solidarity.

Continue reading “Forecast for March 22, 2021”

New Capitol Police Misconduct Complaint Report Obscures More Than it Reveals

Complaints about U.S. Capitol Police operations, including accounts of racist misconduct within the department and managerial abuses of power, have recently been elevated in the wake of the January 6th attack on Congress. Hard information is hard to come by as it is nearly impossible to get any official data on employee misconduct from the department. There is, however, one small exception: the USCP Annual Statistical Summary Report on Office of Professional Responsibility Investigations.

The Annual Statistical Summary Report provides top line numbers on complaints made against US Capitol Police employees. The report indicates how many misconduct investigations occurred in a given year and how many total charges or allegations of misconduct were filed. Its data is broken out by the status of the individual filing the complaint: citizen, outside law enforcement, internal, or anonymous. Starting in 2019, USCP began including figures of how many individual charges/allegations of misconduct were sustained in Office of Professional Responsibility investigations. 

Today we are publishing the newly obtained 2020 Annual Statistical Summary Report. (It is generous to call this a report: it is a one-page fact sheet.) We previously published reports dating back to 2009, which is when the first report of this type was published online. We asked for data from prior years, but our request was denied. 

Table of OPR Case Summary Statistics. There are 15 citizen complaint cases and 22 citizen allegations. There are 69 department investigation cases and 83 department investigation allegations. There are 17 internal complaint cases and 25 internal complaint allegations. There are 5 referred by law enforcement cases and 7 referred by law enforcement allegations. There are 106 total cases and 137 total allegations. There are 58 sustained allegations.
Continue reading “New Capitol Police Misconduct Complaint Report Obscures More Than it Reveals”

Forecast for March 15, 2021

Welcome to the First Branch Forecast, your weekly look into the Legislative branch and government transparency. (Was this email forwarded to you? Subscribe here.)

TOP LINE

It’s been a year since we wrote to every Member of Congress on how Capitol Hill should respond to COVID. If I were to grade the response, I’d likely give the House of Representatives a B+, the Senate a D-, and varying grades for the support agencies. The House, after a significant delay, changed its rules: implemented proxy voting on the House floor, remote proceedings in committees, modernized some of its procedures, and implemented inconsistent measures to protect staff. Meanwhile, the Senate failed to change its rules, implemented hybrid proceedings in its committees that didn’t address absences, and staff protections vary by the office. At least 71 lawmakers, or roughly 10 percent of Congress, has tested positive for COVID-19, and an unknown number of staff. We think the House should implement fully remote floor proceedings that do not rely on proxy voting, and the new Senate leadership — which previously committed to a better approach — should do the best it can to make changes over likely obstruction. For more on what’s happened, see continuityofcongress.org.

Approps season continues as the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights presents its budget to the House Leg branch appropriations subcommittee Thursday at 10. We are curious about whether Congress will implement the legislative recommendations they made in their once-a-Congress report and have some questions about staff unionization. Below we have recaps of last week’s many, many hearings.

It’s sunshine week, which started yesterday and focuses on government transparency. There are lots of events on the calendar. We note that HSGAC will be marking up the Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act on Tuesday at 9:30, a bill we support, and we expect more opengov news as the week goes on. Video is now available on what increased transparency could look like in the Legislative and Judicial branches, discussed at the recent FOIA Advisory Committee meeting. And there’s a new civil society letter in support of court transparency.

Welcome, Ginger McCall. We’re pleased to announce that Ginger McCall is joining us as our first-ever Legal Director. She is an expert on FOIA, transparency, privacy, and much more. Ginger recently was the Deputy Associate Chief Counsel for Information Law at FEMA and before that was the first-ever Oregon Public Records Advocate. Prior to that she served as an attorney in the Office of the Solicitor at the Department of Labor, Associate Director of Electronic Privacy Information Center, and Federal Policy Manager at Sunlight. Her email is ginger@demandprogress.org. Don’t miss her on Thursday as she moderates an Open Government Summit panel focused on transparency in Washington, D.C.

Bipartisan? House Democrats increasingly are unwilling to co-sponsor legislation with Republicans who voted against certifying the Electoral College results, Leigh Ann Caldwell reports. Supporting insurrection, in their view, is a bridge too far. We have a lot to say about this — for and against bipartianship — but we’ll save that hot take for another time.

Continue reading “Forecast for March 15, 2021”

Forecast for March 8, 2021

Welcome to the First Branch Forecast, your weekly look into the Legislative branch and government transparency. (Was this email forwarded to you? Subscribe here.)


THE TOP LINE

General Honoré will brief Congress today in three closed meetings on his “Capitol Security Review” that was conducted out of public view over the last six weeks. The NYT published a draft of his findings on Friday, the fact of which I find irrepressibly funny. I’ve read the assessment: it reads like a report written by a bunch of generals. It re-fights the last war, contains a request for significantly more manpower and spending, and is nebulous about how to address the source of the failures: Capitol Police leadership. Here are our recommendations.

• If Honoré’s recommendations are adopted, and we have every expectation Speaker Pelosi will do so, one major consequence will be the further defunding of congressional policy making. From what source will they draw funding to pay for 874 new employees, which would increase the USCP staff size from 2,450 to 3,300? Our back-of-the-envelop estimate is funding for USCP would increase from $515m to $693m — and we must note that funding for the Leg branch has increased at half the rate of other non-defense discretionary spending. Defunding Legislative branch policymaking has long been a problem. The Honoré report does not address the importance of growing the Leg branch pie or whether they are calling for paying for this outside the Leg branch budget.

• Putting the Capitol Police in context, the USCP is already funded significantly more than all Congressional committees put together. They also were already asking for a 20% increase, or $107 million funding bump, before this assessment came out. We sent Congress a letter back in February calling for a 10% increase in Leg branch funding, and this week the Levin Center, Lugar Center, and Culver Public Policy Center sent their own recommendation for a 10% increase. The assumption, however, was that this money should go towards policymaking.

• The draft report is not a dud. It makes obvious points about the importance of building up a capable intelligence team that tracks threats, shares information, and is connected with elements of the intelligence community. It also encourages better coordination with other entities, a faster response to emergencies (including requesting assistance), and buying necessary equipment. A handful of important matters are given only a brief mention, such as cybersecurity and the structure of the Capitol Police Board. As the failure in management came from the top, we would think this would be the priority — especially as many other problems could be addressed by better leadership and better coordination. We wonder about the value of having a permanent civil disturbance unit platoon and the use of body cameras. We agree that USCP overtime is a longstanding problem, but hiring more officers won’t address the incentives for overtime.The report also missed key problems such as the Congressional oversight mechanisms (above the Capitol Police Board).

Speaking of congressional funding, last week House appropriators held hearings into the Congressional Budget Office and the Library of Congress. Set for this week: GAO and House Officers testify on Wednesday at 10; and the AOC and GPO present their budgets on Thursday at 10. This time we have a welcome (but unusually) long list of House officers testifying: Office of Legislative Counsel (the people who draft the bills); Sergeant at Arms; Clerk; Office of Diversity and Inclusion; General Counsel (the people who represent the House as an institution); House Inspector General; Office of Law Revision Counsel (the people who write the US Code); and the Chief Administrative Officer. As you might expect, we’re excited.

The end of appropriations? Punchbowl reported Senate Republicans are threatening to “see [stop-gap spending bills] forever — maybe for Biden’s entire presidency” in response to Dems moving the COVID-19 relief bill through reconciliation without Republican support. Let’s be clear about what this means. Right now, appropriations and the NDAA are the big remaining “must-pass” legislative vehicles besides budget reconciliation (which is limited!), and they carry much of the work Congress would normally do through other mechanisms if it were healthy. Regular appropriations are also the major remaining mechanism by which Congress establishes its priorities and restrains the Executive branch. Moving to permanent Continuing Resolutions because you lost fair-and-square on the COVID-19 relief bill in a political landscape already over-protective of a political minority is legislative arson. With this threat on the table, and the ongoing efforts to undermine the right to vote, there’s no remaining reason for Democrats to avoid eliminating the filibuster. In fact, if they wish to move the reforms necessary to save our democracy, they really shouldn’t wait. Could there be change in the offing?

Appropriations requests. As usual, we’ll be publishing our appropriations requests, but in the meantime you can find historical info about Leg branch appropriations here and our Approps Twitter bot has been active. Don’t forget this Friday’s House Admin hearing on funding for (most) House Congressional committees.

Continue reading “Forecast for March 8, 2021”