Forecast for August 26, 2019.



Are you pondering what I’m pondering? In this case, how would a new OTA decide what to study?

How do Senate committees get their funding and where does it go? The take-aways: Senate committee funding is at an 18-year low; it’s really good to be an appropriator; and Senate committees are in better shape than House committees. Inside: the raw data from 1994-present.

Speaking of approps, use our twitter Approps tracker and CRS’s Approps status tables to stay on top of the next 6 weeks. It’s gonna go fast.

Finding federal budget docs can be tricky. After a lot of needling, USASpending is now centrally posting (some) congressional budget justifications; FedScoop has the lowdown, including how it could be improved. Want more? We took a deep dive on budget justifications in March. Continue reading “Forecast for August 26, 2019.”

How Senate Committees Get Their Money


How do Senate committees get their funding and how has funding changed over the last 25 years? We crunched the numbers for you and here are the highlights:

  • Senate Committee spending is at an 18 year low
  • It’s good to be an appropriator; the committee gets the lion’s share of the funding and doesn’t have to beg for money
  • While Senate Committees aren’t exactly rolling in dough, they’re in much better shape than House committees, which are on a starvation diet

Continue reading “How Senate Committees Get Their Money”

How Should the New OTA Decide What To Study?

The likelihood of Congress reinstating a science and technology assessment office is at an all time high, but should such an agency be reconstituted, how should it decide what issues to address?

DCF 1.0
Source: Flickr

Congress’s other legislative support agencies — the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service, and the Congressional Budget Office — use various mechanisms to decide where to devote analytic resources. The GAO, for example, prioritizes congressional mandates, then senior leader and committee requests, and then individual member requests, with the practical effect that individual member requests are not usually considered. CRS, by contrast, leaves significant discretion to its analysts concerning which general distribution reports to create, although it does look at frequent requests from members of Congress. (CRS memos, of course, are written at the request of individual members.) Continue reading “How Should the New OTA Decide What To Study?”

Forecast for August 19, 2019.

The House and Senate are out but we’ve got a brief First Branch Forecast for you to hold you over. Here’s what you need to know:

Acting AOC is out. The Acting Architect of the Capitol’s resignation was effective on Saturday (surprise?!) and Tom Carroll is the new Acting Architectwhile the search for a permanent AOC continues. Unrelated, but also notable in AOC news: a new AOC IG report is out (looks like they found some problems).

The BLAG? Everyone’s heard of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, but the House of Representatives has a legal office that articulates the institutional view of the people’s chamber: the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group. The BLAG decides when the House General Counsel should intervene, but not much is known about its work. Fourteen civil society organizations wrote to the General Counsel and Members of the BLAG to encourage the adoption of some basic transparency measures. (We had recommendations in our House rules recs, too.) Also, wouldn’t it be fun to rename it the BLAWG?

We are experimenting with a new Twitter account, @CongressRadar, which we will hand curate to provide First Branch-y news all week long. It joins our automated accounts @AppropsTracker@EveryCRSReport@LeadershipFlack@OpenAtAGlance & @CongressRFP. Continue reading “Forecast for August 19, 2019.”

Forecast for August 12, 2019.

The House and Senate return on September 9th, which is 3 full weeks before the start of the next fiscal year
. Both chambers must pass and reconcile all 12 spending bills by October 1 to avoid a government shutdown.

So far the Senate hasn’t given notice of any approps markups. The House passed 10 of 12 bills earlier this year; new top line spending numbers mean there may be some adjustments to sync with the Senate.

USASpending (quietly) posted a page listing links to (some) federal agencies’ congressional budget justifications in one place, which we’ve been asking them to do and built a rough prototype of earlier this year. Their implementation is far from perfect, but it’s a welcome first step.

Curious where Capitol Police’s authority ends and DC Metro PD’s begins?We are, too. We built an interactive map of their jurisdiction and where they are reporting arrests. The USCP wouldn’t substantively answer questions about their jurisdiction, but it turns out the information was already up on their public site, buried 200+ pages into the traffic code. Don’t forget to check out related reads on the increasing Capitol Police employee complaints and analyzing six months of Capitol Police arrest data.

If you’re reading this newsletter you probably care about Congress; care about Congress professionally with Demand Progress — we’re hiring! Join us as a policy manager or policy analyst. Continue reading “Forecast for August 12, 2019.”

USASpending Publishes (Some) Budget Requests In A Central Location

Every year federal agencies explain to Congress their requests for funding in a document known as a Congressional Budget Justification (CBJ). Unlike other budget documents, these requests are written to be read and understood by most people. 

Hundreds of agencies and sub-agencies submit these requests and OMB requires executive branch agencies to publish their CBJs online, but there hasn’t been a ‘one-stop-shop’ government database that aggregates all the requests in one place…until now (sort of).

Continue reading “USASpending Publishes (Some) Budget Requests In A Central Location”

The Crystal Ball on Funding for the Office of Technology Assessment

Earlier this year, the House’s Appropriations Committee favorably reported a Legislative Branch Appropriations bill for FY 2020 that contained $6m in start-up funds for the Office of Technology Assessment spread out over two years. Now that the House and Senate have agreed upon top line spending numbers for the federal government, where does all this stand?

As you might recall, the House of Representatives passed 10 out of 12 appropriations bills, but the Legislative Branch bill was not among them. It got hung up on the House floor over an unrelated fight over providing members of Congress with a cost of living increase. Continue reading “The Crystal Ball on Funding for the Office of Technology Assessment”

The Long Arm of the U.S. Capitol Police

The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) isn’t your standard police department: tasked with keeping Congress safe while maintaining an open environment, USCP is more of a police-force-security-agency hybrid. The agency enjoys wide jurisdiction, but how wide exactly? We contacted the department in June to find out. 

We requested a map of USCP’s jurisdiction and the agreement with DC police governing how the departments address jurisdictional overlap. USCP’s public information office declined to substantively respond to our request and several follow up inquiries. 

Fortunately, it turns out a map of USCP’s extended jurisdiction is available on the USCP website, buried inside the traffic code document (page A85). Here it is: Continue reading “The Long Arm of the U.S. Capitol Police”

Forecast for August 5, 2019.


The Senate and the House are out for recess but we are still in session.

Want to fix Congress? We’re hiring!
 We’re looking for a policy manager and a policy analyst to focus on strengthening Congress. Please apply or tell your friends!

A beta whistleblower portal is live on; it instructs whistleblowers regarding who to contact to blow the whistle or request assistance to address retaliation. The portal was jointly developed by CIGIE and the Office of Special Counsel.

House Democratic Caucus Rules still have not been changed despite a previously scheduled vote in February, but a party committee is continuing to work on proposed amendments, led by Rep. Meng. They’re soliciting comments. We have some.

Write-o. The UK Parliament has an interesting model for legislative e-petitions.

File any FOIAs recently? The federal FOIA Advisory Committee wants to hear how it went. Continue reading “Forecast for August 5, 2019.”

Job Announcement: Policy Analyst (Position Has Been Filled)


Want to fix Congress? Do you think members and staff are captive to a broken process and lack the resources to do their jobs? Do you want your government to be transparent, accountable, and effective? Do you want to rebuild Congress’ science and technology capabilities? If so, this job is for you.

Demand Progress is looking for a smart, self-starting, intensely curious person fascinated by legislative policymaking who is willing to roll up their sleeves to make things better.

Continue reading “Job Announcement: Policy Analyst (Position Has Been Filled)”