THE TOP LINE
The sixth annual Congressional Legislative data and transparency conference, which took place this past week, was a big success. the hits: the Clerk’s office unveiled Ask Alexa for legislative info (and requested ideas for additional inquiries); GPO revealed an API for almost-all info on govinfo; GPO launched the Legislative Innovation Hub website to support collaboration on transparency and tech; and the Clerk demonstrated a real-time visualization of how an amendment would change a bill and a bill would change the law. My recap is here; and much more detailed notes are here.
The Library of Congress is on a path to fail in providing public access to CRS reports as required by law. Fedscoop has the story, and Demand Progress, R Street, and GovTrack published a detailed report describing how the Library’s plan falls short of the law and is unduly expensive. In short, it won’t publish all the reports as required by law; it won’t do it on time; it won’t do it in useful formats; and it will be quite expensive.
This visualization of the “road to gender parity” in the House of Representatives, from the Pudding, is the best use of congressional record data to tell a story that I’ve ever seen. Meanwhile, Reuters looks at accommodations for lawmaker moms around the world.
On suspension this week in the House are 3 bills concerning congressional capacity and oversight.
— The CASES Act (H.R. 3076) allows for constituents to e-sign approval for a congressional office to obtain access to their info held by an agency.
— The GAO-IG Act (HR 5415) requires each agency to include in its congressional budget justification a list of open or unimplemented GAO or IG recommendations concerning that agency.
— The Electronic Message Preservation Act (HR 1376) empowers the Archivist to issue regulations concerning the preservation of electronic records.
— Frustratingly, the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (HR 4631), favorably reported by both committees of jurisdiction months ago, which would require all agency reports to Congress to be available on GPO’s website, still has not advanced to the floor.
Federal inspectors general, or at least the law that provided for their creation, turned 40 this past week and were celebrated with a flurry of introspective activities. CIGIE, the Council of Inspectors General, held a day-long conference on Capitol hill (video here). At the event, Sen. Heitkamp proposed creating an independent agency to house all 73 IGs, which, as Federal News Radio reported, would help reduce the number of vacancies — 13 at the moment — and align their reporting incentives to Congress.
— Timed to the conference, the Project on Government Oversight issued an important report on the law with specific recommendations on what needs improvement. The Bipartisan Policy Research Center also released a report on further strengthening IGs.
— There were several news stories to mark the occasion, including a Roll Call opinion piece that argued for “a more collaborative approach to oversight by IGs, agency heads and Congress.” The Washington Post reported that the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs tried to intimidate and rein in its Inspector General.
— As we reported earlier, CIGIE would receive its first direct appropriation from the Senate in the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill, which would pay for its central website of IG reports known as oversight.gov, although it’s unclear whether the House will include similar language.
When Dianne Feinstein, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, questioned Mark Zukerburg at the Facebook hearing she had not yet disclosed her husband’s purchase of up to a quarter of million dollars of Facebook stock, Sludge reported. Sen. Feinstein’s line of questioning was notable because it did not focus on Facebook’s privacy violations, but instead on foreign influence operations. The purchase and her conduct has raised questions about a conflict of interest. In response to Sludge’s article, Sen. Feinstein said she should have reported the transaction earlier.
In a bizarre letter, Reps. Pelosi and Schiff and Sens. Schumer and Warner wrote to DNI Coats complaining about his sharing information with members of the intelligence committees. It seems likely they’ve forgotten that these are committees and not czarships for the chair/ranking member, and that the purpose of the committees is to conduct oversight of intelligence matters.
Foreign lobbying is the topic of the next Congressional Transparency Caucusbriefing, set for July 25th at 2pm in Rayburn 2456. RSVP here. Rep. Mike Quigley, co-chair of the caucus, will give opening remarks. Currently announced panelists include Lydia Dennett, investigator, the Project on Government Oversight; Tom Susman, Director of Government Affairs, American Bar Association; Daniel Schuman, policy director, Demand Progress (moderator).
— Former House Ethics Committee staffer and CREW Deputy Director Donald Sherman argues Congress must prioritize diversity as it begins hiring in earnest in August.
— CRS just updated its report profiling membership of the 115th Congress.
Revolving door: Many Congressional and White House staff who wrote the $1.5T tax shifting bill have decamped to become lobbyists, reports Alan Rappeport in an article that touches on why those staff have left — pay, political changes, and the likelihood of legislative gridlock.
Revive your tech team! argues Wired in an article on what Congress must do.
How philanthropy can help Congress keep up with constituent needs, by Democracy Fund’s Chris Nehls, who would know.
Experience in the states demonstrates that Congressional term limits are just a bad idea, says Lee Drutman, because they weakened legislative branch competency.
LEGISLATIVE PROCESS AND POLITICAL SCIENCE
- 569 House-passed billsawait action in the Senate, the Hill reports. In the last Congress, 400 bills that passed the House didn’t make it to the president’s desk.
- Mike Stern’s blog Point of Order continued its evaluation of the president’s pardon power: therole of Congress in checking abuses,an assessment of Trump’s use of the pardon power, and the pardon power in the context of the Russian investigation. His conclusion? “The totality of the evidence warrants opening an impeachment inquiry focused on the president’s abuse and threatened abuse of the pardon power.”
- When legislators speak on committees, the ears they are aiming forbelong to lobbyists and special interestsand not the general public — and that’s good news, argues political scientists John Ray.
- Conflict in Congress must be elevated and channeled, not neutralized and suppressed, if our government is to work, James Wallner argues in an essay.
- Willcourtesy meetings with the SCOTUS nominee get nuked?, wonders political scientist Mark Owens? (As I wrote a few years back, there’sno such thing as a limited nuclear war in the Senate.)
- Delay in Democratic caucus leadership elections? After 10% of the caucus drafted a letter to push leadership elections to December, but before it was sent, Rep. Pelosi called for a delay, Politico reports.
- Rep. McCarthy has launched astealth campaign for Speaker, Politico reports.
- The fifth ranking House Democrat, Linda Sanchez, hascalled for a leadership shake-up, the Hill reports.
- These are the5 GOP lawmakers in the runningto head the conservative Republican Study Committee, the Hill reports.
- What should Democrats do whenthey (eventually) retake both chambers? The Washington Monthly opines.
- The EPA subjects FOIA requests from environmental groups or others its views as “politically charged”to special internal review, according to a just released transcript of a House Oversight interview with a top EPA official, Federal News Radio reports.
- The Chief FOIA officers council will meet on July 19th from 10-12; the event is public (RSVP) andwill be livestreamed.
- Trump issued anExecutive Orderto move administrative law judges from competitive selection process to one driven by agency heads, Politico reports.
- Ex-Nebraska Rep. Ashford says Russian agentshacked his email; he lost his seat by less than 3,500 votes, AP reports.
- The administration released an initial set of10 draft principles for its federal data strategy, with public feedback continuing to be sought until July 27, Federal Computer Week reported.
- Rep. Schweikert’s chief of staff, Oliver Schwab, quit Congress after the Ethics Committee opened a formal investigation into misspending of funds and other issues. AZ Central reported theinvestigation of Rep. Schweikert continuesfor a multiple violations continues.
- Many former Obama administration officials “are lending the prestige of their White House resumes to scandal-fraught organizationsin return for large sums of money,” reports the Huffington Post, listing Jeh Johnson, Melody Barnes, Ray LaHood, David Plouffe, Eric Holder, Mary Schapiro, Timothy Geithner, Tom Vilsack, and more.
- Giuliani works for foreign clientswhile serving as Trump’s attorney, reports the Washington Post.
ODDS & ENDS
ALL ISRAELI LAWS, including laws from Mandatory Palestine and from the temporary government of Israel, are now available online for free on the Knesset’s website. Each act is present online with its relevant amendment; for each amendment the source of the bill is also available. Also published online are transcripts from the Knesset and its committees regarding the bill. (H/T Jerusalem Post.)
— In the US, a crowd-sourced effort by the Congressional Data Coalition was the first entity to publish each public US law enacted from 1789 to present online for free, starting in 2015, with the ability to link specifically to the law in question. Subsequently, the Library of Congress began publishing all laws, but unfortunately they are published as giant PDF volumes that contain the entirety of a session of Congress, are not available a single law at a time. They also are not publishing the laws as structured data. (Of course, the Office of Law Revision Counsel does a great job of publishing the US Code, but only half the titles are positive law.)
— The latest House legislative branch appropriations bill instructs GPO to explore the costs of publishing all the Statutes at Large in a digital format.
— The U.K.’s House of Commons Library, which plays a CRS-like role and publishes 900 research pieces each year (available online), is 200 years old and is holding an open house, encouraging the public to book tours, and created a film about its work, the BBC reported. Why are they doing this? Because the public pays for the Library’s work.
- House resumes, with first vote expected at 6:30; Senate resumes, with first vote expected at 5:30
- Rule Committee to considerFinancial Services General Government Appropriationsbill at 5
- The content filtering policies of social media giants — H. Judiciary at 10
- The VA Accountability and Whistleblower protection law, 1 year later — H. Veterans at 10:30
- Markups of legislation that allows agencies to block access to websites (HR 5300) — H. Oversight at 1
- FTC oversight — H. Commerce at 9:15
- 2020 census — H. Oversight at 10
- Government reorg proposal — S. Government Affairs at 10