Forecast for August 13, 2018. While #MeToo Stalls in Congress, SCOTUS Nomination Hearings Move Forward.

THE TOP LINE

Rep. Collins was arrested for insider trading every news outlet on earth reported, but that’s not the most interesting part. Multiple news outlets described what happened as Speaker Ryan stripping Collins of his committee membership. He didn’t. Curious? Read my dive into the Speaker’s power to police member behavior and what that means for policy dissenters.

Kavanaugh hearings will start Sept. 4, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced, even as nonprofits ask for comprehensive disclosure of his records in two letters: one asking Sens. Grassley and Feinstein to work together on public access, the other to the George W. Bush Library. Sen. Feinstein repeated her request to the Archivist to release materials.

Congress remains split on sexual harassment legislation with the House insisting on stronger reforms and the Senate pushing for weaker ones, Politico reported. Absent from the conversation: the legislation could be stronger still by addressing non disclosure agreements that limit reporting to official channels, expanding prohibitions on member-employee relationships in committees, and requiring outreach to member offices when problems develop.

LEGISLATIVE CAPACITY

Money, maps, media, mingling, and masochism are what Roll Call’s David Hawkins says is why Congress is broken.

The legislative branch budget may be an unintended casualty of cutting August recess, Roll Call reported. The unexpected costs likely will be joined by cranky staff, overworked food service workers, and disruptions to building repair and maintenance projects.

Security clearance reviews may soon be performed by the Defense Department instead of OPM as Trump is expected to sign an executive order making the switch, GovExec reported. Unaddressed in the article is the debilitating backlog in congressional clearances; while executive branch clearance rates are known, there’s no public information on how many congressional staff get clearances or how long it takes. Anecdotal evidence suggests multi-year delays. We do not know whether the Office of House Security or Office of Senate Security tracks how long it takes to obtain a clearance. Several million people hold clearances, including more than a million at the top secret level, roughly half of whom are contractors.

OVERSIGHT

House Intel Chair Devin Nunes privately told donors that a GOP majority is necessary to protect Trump regarding ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the U.S. political system. It was a stunning display of inadvertent candor and abdication of congressional oversight responsibilities. While few people thought Nunes was an honest broker, his continued involvement paints an ugly picture of the House’s ability to conduct oversight.

LEGISLATIVE PROCESS AND POLITICAL SCIENCE

Proposed House rules should be available to everyone before they’re voted on, wrote Daniel Schuman (uh, me) on the Legislative Procedure blog.

George Washington chopped down the amendment tree, or a guide to when a senator can offer amendments, from the Legislative Procedure blog.

The Senate Intel committee invited Julian Assange to testify in person on Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Globe and Mail reported. Assange is marooned at the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK and, among other things, has said he feared being extradited to the US for publishing American secrets on WikiLeaks. This CRS report discusses congressional grants of immunity, you know, just in case.

TRANSPARENCY

A FEC “dark money” regulation that allowed donors to remain anonymoussuffered a significant blow, Politico reported. A federal court held the FEC’s current regulation “fails to uphold the standard Congress intended when it required the disclosure of politically related spending.” This could result in new requirements for nonprofits to disclose donors who gave at least $200 to influence federal elections.

White House non disclosure agreements are common — everyone has signed one — said counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, Politico reported.

Marthy Murphy is OGIS’s new Deputy Director, according to the National Archives. Most recently, she was the FOIA program manager in research services at the National Archives.

Stop attacking journalists, a bipartisan group of 23 organizations told the White House, raising concerns about the exclusion of a reporter because she had previously asked Trump a question he didn’t like. Meanwhile, the Boston Globe is rallying more than 100 newspaper editorial boards to rally against Trump’s anti-media attacks, the Huffington Post reported.

TECHNOLOGY

Congress must increase resources to understand technology policy, a new report from the Institute for Technology Law & Policy at Georgetown Law concluded. The 18-page document describes the contours of what such a program might look like. The 2019 Leg Branch Approps bill set forth requirements to generate recommendations on the topic as well.

ETHICS

Former Rep. Fattah had his bribery conviction overturned while an appellate court upheld convictions on other counts, so he won’t be getting out of jail any time soon, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. At issue was the definition of “political graft,” which the U.S. Supreme Court had narrowed a few days after Fattah was convicted in the case McDonnell v US. (Of course, Congress could return the statute to its original intent.)

Rep. Mullin won’t be penalized for his participation in ads for his family’s business, but members of Congress shouldn’t do business endorsements going forward, the Ethics Committee announced. Making the whole circumstance more awkward was the fact that an Ethics committee staffer had advised Mullin that it was okay. The investigation was prompted by an Office of Congressional Ethics referral. The Ethics Committee process took five years to conclude, which seems several years too long.

POLITICS

The return of Rep. Pelosi as speaker might be in trouble, with 50 Democratic candidates saying they wouldn’t support her return to that position, NBC reported. It takes a majority of House votes to become Speaker. And, a new poll said that 50% of Democrats surveyed say the party should pick someone elseas leader, the Hill reported. It’s too soon to know whether this actually means anything.

Are women representatives more bipartisan? No, reported NPR, it’s a stereotype, although women do govern differently from men in other respects.

ODDS & ENDS

The confederate statue issue may rise again. It only feels like a long time since Congress was convulsed with controversy over confederate statues in the US Capitol, although this weekend’s rally may reignite that debate. (At the time, we and the R Street Institute wrote an editorial calling on the Joint Committee on the Library to instruct the Architect of the Capitol to move them from public view.) Canada is having a similar issue with a statue of Edward Cornwallis, who terribly mistreated the First Peoples, and it’s instructive to see their approach to the issue.

Australians are trolling their MPs by asking for photos of Queen Elizabeth through their constituents request program, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. At least one MP responded that there’d be something extra in the packages sent to constituents in response.

Jean Luc Picard is back as Patrick Stewart will reprise the heroic albeit fictional Enterprise captain 20 years after the last movie, the actor announced in Las Vegas. This has nothing to do with Congress, but I’m pretty excited.

CALENDAR

The House is in recess until September (except for pro forma sessions). The Senate is in recess until Wednesday, August 15th, when a few nominations and the Defense-Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill is on tap. Only two hearings have been announced for the 15th and 16th, including an FCC oversight hearing.