Forecast for January 28, 2019. A Strange Game. The Only Winning Move Is Not To Play.

TOP LINE

The shutdown was shut downat least for three weeks, after (we suspect) Sen. McConnell made clear to the White House that he would no longer use his position as Senate Majority Leader to block a real vote in which the majority of his party would defect. McConnell signalled this by holding two votes during which six Republicans voted for the Democratic proposal.

— McConnell and Senate Republicans tried to shift blame to the White House when they leaked the contents of their conference meeting where a few members blew up and McConnell attempted to distance himself from the shutdown.

— This is also a change in McConnell’s position, stated in the New York Times where, in response to the question “if a hypothetical shutdown-ending compromise landed on his desk that would command a veto-proof majority in both his Senate and Pelosi’s House, ending the standoff over the protests of Trump but without need of his signature, [would] he would bring it up for a vote,” he said “what you need in order to make a law is the presidential signature.”

— The Senate leaders remained unchallenged in controlling the floor agenda, as the the two Senate votes illustrated how the rank and file were unwilling to legislatively push McConnell or Schumer to end the shutdown.

— 30 House Democrats grew nervous about the Democrats’ strategy, at least enough to send this letter.

Where do House committees get their money? A new Demand Progress report lays out House committee spending over the last quarter century. Most notable: spending on House committees is down 25% ($110m) from its peak, and the appropriations committee received 2.5x the funding of the next highest funded committee.

The Library of Congress launched a unified congressional calendar where you can see House and Senate hearings in one place. This was required in the legislative branch appropriations bill (per our request), and when complete (it’s not yet) it should include the name of the proceedings, links to the video, and perhaps the underlying data.

Rep. Walter Jones has entered hospice care. He is an iconoclast known for his tenacity and sense of right and wrong.

Interested in modernizing Congress? Come to a panel discussion on tech and Congress on Mon., Feb 4, in the CVC. RSVP here.

A MORE REPRESENTATIVE CONGRESS

Only 17% of new House staff are people of color, and only 40% of new members have hired at least one person of color for a top position, according to early data collection.

— The Progressive Talent Pipeline is one answer to this problem. The project has vetted 1,000 applications to find progressive potential staffers from diverse backgrounds to fill new openings this Congress. Half of the 170 applicants chosen are women and roughly 40% are people of color.

The House day care expanded its capacity and staffers are seeing the benefits, although many remain on the waitlist. We applaud Rep. Tim Ryan’s sentiment: “My goal is to make Congress a model for how we should be treating our workers and our families.” Unfortunately, many legislative branch staff are still facing incredibly long wait times for child care.

COMMITTEES

Many progressives will join the House Oversight Committee. As transparency and accountability fans, the oversight committee is one of our favorites, but it’s sometimes known as the troublemakers committee because that’s where troublemakers are placed to keep them off other committees. By the way, it looks like the IT Oversight subcommittee got the axe.

Speaker Pelosi posted several committee assignments last week for Budget, Small Business, Oversight, Homeland Security, Science, and Education committees. You can find them here and here.

The House Armed Services Committee will have 21 veterans on the panel and the largest contingent of women veterans in the committee’s history. Veterans are represented in Congress at 2.5x the rate of the general public.

Several progressives were named to the House Financial Services Committee. Historically, the committee is cozy with big banks, but with members like Reps. Waters, Ocasio-Cortez, and Tlaib, there might be more balance.

MONEY IN POLITICS

If it walks like a lobbyist and talks like a lobbyist, it’s probably a lobbyist. Rep. Max Rose introduced a bill that would close the often-abused loophole that allows “consultants” who are essentially lobbying to avoid registering as federal lobbyists.

Rep. Brett Guthrie has millions invested in his family’s aluminum business and serves as an unpaid board member. As a member of congress, Guthrie has sway over policies governing tariffs on foreign aluminum imports.

Freshman Democratic Rep. and wine mogul David Trone is challenging a constitutional amendment for the purpose of deregulating the alcohol industry. The move would make it easier for his company Total Wine, which has 193 stores in 23 states, to expand further.

OVERSIGHT

There aren’t enough Democrats at regulatory agencies and progressives are tired of it; a coalition called on Sen. Schumer to fight for public minded watchdogs to be installed in designated Democratic regulatory positions so they can fight regulatory rollbacks.

House Judiciary Chair Nadler sent questions in advance to AG Whittaker for an upcoming oversight hearing. Nadler is concerned that Whittaker will dodge questions by overusing executive privilege as a shield where it doesn’t apply.

Progressive groups are pushing Ways & Means Chair Neal to obtain Trump’s tax returns. Neal says he’ll lay out a case for obtaining the records, but it’s not clear this is a change from his previous stance of relying on public pressure to get Trump to voluntarily release the returns.

LEGISLATIVE PROCESS, LEGISLATIVE CAPACITY & POLI SCI

The Stop Stupidity Act, introduced by Sen. Warner (bill text), would automatically keep all of the federal government running (besides the leg branch & executive office of the president) in the case of future shutdowns. It’s unclear to me how cutting the funds of legislative and executive branch would have a salutary effect.

With the continuous election cycle lawmakers are stuck on a fundraising treadmill. Related: Republicans are trying to centralize their grassroots donations in a central, online portal called Patriot Pass.

TRANSPARENCY

Sen. Portman and Rep. Quigley have (re)introduced the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (ACMRA). The transparency billwould make taxpayer-funded congressionally-mandated reports available to the public in a central location.

A month of Capitol Police arrest records are now available online. Between Jan 17-23, 16 people were arrested. Six of those were protestors at the nomination hearing for Andrew Wheeler to become EPA Administrator, and the remaining arrests were primarily related to traffic stops. 46 people were arrested between December 19-January 23, with the most frequent charge of having an invalid or suspended drivers license, and the second most common DUI.

A Capitol Police office was ordered reinstated by a federal appellate court after being fired for misconduct in relation to apparently running from Catholic University police and crashing his car five years ago.

CRS posted 21 reports during the week ending January 22nd. All R series reports are expected to be available online by April, and the other reports will be online by October. You can see them all now at everycrsreport.com.

ETHICS

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee stepped down temporarily from her position as chairwoman of a Judiciary subcommittee and permanently as chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation following whistleblower retaliation accusations. No word on what is happening to help the whistleblower get on her feet.

ODDS & ENDS

Google spent $21 million lobbying Congress, and other tech giants like Facebook and Amazon spent millions as well. With all these companies spending time and money to shape tech policy, it’s important that Congress independently understands its own tech.

The House GOP retreat was postponed due to the shutdown, although some lawmakers had already decided not to go because of the optics. We don’t know if it’s back on.

Does AOC give “‘zero’ f-cks?”? It’s not what she said.

Staffers may take some creative liberties when they give tours of Capitol Hill. Katherine Tully-McManus has the congressional lore highlights.

CALENDAR

The House will resume on Monday with the first vote at 6:30. The Senate also resumes on Monday, with the first vote at 5:30. You can see the unified committee schedule courtesy Congress.gov.

Monday

— Monday, January 28th the House Committee on Ethics is holding senior staff financial disclosure training at 2 in Longworth.

Tuesday

— Worldwide threats — S. Intel at 9:30.

— Consideration of Rules of the Committee on the Budget for the 116th Congress — H. Cmte. on the Budget at 9:30.

— The Congressional Budget Office’s Budget and Economic Outlook — H. Cmte. on the Budget at 10.

— Organizational meeting to introduce new members, consider and adopt the Rules of the Committee, report and approve subcommittee Chairs, Ranking Members, and assignments, and present the Committee Oversight Plan — H. Cmte. on Education and Labor at 10:15.

— Business meeting to consider committee rules and an original resolution authorizing expenditures by the Committee during the 116th Congress — S. Cmte on Rules and Administration at 12:15.

— Organizational business meeting to consider committee rules and an original resolution authorizing expenditures by the committee during the 116th Congress — S. Cmte. on Indian Affairs at 2:30.

— Hearings to examine the Congressional Budget Office’s budget and economic outlook, focusing on fiscal years 2019-2029 — S. Cmte. on the Budget at 2:30.

Down the Line

— Friday, February 15th the House Committee on Ethics is holding a new employee ethics training at 2.

The First Branch Forecast is written by Daniel Schuman and Amelia Strauss at Demand Progress. Send us a comment or tip at daniel@demandprogress.org. Check out the newsletter archives here