THE TOP LINE
Rules reform is the topic of a Congressional Transparency Caucus event on Thursday at 2 in Rayburn 2456 entitled “Playing by the House Rules.” RSVP here. Rep. Quigley will make opening remarks. Panelists include Daniel Schuman, Demand Progress; Meredith McGehee, Issue One; Matt Glassman, GAI at Georgetown; Molly Reynolds, Brookings Institution. For more, we are compiling rules reform proposals and news coverage here.
A subset of current CRS reports was published online by the Library of Congress on Tuesday. CRS published only the R series reports, approximately six hundred documents, while federal law required much, much more. Longtime CRS watcher and report publisher Steven Aftergood noted, “other CRS product lines — including CRS In Focus, CRS Insight, and CRS Legal Sidebar — are not currently available through the public portal.” We’ve got more information here on what happened and what should happen next.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, or maybe slightly before, when the short term continuing resolution will expire and lame duck legislators will have to thrash out the remaining spending bills — including whether to fund for a border wall — or shut down the government, or maybe both.
Staffing up Congress? Should Democrats retake the House, they’ll need to hire hundreds of policy staffers. While conservatives have long had a hiring pipeline, progressives have now launched the “progressive talent pipeline;” the Nation has the story.
Congress started to address its capacity problems with the passage of the 2019 leg branch appropriations bill.
— Former Chief of Staff Betsy Wright Hawkings explained in the Hill how Congress has been chronically underfunded, but the trend may be changing.
— At the “Reboot Congress” conference hosted by the Lincoln Network, Congress watchers (including me, Jean Bordewich, Travis Moore, and Zach Graves) discussed how much further we have to go to restore the Legislative branch’s vigor (video at 1 hr 58 min).
Congressional cyber insecurity. Sen. Wyden wants to empower the Senate Sergeant at Arms to provide cyber-security help to protect the personal devices of senators and staffers. As Roll Call reported, foreign governments are trying to infiltrate the personal communications networks of members and staff.
LEGISLATIVE PROCESS AND POLI SCI
11 House Dems proposed a caucus rules change that could threaten Pelosi’s return to the speakership. The measure would change Democratic caucus rules to raise the number of votes needed to nominate a candidate for Speaker from a simple majority to 218. The proposal will go on the caucus agenda for the week of Sept. 24. CBS News has the letter; this was first reported in the Atlantic.
Lame ducks are historically uncommon but have become increasingly frequent “to reduce the electoral impact of acting on controversial issues,” wrote James Wallner, who noted that 43% of them occurred in the last 20 years.
Lawmakers may not be able to follow through on contempt threats. Freedom Caucus Chairman Meadows and others threatened Deputy AG Rosenstein with contempt of Congress after he did not comply with HOGR and House Judiciary Committee subpoenas to turn over documents.
— Courts may not enforce the contempt charges because the subpoena was not issued in compliance with House rules. When chairmen unilaterally issue a subpoena, they’re required to show it to the ranking member two days in advance. Here, Chairman Goodlatte showed Ranking Member Nadler a draft that had “material differences.”
FARA reform legislation is stuck through a combination of businesses who don’t want to have to report their lobbying under its more stringent standards and some in civil society who are afraid of the example the disclosure law would set for other countries.
The intricacies of the Kavanaugh nomination is too complex for this newsletter, but we note the resignation of Garrett Ventry, a Grassley communications staffer working on the Kavanaugh nomination who NBC News said had been fired from a previous job for sexual harassment and embellishing his resume. Ventry was described as a “temporary staffer”; he had previously worked at CRC Public Relations, a PR firm that does work on judicial nominations and has been hired by groups like the Federalist Society.
— What kind of staffer was he? Ventry does not show up in Legistorm’s staffer database; nor is he in the semi-annual Secretary of the Senate report, ending in March 2018. Was he full time? Did he work for other entities or earn pay from outside the Senate? Is it wise to have someone so closely tied to outside groups as staff? I guess we’ll find out.
The IG community and the White House are looking to fill longstanding IG vacancies. 13 agencies currently don’t have a permanent inspector general, with 10 vacancies open for more than a year.
Unnoticed elsewhere but celebrated here, the Library of Congress must update its website to include a unified calendar for Senate and House of Representatives committee hearings and markups. The deadline is 90 days after enactment of the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill, which was on September 21, which means it must be up by Friday, December 21st.
— Civil society has long asked the Library of Congress to publish a unified calendar, but had no success in convincing the Library. Congressional offices spend $1,000 per subscription to buy access to this data from private vendors, as to many in the private and non-profit sectors.
— The provision, included in the House’s legislative branch appropriations committee report, includes the following requirements for the data elements for the continuously updated calendar: the committee name; the subcommittee name (if appropriate); the meeting topic; witnesses (if any); legislation under consideration (if any); a link to legislation under consideration (if any); a link to the committee or subcommittee’s website; and a link to where video or audio (if any) from the proceedings are or will become available. The calendar will be organized chronologically, and viewable as an individual day as well as a weekly view.
FOIA litigation forced the DOJ to disclose its rules for targeting journalists with secret FISA orders. They are much less stringent than the rules for obtaining subpoenas and warrants against journalists. It’s not known how often this has happened.
Senate campaign e-filing will now happen; Roll Call has the story.
Court dealt a blow to dark money. Politically active nonprofits who advertise for or against candidates will now have to disclose the identities of donorsgiving more than $200, a lower court ruled. The Supreme Court let the ruling stand last week.
Seven congressional staffers who were sexually harassed on the job wrote a letter urgingcongress to finally pass legislation updating the Hill’s workplace harassment rules. Former hill staffer and former CREW executive director Melanie Sloan wrote an editorial explaining how daunting it can be to speak out.
Rep. Ralph Norman joked about sexual assault aimed at a Supreme Court justice.
ODDS & ENDS
Democracy summer school. Rep. Raskin runs two sessions, five weeks long, that teach students how to use political advocacy to influence government. There’s programs in Silver Spring, MD; Charlottesville, VA; Des Moines, IA; and Philadelphia, PA. More.
Artificial Intelligence will kill democracy writes Yuval Noah Harari in the Atlantic. Why? It removes human leverage in the political system, or can subtly manipulate us, or harms the economic ability of democracies to compete with dictatorships. I don’t find the article persuasive, but it’d be great if a machine wrote this newsletter.
Legislative breakfast club : A new book categorizes legislators into five groups based on their activities: policy specialists, party soldiers, district advocates, party builders, and ambitious entrepreneurs.
The future of democracy is the subject of a new series of lectures convened by GovLab.
56 people were arrested protesting in support of Dr. Ford. At what point will the Capitol Police start to feel pressure to put their police blotter online? (This would make it easier to look at a baseline for arrests.)
The House resumes on Tuesday, with the first vote not expected until 6:30. 54 bills are on suspension, which suggests the House has fallen a bit behind on its responsibilities. One of them is the GREAT Act, which would create government-wide data reporting standards for grants and a central website for the data. There’s also the GOOD Act, which requires agencies to publish their guidance on their websites on the day it is issued.
The Senate resumes on Monday, with the first vote expected at 5:30. Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to hold hearings on Kavanaugh’s nomination on Thursday.
• 9:00 AM: The latest installment of R Street’s Congressional Exit Interview series will feature discussion with Reps. Ryan Costello (R-PA) and Rick Nolan (D-MN)
• Dr. Ford will testify on Thursday about Judge Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault.