The last week before recess is always crazy and this week will be no exception. We apologize for skipping the Forecast over the last two weeks, but we were literally and figuratively underwater.
ON THE RADAR
Negotiations over appropriations levels and the debt ceiling must result in a long-term agreement, a short term agreement, Congress returning during the recess, or a government shutdown. Expect to see members forced to vote on a deal they don’t like. For our purposes, the big question is whether Pelosi fights to restore funding for leg branch, and, uh, whether the government shuts down.
Mueller’s testimony will dominate the news most of the week, alongside the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and Trump’s ongoing racist attacks on the squad. (Note I did not mention the refugee concentration camps, which have fallen out of the news, but are subtext to the appropriations fight and a BFD.) Trump impeachment on one hand and racist attacks may motivate base voters and it wouldn’t surprise me if two dozen more dems come out for impeachment.
Hearings worth monitoring—
• FBI Director Chris Wray will testify at a S. Jud. Cmte hearing on FBI oversight (Tues)
• Legislation governing national emergencies (S. 764) will be marked up by HSGAC (Wed)
• OSTP’s Director Kelvin Droegemeier will testify before H. CJS Approps (Wed)
• Modernizing Leg Information Technology is the subject of a Fix Congress hearing (Wed)
Another notable hearing is a mother-may-I request from members of Congress to have access to information that HPSCI controls. It is odd, to say the least, that members of Congress must ask House Intel for access to information that they have a constitutional right to review, but there’s a closed hearing on their requests set for Thursday.
Senators want OMB to list of all federal programs publicly available on a central website.
WHAT YOU MISSED
The Bulk Data Task Force, a stakeholder convening focused on users and publishers of legislative information, met on July 13 and covered improvements w/r/t access to information. Most notable announcements include that a minimum viable product will be available for very limited congressional use for “track changes for legislation” by September; there will be a Legislative Data and Transparency Conference later this year; and the launch of Live.House.Gov.
Fostering the next generation of congressional leaders and improving the transition process for new members was the subject of a Fix Congress committee hearing. (Video). Most notable was the candid admission by the Chief Administrative Officer of significant problems with the current transition process, a discussion of the new Congressional Academy, and the idea that incoming Members should have a paid staffer for the period before they’re sworn in.
The US Capitol Police was the subject of a House Admin Cmte oversight hearing. There was no doubt that every member of the committee honors members of the USCP for their service and has great concern about increasing threats against members of Congress. But, as the testimony of their union head made clear, there’s significant problems with USCP management. We released two reports this week on the USCP: (1) the changing nature of complaints against police officers, and (2) Capitol Police Arrests: What Dep’t data does and does not tell us. We have some questions we would like answered.
The Intelligence Authorization Act passed the House. We note: First, it put journalists focused on national security issues at increased risk of criminal prosecution even for the disclosure of agency wrongdoing. Second, it did not include an amendment from Reps. Davis and Kilmer that would have reported on the number of Congressional staff with clearances akin to what exists for the executive branch.
The House Ethics Committee is not publishing OCE findings for individuals who they say are no longer subject to its jurisdiction, which would undermine one reason for OCE’s existence.
ODDS AND ENDS
The Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (HR 736), a smart transparency bill, passed the House last week and sailed on to the Senate, where it has strong support. The Inspector General Protection Act (HR 1847) also passed the House.
The annual Congressional App Challenge launched last week.
Nonprofit tax returns: It’s now law that nonprofits must electronically file their tax returns and the IRS must publish the data in machine readable format.
The Chief FOIA Officers’ Council meeting is set for August 5.
The International Conference on Legislation and Law Reform is set for November 14th.
Letting staffers fundraise creates perverse incentives for legislating.
A brief history of shaking up Washington: a history of congressional insurgents taking over Congress.
How do Europeans see corruption in US government? This May 2019 report from GRECO (Group of States Against Corruption) is a fascinating read.
OMG. Want to head OIP? Apply to run the office that provides government-wide oversight of FOIA, which has been underwhelming. Apply here by August 14.
Want to be a 2020 Congressional Innovation Tech Fellow? Apply by August 19.