WORKING IN CONGRESS again is in the news, starting with Sen. Klobuchar receiving a drubbing for her ongoing mistreatment of staff. The New York Times tells a gross story of Sen. Klobuchar and a comb, but less salaciously describes her throwing objects and requesting staff return money earned during parental leave if they leave the office.
The Huffington Post, which has been at the forefront of reporting on Klobuchar, pushed back against Team Klobuchar’s painting of these news reports as sexist, quoting one staffer as saying “She is a terrible manager and abusive to her staff.” It’s obvious that Sen. Klobuchar’s office has a huge problem. She should come clean, and it’s not just admitting that she’s a “tough boss,” because there’s obviously more to it than that. (FWIW, Sen. Klobuchar is not the only senator who is more than a “tough boss.”)
As the ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee, Sen. Klobuchar is in a perfect position to push for Senate-wide protections for staff that makes sure that issues like paid parental leave is out of the hands of any individual senator. We note that Sen. Klobuchar played a major role in advocating for the passage of the Congressional Accountability Act.
$52,000 annually is the minimum starting wage in Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s office, as compared to nearly all congressional offices that pay their entry-level staff substantially less. It comes at a cost, however, as senior staff are comparatively underpaid, topping out at $80k. Roll Call smartly points out that the pot of money from which staff pay comes, the Member Representational Account, is almost $86 million below its FY 2010 levels.
Interns are paid in AOC’s office, but Speaker Pelosi put up, and quickly removed, an ad for unpaid interns. The House had approved $8.8 million for House interns, or $20k per office, which is still woefully inadequate. The group Pay Our Interns noted that the House Admin Committee has yet to issue guidelines that would allow that money to be disbursed. While we’re talking about interns, Roll Call described their formative experiencesanswering the phones.
WE’RE BACK IN THE APPROPRIATIONS CYCLE, but before we say goodbye to FY 2019 we must note that (section 633 of) the omnibus contains funding for Oversight.gov, a central repository of reports from over 70 federal Inspectors General, which is something we (and others) requested. Here’s why it’s important.
House Leg Branch Appropriations hearings are in full swing, with AOC and CBO scheduled for Tuesday and GAO and GPO set for Wednesday. While it’s not an appropriations hearing, House Admin has a markup on HR 1, the voting, campaign finance, and ethics bill, on Tuesday.
What’s the status of 2019 approps items, you ask? We’ve put together a handy list that shows leg branch related-items, when they’re due, and their status.
• Public Access to CRS Reports (CRS) — due 9/19/18 — status incomplete.
• Senators personal cybersecurity report (Working Group) — due 9/19/2018 — status unknown.
• Senate Child Care report (SAA) — due 12/20/18 — status unknown.
• Office of Member Outreach and Security Coordination (SAA) — due 12/20/18 — status unknown.
• Congress.gov Calendar (LC) — due 12/21/18 — status incomplete.
• Witness Disclosure Forms (H. Clerk) — due end of 2018 — status unknown.
• Member bioguides (H. Clerk) — due end of 2018 — status unknown.
• Technology Assessment Study from GAO (GAO) — due 3/20/2019.
• Whistleblower Report (GAO) — due 6/18/19.
• Technology Assessment Study from NAPA (CRS) — due 9/21/2019.
• House Salary Study (CAO) — due 9/21/2019.
• Senate Staff Compensation Review Contract (SAA) — due 9/21/2019.
• Senate Staff Compensation Review Report Due (SAA) — due 3/21/2020.
• Statutes at Large in USLM cost estimate (GPO) — no known due date.
THE FIX CONGRESS COMMITTEE (i.e, the select Committee on the Modernization of Congress) was profiled in Roll Call with a special focus on the interests trying to shape the committee. One of the foci for the committee is modernizing technology, and coincidentally there’s a panel this Wednesday at 2 entitled “Should Congress Revive the Office of Technology Assessment?” One panelist, Sasha Moss, editorialized on how OTA can help staff do their jobs.
TRANSPARENCY AND ETHICS are of perennial interest, which is why we’re disappointed to mention that 10 days have elapsed and the Capitol Police still haven’t taken us up on our request to meet concerning their non-public policy on access to public records. By the way, the USCP is the size of the Atlanta Police Department, with a $450 million budget.
It’s been 18 days since Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said the Democratic Caucus would consider releasing its caucus rules, and we’ve heard nothing from them since the original announcement despite the caucus meeting before the recess.
The White House released its open government national action plan, which “is notable for its lack of ambition, specificity or relevance to backsliding on democracy in the USA under the Trump administration.” It’s not that prior plans were great — the Obama administration used the NAP to undermine domestic pressure for transparency — but this report underscores, highlights, and bolds the fact that Congress must force the executive branch to be transparent. On that note, now’s as good a chance as any to remind you that Sunshine Week 2019 is set for the week of March 11.
In icky news, former-Reps. Crowley and Shuster joined Squire Patton Boggs, one of DC’s largest lobbying firms, as a bipartisan team. Secretary Elaine Chao met with many Kentucky politicians and business leaders at the request of her husband, Sen. Mitch McConnell. The Supreme Court denied ex-Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Downton Abbey) in his request to stall his criminal trial for corruption. Rep. David Joyce’s former campaign treasurer may have embezzled $80k. And North Carolina ordered a new election in its 9th Congressional district after obvious ballot tampering.
The H. Ethics Committee will finally have its organizational meeting on Feb. 27. They’ve got a lot they could do.
THE EMERGENCY DECLARATION will get some attention this week. The House Rules Committee will hold a hearing on Monday on a measure to undo the emergency declaration, which could be voted on as early as Tuesday. And House Judiciary has a hearing on the National Emergencies Act of 1976 on Thursday at 12 in Rayburn 2141. This is an important moment in rebalancing the power between the executive and legislative branches.