SEVEN PERCENT OF THE HOUSE, or 32 Members, spoke at a Member’s Day hearing of the Fix Congress Committee, held on Tuesday, with 35 members submitting written testimony. (Video, Witness statements). The 3 hour hearing, which followed the committee’s organizational meeting that adopting committee rules, is too complex to recap, but we summarized the subject matter in this spreadsheet. FWIW, I was generally impressed by the testimony.
Of the 22 Democrats and 10 Republicans who testified, the most popular issues were staff pay and benefits (8 members), modernizing technology (6 members), and investing in the institution (6 members). Of the three, modernizing technology had bipartisan speakers. In addition, other popular items, such as addressing committee jurisdictions (e.g, fixing the budget process), cyber security, and improving the House calendar, had bipartisan speakers. Roll Call and Issue One have a summary of the proceedings. Follow the committee’s new twitter account here.
was one of the topics at the hearing, which is fortuitous because later that very day the House Administration Committee adopted a resolution containing interim guidance, giving the go-ahead for House personal offices to draw upon a $20 special fund to hire paid interns in DC. The mid-March adoption was late enough in the hiring cycle that it was adversely affecting intern hires for the summer. Part of the conversation at the meeting concerned increasing funds available to hire interns and expanding the kinds of offices that would be able to tap into the funds. More info, including the payroll authorization form, is here.
What about committee staff? A new report from the R Street Institute analyzed committee staffing trends on the Hill with fascinating results. It’s a mistake to lump committees together. For example, average staff tenure on House Appropriations is 8.1 years, compared to 3.6 years for House Energy. The average staffer salary varies from $135k for House Financial Services to $82k for the House Oversight Committee. Service on some committees can be highly gendered, too.
The House Administration Committee heard allotment requests during its meeting — these are requests from committees to provide funds for their operations. We wrote about how House committees get their money, and their historic funding levels, back in January. Notable this go-around was that House Admin waived requiring that the Chairs/RMs testify, so long as they made a joint request. Apparently everyone asked for more money, which makes sense as the House is spending $110m less (in inflation adjusted dollars) on committees than it did in the 111th Congress, which is a 25% cut. The committee funding resolution will be considered on March 26th and voted on by the House on March 28.
The lone point of contention was Rep. Jim Jordan, who opposed any request by House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cumming to increase the Committee’s allotment. Cummings requested a 4% increase this year and 10% for the following year. The Oversight Committee would need a 22.3% increase to put it at its funding level from a decade ago, and it has 25 unfilled personnel slots, 15 Democratic and 10 Republican. Rep. Jordan appeared to object on the grounds that Congress should cut its funds to save taxpayer dollars, although it became clear that some of the concern was rooted in opposition to hearings like that where Michael Cohen testified. The discussion was contentious.
Also on Tuesday was a double-header before the House Leg Branch Approps Subcommittee, where both the House of Representatives and Capitol Police budget requests were considered. The hearings didn’t surface any information that was not contained in the written testimony, although the Capitol Police were the subject of a Roll Call story that highlighted how arrests of protests and traffic violations “dominate” their recent arrests, at least to the extent they disclose who they arrest. Roll Call tells the story of how the 2,200 member $450m budgeted USCP had its jurisdiction expanded beyond Capitol grounds in the 1990s, and cited Demand Progress’s report for the arrest data. One notable fact: the USCP has an IG that doesn’t make any reports publicly available, and USCP said that’s because they aren’t required to by federal law. Hmmm.
The USCP can’t stay out of the news as they arrested an artist for projecting the phrase “Discrimination is Wrong” onto the Rayburn House Office Building last week. The artist, who believed the projection was lawful and has done this all around town, had his equipment confiscated and won’t get it back for at least a month, prompting a go-fund-me to pay for legal fees and replace the equipment. USCP was recently in the news for leaving a gun in a bathroom and apparently roughing up some journalists. Incidentally — no pun intended — Capitol Police reported 10 arrests during the week ending March 13th.
SUNSHINE WEEK has officially concluded, but before it recedes into the misty past, Lauren Harper and Alex Howard have a good review of the festivities — and you really should read Nate Jones’s recent WaPo op-ed on the history of FOIA. The House Oversight Committee held a hearing on FOIA, which featured the usual dodges and obfuscations by the folks who are supposed to be advocating for open government.
The Senate Judiciary Committee didn’t hold a hearing, alas, but Sens. Grassley, Leahy, Cornyn, and Feinstein sent a strong letter to DOJ to “express concerns about recent trends in FOIA compliance and reports indicating a continued culture of reflexive secrecy across the government.” The ensuing paragraphs lambast DOJ statistics as misleading, draw attention to to agencies with tens of thousands of backlogged FOIA requests, and lobs 7 questions over the wall with an April 17 due date. Don’t miss the text of Sen. Leahy’s Sunshine Week keynote at the National Archives.
We thought it might be nice to shed some light on appropriations — did you like my segue? — so we put together a spreadsheet of when members and the general public must submit appropriations requests. It appears 6 of the 12 House approps subcommittees will allow public testimony, with Labor, Leg, and MilCon requests to provide oral testimony due this Tuesday and Financial Services due by Friday. Member requests to provide oral testimony for Labor and Leg are due Wednesday and MilCon is due Thursday. It appears that the Defense Approps SubC either doesn’t allow public or member testimony or they’ve neglected to post any relevant info. All the member request submission deadlines are clustered at the end of the month. (By the way, where’s all that appropriated money going? Here’s what Demand Progress is requesting.)
HOT TAKES AREN’T ALL THAT HOT, so we merely note that 12 Republican Senators joined 47 Democrats in voting to stop Trump’s emergency declaration, which isn’t enough to override Trump’s veto. James Wallner covers what happens next. The Senate also passed a resolution directing the removal of troops from Yemen, so the action will move to the House when it’s back from recess.
Pelosi gives and takes. On one hand, she bumped Mike Pence out of his House office space (why did he have an office in the House?), and on the other she declared that impeachment proceedings on Trump are “just not worth it.” It seems to me that both these decisions are ill advised. Surely Pence doesn’t deserve a space in the House, but this move is seen by some as a slap. Similarly, impeachment is a grave matter that should be informed by evidence and the results of an impeachment committee, not poll responses or oppositionfrom the Trump’s partisans.
Some say kicking Pence out was an effort to appeal to liberal voters and avoiding impeachment was meant to win over centrist voters. As we’ve reported previously, a liberal or a moderate will do equally well in the general election; all that matters is your brand as a D or an R. In addition, according to Pew research, only 7% of the population are independents without a political leaning. The remaining 25% of the population that identifies as independent lean toward one party or the other. Could it be that voting on term limits for Pelosi — when will that happen, by the way — freed her to consult with rank-and-file Democrats less often on decisions like this?
Regional reporters based in D.C. are increasingly scarce, shrinking from 225 to 70 members. We applaud the efforts to protect journalists from physical violence, but how about passing a reporter shield law?
A Gillibrand aide resigned after the office apparently mishandled her sexual harassment complaint. The accuser was kept on until Gillibrand’s office was confronted by journalists.
Former Rep. Kihuen left Congress after sexual harassment accusations.Now a website has popped up that identifies his accusers.
Sens. Wyden and Cotton called for a report from the Sergeant at Arms on hackers’ attempts to access Senate computers, smartphones, and sensitive data. There are 300-500 million cyber attacks every month in the House, plus 1.6 billion unauthorized scans, probes, and connections, according to the Chief Administrative Officer.
The 6th report on congressional records management from the Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress (ACRC) indicates that over a six year period, electronic holdings went from 28 terabytes in 2012 to 188 terabytes in 2018.
Facebook removed Sen. Warren’s ads calling for its breakup. Then It Put Them Back Up.
Foreign governments can buy access to the president through presidential library donations (which are not subject to public disclosure); a bill to fix this problem is waiting in the Senate after passing the House last month.
Foreign governments and companies spend billions to manipulate U.S. policy, including paying for lawmakers’ travel, and the law combatting this problem is full of loopholes and rarely enforced.
The Senate Staff Compensation Study has finally started to move forward. The Sergeant at Arms just posted a request for information to identify qualified bidders. It was posted on March 11 and responses are due by March 25.
What’s it like to be AOC? Vanity Fair talks to her about life in the maelstrom.