With hours to spare lawmakers passed a short-term funding agreement to keep the government running through December 20th, but in doing so unnecessarily violated regular order and rammed through an unrelated authorization provision. Also, word is out the House and Senate reached an agreement on the 302(b)s, but we don’t know what the agreement is. More below.
Does Congress have the science & technology chops it needs in 2019? No, said the National Academy of Public Administration, which studied the issue at Congress’s request. We discussed their findings and conclusions at the Bipartisan Policy Center last week. Watch the video. Every study we’ve seen so far says that there’s a gap in Congress’s tech capacity and that the leg branch should consider creating a new entity.
House Repairs: 15 Members submitted ideas for the Committee on House Administration’s Member Day hearing, with six testifying in person. See the overview below.
The House calendar for 2020 is out. Notable about the calendar: it doesn’t address member concerns about travel and keeps in the House in session for weeks on end. Continue reading “Forecast for November 25, 2019.”
We are resuming our weekly updates on U.S. Capitol Police activity, which were previously embedded in our weekly newsletter the First Branch Forecast.
For the week ending on November 21, 2019, there were 13 incidents reported with a total of 56 individuals arrested.
Noteworthy incidents included an individual attempting to bring an unregistered firearm and ammunition into the Russell Senate office building—he was arrested when his weapon went through the x-ray machine—and USCP approaching and arresting someone for suspected marijuana use. (The USCP’s role is to protect the Capitol Complex, so it is unclear how a pot arrest contributes to congressional safety and security.)
Here’s how this week’s activity compares to the average distribution:
We have good news for fans of government accountability and cleaning up the swamp: Rep. Mike Quigley has re-introduced the Transparency in Government Act (TGA). The bill is essentially a menu of everything needed to bring greater transparency to the federal government.
Major provisions of the bill include:
Continue reading “Comprehensive Good Government Bill Re-Introduced by Rep. Quigley”
Take a break from wall-to-wall impeachment coverage and read about what else is happening in today’s First Branch Forecast.
What’s the best way for Congress to strengthen its tech policy chops? The National Academy of Public Administration issued their recommendations in a new report, “Science and Technology Policy Assessment: A Congressionally Directed Review.” Experts will discussthe report’s findings, as well as strategies for reinvigorating the Legislative Branch’s tech policy capacity, Wednesday from 10 to 12 at an off campus location. Can’t make it? Watch online.
• A HUGE thanks Leg Branch Approps — former Rep. Kevin Yoder, Rep. Tim Ryan, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, and Senator Chris Murphy — for putting the report in motion. Thanks also to Zach Graves at the Lincoln Network who called for this report back in 2017.
Fix Congress Committee, Season 2: Coming soon. The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress issued 29 recommendations to fix Congress, but the committee was scheduled to sunset in December. We’re thrilled the House voted to let them continue their work in 2020 (rule vote details here).
House Admin is having a Member Day hearing Thursday morning. @House Staffers – this is your chance to get your boss on the record with ideas to improve Congress (and federal elections). Testimony is due by Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.
Last week the Senate Rules held a hearing on the nomination of Hugh Halpern to serve as the Director of GPO—the agency has been without a permanent director since 2017. He is a former House Rules Committee and floor staffer and is liked by everyone, including us. During his testimony Mr. Halpern emphasized updating the traditionally paper-first organization for an increasingly digital world. He also underscored the importance of an independent GPO watchdog. (This has been a problem in the past). A committee vote on his nomination is set for today at 5:45.
Continue reading “Forecast for November 18, 2019.”
With impeachment and the election season heating up, I want to talk directly about this newsletter. We focus on building a strong, modern, resilient Congress and stay away from items that are merely partisan or about political advantage.
But questions arising from the operation of the legislative branch have become closely intertwined with the debate over impeachment and presidential electoral politics. I won’t pretend we don’t have an opinion about all that. But, in this space, we will work very hard to stay focused on strengthening Congress, even as some of what we recommend has definite political winners and losers.
If you think we cross a line, or there are items we have missed, let us know. Don’t forget to tell your friends to subscribe.
The first public impeachment hearings are set for Wednesday and Friday in 1100 Longworth before the House Intel Committee. Some closed-door proceeding transcripts have been released; Just Security is compiled the public docs here. Rep. Jim Jordan has joined the committee, replacing Rep. Crawford, and brings along his Oversight Committee investigative counsel Steve Castor, who is now a shared employee and likely will be prominently featured as an interlocutor. It still appears Dems leadership wants to rush the proceedings and be done in the House by the end of the year.
Government funding runs out next week and senior appropriators will meet Tuesday at 5. It looks like there will be a short term CR through December, perhaps expiring just in time for the holiday season. 🙂 They also must reach agreement on the 302(b) allocations—we hope the House will accede to the Senate’s slightly higher Leg Branch number.
Continue reading “Forecast for November 11, 2019.”
THE TOP LINE
It’s a little off topic, but there is legislation to allow states to elect to observe daylight savings time for the duration of the year. It’s HR 1601 and has 13 co-sponsors (from both parties). Just saying.
Another continuing resolution seems almost inevitable to keep the government open beyond Thanksgiving, when the current CR runs out, and it will be interesting to see whether it is “clean.” Appropriators & Leadership don’t see eye-to-eye on how long the CR should last. Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader McConnell want a short term CR that expires at the end of the year; Senate Appropriations Chairman Shelby says a February or March deadline is more realistic; and House Approps Chair Lowey says sometime in between. For added spice, last minute brinkmanship might ruin everyone’s Turkey-day plans.
The Senate approved a package of spending bills (CJS, Ag., Interior, and T-HUD)last week, but the House and Senate still have not agreed on allocations for the 12 appropriations subcommittees.
A CR makes us nervous, especially as conflict over impeachment could trigger a government shutdown. Not to put too fine a point on it, but there’s a great incentive for Trump to distract our attention, and a shutdown would do it for weeks (or months) on end. FWIW, Speaker Pelosi thinks an impeachment-triggered shutdown is unlikely; Trump won’t rule it out. If we can’t avoid a shutdown it will cost taxpayers big time—the last 3 cost taxpayers $4 billion.
Running Congress takes money. If you want meaningful oversight, smarter laws, protected whistleblowers, a warm welcome to visitors, and a safe capitol campus, there has to be enough money in the piggy bank to pay for it. To make up for decades-long funding shortfalls, we believe Congress should provide the leg branch a 10% bump to help get closer to parity for FY2020. Senate Appropriators proposed a 5.3% increase (to $5.092 B) and House Appropriators proposed a meager 3.6% increase (to $5.010 B). With a $27 Billion increase on the table for non-defense discretionary spending, the total increase over FY 2019 spending levels under our proposal is $0.48 Billion, or 1.78% of the anticipated new spending. But since it’s not up to us, given the choice, we’d urge the House to give way to the Senate’s numbers, and plan a bigger increase for FY 2021 — assuming we’re not stuck in permanent CR, which is why getting it right now matters so much.
Continue reading “Forecast for November 4, 2019.”