Forecast for September 10, 2018. Legislative Branch Appropriations and Conference Rules.

TOP LINE

The Leg Branch minibus conference report may get a House floor vote this week; there was an actual, real-life conference committee last week. Here’s what’s in the House and Senate bills.

— As a bonus (& thanks to Tim Ryan), the House plumped down $8.8m for intern pay in the amended legislation (text is unavailable), a big step forward to opening up the ranks of hill staff, which by my math will pay one person for 3 months in every House office. The Senate, thanks to Chris Murphy, included $5m for intern pay.

— Watch this for a Rules committee meeting on floor consideration.

— Too busy to watch the House hearing? House proceedings are webcast on YouTube, which creates an automatic transcript; you can also double the playback speed and turn on closed-captioning.

House rules are the subject of member-day Rules Committee hearing on Thursday. Member requests to testify are due by 5pm Monday. I’ll have more on proposals to reform the rules next week.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

— The first-ever Oversight Summit, focused on practical advice for policymakers on strengthening oversight, is set for Nov. 16, hosted by Project on Government Oversight and partners like us. RSVP here.

— FARA is the subject of a Center for Responsive Politics event this Friday, where they will demo a new tool and host a panel discussion. Watch online at 9am.

— Congress don’t get no respect when it comes to subpoenas because DOJ action is required for enforcement. Good Gov’t Now will discuss changing the House rules to fix this on 9/21. RSVP here.

— Fellowships! Know someone interested in oversight who should work for Congress for a year? Nominate them for a POGO Oversight Fellowship, with a $80k-$108k stipend. Deadline 9/27.

— DATA Transparency 2018, a conference hosted by the Data Coalition on “how data is being standardized, shared and used to create a better future for our society,” is set for Oct. 10. RSVP here.

— Reboot Congress is 9/20-9/21 in San Francisco, hosted by the Lincoln Network. I’ll be talking tech in Congress. RSVP here.

LEGISLATIVE CAPACITY

Expelling Cory Booker? Last week Senator Booker and other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee released documents that Sen. Grassley designed as “committee confidential” related to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Several senators made a motion to adjourn or called to go to executive session, citing insufficient time to review the 42k documents dumped the night before, but Chairman Grassley ignored them.

— Democratic senators say these documents shouldn’t have been designated committee confidential, as they did not include personal or national security information. The designation prohibited senators from asking questions referencing the documents in open session.

— And yet Democrats released the documents without permission, which arguably showed Kavanaugh lied under oath in previous testimony about his involvement in receiving Senate Judiciary committee documents stolen from Democrats, leading the staffer who wrote the purloined memos to call for Kavanaugh’s impeachment. Republicans seem unlikely to address the theft question.

— Senator Cornyn called the document publication “outrageous” saying that senators who “willingly flout the rules” do not deserve “to sit on this committee, or serve in the Senate.” The last time a senator was expelled was in 1862 and the bulk of expelled senators were Confederate sympathizers (at best).

— Keeping Kavanaugh’s records secret set him up for embarrassmentbecause he “had to respond to attacks on the fly, often while trying to remember what he meant in an email written 15 years ago, and without any warning about which attacks were coming.”

House Democratic caucus and Republican conference rules are now publicly available, thanks to the House Parliamentarian. While Republicans have published their rules online for several years, House Democrats refused to do so. The publication includes the rules for the 100th, 105th, 110th, and 115th congresses. Senate Democrats and Republicans do not publish their rules (although Politico has the R rules for the 114th.)

House calendars are confusing until you read Casey Burgat’s explainer.

POLITICS

A very soft landing for staff and members who crafted the 2008 financial bailout: 30% of members and 40% of senior staff went to work for Wall Street. At least 15 of 47 lawmakers and 17 of the 40 senior-most staffers padded their bottom line at places like JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs. In part, low congressional pay encouraged them to have one foot out the door.

Jon Kyl will fill the late Senator McCain’s seat. Kyl, who was appointed by Arizona Governor Ducey, previously served as a U.S. senator from 1995 to 2013. Majority leader McConnell says Kyl will not retain his seniority, making him the junior-most senator; he will not inherit McCain’s committee assignments (or offices). Watch Legistorm to see whether he keeps McCain’s staff.

You can take it with you. Some retiring members of Congress are spending their campaign cash to benefit themselves, CREW reported. Standout expenditures include the purchase of social club memberships, farewell parties, marching band performances, and lawyers fees related to scandal. Price tags on these items ranged all the way up to $200,000. The best gifts are the ones that keep on giving, like former representative and now NASA Administrator Bridenstine’s purchase of a five-year pass to attend baseball games.

ETHICS

Rep. Rob Blum will get a pass as the House Ethics Committee deferred actionuntil after the election on an inquiry into his alleged failure to disclose his ownership role in a new company. The Office of Congressional Ethics referred the case to the Committee in July. Should Blum lose, Ethics will terminate their inquiry.

Scott Taylor was subpoenaed to testify about his knowledge of a ballot forgery scandal. Democrats allege Taylor campaign staffers forged signatures on petition sheets to get third-party candidate Shaun Brown on the ballot. Taylor fired his campaign manager earlier this year; however, at least one staffer accused of forgery still works on Taylor’s campaign.

Reps. Hunter and Collins also get a pass: The House Ethics Committee voted to investigate Reps. Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins last week but deferred the investigations, pending DOJ prosecution. Rep. Collins announced his retirement, so it’s unlikely Ethics will ever complete an investigation on him; and Hunter could lose his reelection, with the same result.

OVERSIGHT

Let CRS be CRS: Former CRS manager Kevin Kosar wrote how CRS is meant to assist Congressional committees with oversight, but isn’t really any more. Here’s how to fix it. Just one fun tidbit: possibly in violation of congressional intent, the agency has replaced its senior specialist positions, intended for experts, with administrative managers.

— For what it’s worth, wouldn’t it be great it CRS analysts wrote newsletters like this one for their issue areas? Imagine getting a weekly roundup from the telecom expert on the bills, hearings, court opinions, new research, and events that a staffer working on that issue must follow?

What’s the hold up? The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) still lacks a quorum. Four of the five senate-confirmed positions have been vacant since early 2017 which prevents the board from addressing major surveillance issues. The President nominated four new members to the board, including two last month. Demand Progress and civil society allies have called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to consider these nominees so the PCLOB can get back to work.

TRANSPARENCY

A FOIA boo-boo: The FOIA request aggregation website FOIAOnline inadvertently exposed dozens of social security numbers when a July update eliminated the masking feature for request descriptions. While it’s often necessary to include personally identifiable information on FOIA requests, agencies must review the description prior to public release.

The Administrative Conference of the U.S. proposed changes to improve organization, data quality, and public engagement. The changes would affect Regulations.gov, the Federal Docket Management System, and agency strategy for informal rulemaking. The next meeting is Sept. 25.

Twitter updated its political ad rules. The new standards require archiving all political ads and clearly labeling promoted tweets as having “issue” or “political” content. News outlets can apply for exemptions and the policies go into effect at the end of the month.

TECHNOLOGY

When it comes to campaign cybersecurityCongress is asleep at the wheel. This election cycle there have been several cyber attacks, but security considerations continue to be trumped by convenience.

— One big issue is members of Congress are ill-informed on cybersecuritybest practices. The now-defunct Office of Technological Assessment was created to advise members on the newest issues in tech and had over 140 technologists on staff. It was cut when Republicans took Congress in 1995, but bringing it back (which Senator Warren has proposed) would provide the expertise needed to thwart avoidable attacks.

$62 million in erroneous expenditure reporting. The current Senate campaign finance report filing system is awful, allowing members to submit paper documents that goes through a laborious, unduly expensive, and error-prone conversation process relying on overseas contractors. Language in the Senate appropriations bill would fix this, and save congress more than $500k annually, but it remains to be seen whether Sen. McConnell will strip it out like he has in years years.

ODDS & ENDS

Congress won’t get a 5-star rating, at least according to a 2016 study funded by the Congressional Institute. Americans perceived Congress as lacking accountability and failing to truly act in the best interest of the people. Americans were also frustrated with partisan gridlock and saw the media as adding fuel to the fire, while failing to report on positive things happening in Congress. [Maybe we need more subscribers. –Ed.]

— Speaking of the media’s reputation95% of voters agree that freedom of the press is important but only 52% believe it’s under threat, according to a bipartisan report from the Reporters Committee funded by the Democracy Fund. In an age where top government officials use anti-press rhetoric and violence against journalists is on the rise, only 34% of Republicans saw freedom of the press as under threat, compared to 62% of Democrats. Reps. Raskin and Jordan’s reporter shield law seems like an obvious first step.

Lessons from across the pond. The Institute for Government released their first Parliamentary Monitor report with data on what Parliament has done in the last year. The Brookings Institution releases a partial American counterpart to the report, Vital Statistics on Congress.

The Library of Congress has a brand new look, or at least its logo does. The deadline for public access to CRS report is September 18, so we’ll be keeping an eye on that, and continuing to publish the reports at EveryCRSReport.

Keeping up with the Kremlin: Vladimir Putin now has his own reality show on state television following his weekly activities. I won’t make the obvious joke here.

LegBranch has its usual excellent roundupof Congress-related stories.

CALENDAR

Monday

• N/A

Tuesday

• N/A

Wednesday

 The House reconvenes on Wednesday, with the first vote not expected until 6:30.

• The Senate reconvenes on Wednesday, with the first vote not expected until 5:30.

Thursday

• Change the House Rules? — H SubC on Rules at 10.

• Transparency at the CBO — S. Budget at 10:30.

• Access Trump \ Putin communications? H Res 1017 — H. Foreign Affairsat 12:30

Friday

• N/A