THE TOP LINE
The Senate joined the House in adjourning until mid-November. Most members and many staff are now working on the campaigns (with the staff “on vacation”), others are taking much deserved vacations, and some are working on plans should the House flip. This includes drafting new rules for the chamber, new committee rules, new party rules, and oversight and investigation plans.
— What almost no one is thinking about is closing up offices for departing members. Here’s a primer from CRS that provides an overview of closing a congressional office, privileges and courtesies extended to departing members, and retirement benefits. Did you know that members are considered to own all their personal office papers?
— Also under the radar are committee websites, which in the House will be wiped and recreated with the new majority’s imprint. The last 8 years of content will disappear, except as part of the National Archives’ web harvest, which keeps copies of old congressional websites going back to 2006. Fortunately, docs.house.gov, the fantastic repository of committee information managed by the Clerk’s office, should continue regardless of who is in control, providing a lifeboat for crucial information about the House. The Senate has no central system for preserving committee info and relies on individual committee websites.
We’re not out of the woods on a shutdown, with outgoing Speaker Ryan picking a fight over funding for a border wall in the still not-yet-permanently funded appropriations bills. Nita Lowey, who would likely chair the appropriations committee should the Democrats gain control, said she would do away with continuing resolutions and omnibus spending bills, at least on the House side.
LEGISLATIVE CAPACITY AND PROCESS
The Congressional Progressive Caucus will launch a policy center to coordinate progressive policy and outreach inside and outside of Congress. The center, which opens in January, has overtones of the highly-respected Democratic Study Group that Newt Gingrich defunded when he took over as speaker in 1995.
When does a witness waive 5th Amendment rights? Mike Stern has a recommendation for committees in updating their rules.
Dems are planning which investigations they’ll undertake if the House flips, calling Republican led oversight efforts, “rubber stamps for this administration.” Notably, the list does not include impeachment proceedings against Brett Kavanaugh (at least according to Nancy Pelosi). Rep. Nadler, the likely future chair the House Judiciary Committee, indicated this won’t stop Dems from investigating sexual misconduct and perjury allegations against Kavanaugh.
ETHICS AND MONEY
A Leadership PAC for House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions has not given more than 50% of its funding to candidates in over 5 years. Instead, much of the money has gone towards maintaining a luxurious lifestyle and wooing donors, including $225,000 to a ritzy ski lodge over 5 years.
Speaking of campaign finance, remember Rep. Duncan Hunter? He was indicted for gross misuse of campaign funds in August and now he’s in trouble with the FEC. He failed to list at least 16 donors’ occupations, information crucial for identifying when special interests are investing in a candidate.
#MeToo in the EU: EU Parliament staff launched a blog featuring stories of sexual harassment after plans to address the issue stalled. Leadership failed to implement their plan to fight sexual harassment inside parliament, much like our own Congress.
— U.S. lawmakers punted (yet again) the issue until after the midterms, which means the broken system for reporting misconduct that’s as old as some Hill staffers remains in place. Senate Majority Leader McConnell cited differences between House and Senate bills as the reason the system; FWIW, the House bill is much better.
Poor Sen. Collins. After decrying the $3.7m raised against her should she vote for Kavanaugh, Sen. Collins is now on the receiving end of an ad buy from a dark money group, the Judicial Crisis Network, who spent more than $100k thanking her for her vote, a downpayment for what’s likely to come. Collins decried the use of dark money against her, but she’s mum on whether she’s disavowing this use of funds.
Rep. Steny Hoyer won’t challenge Pelosi for speaker, but that doesn’t mean he’s not interested.
If you can’t win, lobby. Former Rep. Brad Ashford, a DCCC favorite for reclaiming his old seat, lost his primary in May, and landed on his feet lobbying for the Rural Media Group, which has 1.3 stars out of 5 on GlassDoor.
McConnell allies used super PAC money to undermine a GOP primary candidate, and crafty navigation of the rules allowed them to do so without revealing where the money was coming from until it was too late.
Since 2017, senators comprising the majority represented a historically low proportion of the country’s population, according to a GovTrack analysis. “Until 2017, the average discrepancy between the percentage of senators voting yes in a roll call vote and the percentage of the U.S. population they represented was just a few percentage points,” but that discrepancy has spiked. Why? Read the article.
When a Senate staffer gets pulled into litigation, the Senate must pass a resolution allowing them to share information with the executive branch as well as to provide them legal counsel. This time, a staffer who apparently received threatening faxes send to Sen. Feinstein was authorized to testify about their receipt, probably to show chain of custody.
What do Members of Congress actually think? R Street’s exit interview series spoke with departing Reps. Costello and Ross, who discussed what they would change about the House’s procedures and leadership structure.
Canada developed a fully searchable online database of every word spoken in parliamentary debates since 1880. While the historical Congressional Record was recently digitized and published online, it was digitized into a PDF format, not as searchable text files published in a database.
NSA Inspector General Rob Storch is taking steps to establish his office as independent from the NSA and bolster whistleblower protections.He’s the first NSA IG appointed by the president instead of the NSA director, and (as we previously reported) for the first time released an unclassified version of his office’s semi-annual report.
How’s CRS doing with those reports? As of Tuesday, the Library of Congress added 262, bringing the total to 889. By comparison, EveryCRSReport added 120 over the same period, although EveryCRSReport publishes more types of reports than the Library.
Two factor authentication, a basic cyber security precaution, will soon be mandatory for federal and state employees who run government websites. This doesn’t apply to congress, naturally.
Congress.gov got a tune up: learn more about new features here.
ODDS & ENDS
Limiting the ability to protest seems to be on the National Park Service’s mind, which received more than 17,239 comments, including from the person who used to write the rules, on limiting the ability to protest on the mall and outside the White House. File a comment here and read comments here.
C-Span radio is old enough to buy a beer: you can learn more about the history and evolution of C-SPAN radio over the last 21 years here.
One of my favorite things about DC is the National Archives holding sleepovers for children. The pictures are amazing. Congress only has sleepovers for octogenarians.
The House and the Senate are both out until after the midterms.
In the meantime though, Friday at noon in Rayburn 2226: Good Government Now is hosting a lunch and panelto discuss whether an amendment to the House rules can reinvigorate congressional subpoena enforcement power. The panel features a former US House General Counsel and POGO’s Director of Public Policy.