THE TOP LINE
H.R. 1, the pro-voting & ethics strengthening bill, is getting negative reviews from anti-anti-corruption politicians (Mitch McConnell), court-identified fabulists (Hans Spakovsky), and K street lobbyists. It’s also the subject of an Oversight hearing on Wednesday.
Why won’t House Dems release their caucus rules? Progressives & grassroots orgs are pushing for their publication while Democratic Caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries dodges press questions. Rep. Jeffries didn’t respond to my emails, either.
House Intel will break House rules should it hold its first organizational meeting in secret, as currently scheduled. House rules require the meeting be open and held where the press and public can attend — not in the SCIF — unless the committee first holds a roll call vote in public to close the proceedings. HPSCI is reconvening following Republican appointments.
— Clearances for HPSCI personal office staff may be on the agenda for the organizational meeting. At least, we hope so.
An American hero. Lawmakers introduced legislation to award Fred Korematsu the Congressional Gold Medal; he’s the Japanese-American civil rights activist who took his fight against Japanese internment during WWII all the way to the Supreme Court. Last week marked the hundred year anniversary of his birthday last week. A congressional gold medal requires at least 67 sponsors in the Senate to advance.
The Lincoln Network is hosting a panel today at 3 where experts discuss the challenges involved in modernizing Congress, its technology and digital services infrastructure, and how the Hill can get ahead of the curve. Please note the updated location: 201 D St, NE. ICYMI, GAO announced a new science and technology office last week, and Zach Graves has an analysis of what to expect.
What can the ‘Fix Congress’ committee (aka the select committee on the modernization of Congress) do to make Congress better? Here are some ideas, cc: new committee members. The WSJ has some thoughts, too ($).
Appropriations season starts this week! Are you excited? H. Leg Branch will have hearings on the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights and the Open World Leadership Center.
When it comes to cyber security oversight there are too many cooksaccording to Rep. Jim Langevin. He says consolidated authority over cyber threats is necessary for effective action. Similarly, CSIS says congress needs to increase its role in national security oversight.
Appointments. Speaker Pelosi appointed Committee on House Administration members last week (Raskin, Davis, Butterfield, Fudge, & Aguilar) and Senate Majority Whip Thune was appointed chair of the subcommittee on Taxation and IRS oversight.
A 17 member bipartisan panel has been tasked with striking a budget dealto avoid another shutdown when CR funding runs out on Feb. 15th.
Practice. 70 percent of the time, the answer to “how do you get to Congress” is a law practice, a medical practice, or a business background — basically, having a deep financial network. This NY Times article has a nifty chart on the paths to Congress, although some of the accompanying text is misleading.
Whose House? There’s now at least one Californian rep. on all 20 House committees, plus CA reps. lead 4 of those committees and 20 subcommittees. It’s coincidental, surely, that Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy both hail from California.
Senate Republicans may change the rules to fast track nominations. James Wallner has the details plus a breakdown of the current nomination process.
Is it too risky to nix the filibuster in the Senate? The supermajority requirement can be a roadblock to legislative overhaul, but it’s also one of the minority party’s most valuable weapons.
The Senate Ethics Committee received 138 complaints in 2018 and issued zero disciplinary sanctions. There’s a reason it’s known for its inaction.
— The House’s Office of Congressional Ethics, by comparison, has a reputation of keeping the House Ethics Committee (more) honest because its fact-finding reports eventually are made publicly available. In the third quarter, for example, it transmitted 12 reports for further review.
— What would S. Ethics do? To start, they could have looked at Sen. Schumer’s former communications director, Matt House, who was (quietly) pushed out “for allegedly having inappropriate sexual encounters with junior staffers” and making staff “uncomfortable.” House, who married in 2013, joined Schumer’s personal office in 2013, served in related positions previously, and earned $170k in 2018, according to Legistorm.
Steve King used government resources to promote a white nationalist blog. Recently, House leadership stuffed the last censure motion of King to the Ethics committee, where it has disappeared from public view. Rep. Tim Ryan filed a new complaint with the House Ethics Committee.
40% of the House energy committee disclosed investments in fossil fuels.
Sen. Martha McSally broke FEC rules — not for the first time — by accepting contributions from over 60 donors that exceeded the federal limit of $2,700. An FEC letter gave her until March to correct records issues and refund excess donations.
Not a PAC man. Rep. Jim McGovern, House Rules Committee chair, said he will no longer accept corporate PAC money.
Would the BLAKE Act actually stop Blake Farenthold from lobbying Congress?
— Rep. Walker introduced a bill to permanently ban members who use taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment lawsuits and then leave Congress without paying the taxpayers back from lobbying on the Hill.
— The bill can’t apply retroactively. A solution would be an update to House rules to create a ‘persona non grata’ list that prevents former members who haven’t paid back taxpayers from being permitted on the House floor or member gym.
Lawmakers want to keep foreign influence out of the legislative process. Sen. Grassley is aiming to reintroduce a bill to close loopholes in the Foreign Agents Registration Act. On the house side, Democrats introduced legislation that would prevent former intelligence officials from lobbying for foreign governments.
Influence buying isn’t just for elections: Sen. Whitehouse plans to introduce a bill to address “judicial lobbying” where private interests shape case law by funding amicus briefs that frequently lead to high profile and consequential court cases.
Joe Lieberman is suing over the excessive fees charged by PACER, the federal judiciary’s electronic document system. (He’s right.)
Sens. Wyden and Tester re-introduced their ‘Spotlight Act‘ to shed light on dark money spending in elections.
Capitol Police arrested 21 people between Jan. 24-30, 12 of whom were arrested for “sitting and chanting” outside Sen. Majority Leader McConnell’s office. It’s possible more people were arrested in that time frame, as we are unsure if capitol police arrest summaries are reliable.
— I wouldn’t wait for the new USCP Inspector General to clarify the situation, as USCP doesn’t make its IG reports public — by contrast almost every other federal IG, including the Defense Department, has their reports or report titles available on oversight.gov.
CRS posted 25 reports during the week ending January 29th. 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.
The Ways and Means oversight subcommittee will discuss legislation requiring tax return disclosures from presidents, vice presidents and major party nominees. Chairman Richard Neal hasn’t used his powers to access Trump’s tax returns, which is a point of contention.
House Judiciary and Oversight ranking members have commended their chairmen on refraining from issuing subpoenas.
— For more on congressional subpoenas and executive privilege, check out this podcast featuring Molly Reynolds of the Brookings Institution.
House dems postponed their annual retreat, originally scheduled for Feb. 15th, which is when the CR expires. The House Republican retreat was postponed last month because of the shutdown, a new date hasn’t been publicly announced yet.
Mitch McConnell and GOP colleagues rebuked Trump for his foreign policy. This came only a week after Mitch McConnell wouldn’t move against the president to end the shutdown.
The 101 members of the New Democrat Coalition are trying to shape the Democratic agenda. The centrist group has amended bylaws to make it easier for the coalition to take an official stance on policy ideas and legislation and has also set up eight task forces to address different issue areas.
Mark Meadows will stay on as chairman of the Freedom Caucus through the end of 2019. How will their tactics change in the minority?
TECH & TOOLS
Still learning who the new members are? The Memrec app has flashcards of member names and faces that you can sort by chamber, party, state, and more.
@FloorCharts archives charts, props, and posters from Congress and the White House.
Reports. CMF released a job description for members of Congress; and BPCposted a congressional health index.
ODDS & ENDS
Rep. Gwen Moore announced she had been diagnosed with small cell lymphocytic lymphoma in Spring of 2018 and the cancer now is in remission.
Stacey Abrams will deliver the democratic response to the State of the Union tomorrow night.
What does it take to be a whistleblower? The New Yorker has answers.
Sen. Rand Paul was awarded $580,000 after a neighbor broke six of his ribsin an attack.
Check out POGO’s 13 Policy Areas that Require Congressional Action.
Adding seats to SCOTUS wouldn’t help our democracy.
— Committee Organizational/Business Meeting — H. Intelligence Cmte. at 10 in HVC-304
— H.R. 1 Hearing — H. Oversight Cmte. at 10 in Rayburn 2154
— Executive Session on Cmte. Budget & Subcmte. Membership — S. Commerce Cmte. at 10 in Dirksen G50
— Arabian Peninsula (Yemen) Policy Hearing — H. Foreign Affairs Cmte. at 10 in Rayburn 2172
— Office of Congressional Workplace Rights Hearing — H. Appropriations Cmte. at 10 in HT-2
— William Barr AG Nomination Exec. Business Meeting — S. Judiciary Cmte.at 10 in Hart 216
— Open World Leadership Center Hearing — H. Appropriations Cmte. at 11 in HT-2
— DOJ Oversight Hearing — H. Judiciary Cmte at 9:30 in Rayburn 2141
— Public Forum, “Countering Terrorism while Protecting Privacy and Civil Liberties: Where do We Stand in 2019?” — Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board at 10 at the Ronald Reagan Building
Down the Line
— Wednesday, Feb 20th at 10:30: House Ethics new employees training
— Wednesday, Feb 20th & Thursday, Feb 21st: POGO, the Levin Center at Wayne Law, and The Lugar Center are hosting their bipartisan Congressional Oversight Boot Camp training for House and Senate professional staff. Space is limited! Apply here.