Capitol Police Round Up: Week Ending March 12, 2020

For the week ending March 12, 2020, there were 9 Capitol Police incidents reported; 10 individuals arrested. There were 5 traffic related incidents, including 2 invalid permit arrests. On Wednesday, March 4th, the Capitol Police arrested 2 individuals actively demonstrating in room 2358-C of the Rayburn House Office Building and also arrested an individual for throwing a piece of paper at a Member of Congress during a committee hearing in room 342 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. 

Here’s how this week’s activity was distributed:

Continue reading “Capitol Police Round Up: Week Ending March 12, 2020”

Special Thursday Forecast

The coronavirus poses a deadly threat to our democracy, so we have a special issue of the First Branch Forecast focused on what the House and Senate should do right now to maintain the continuity of Congress.

Read the letter below containing civil society recommendations that must be implemented before the start of the district work period. We published a popularization of our recommendations in the Fulcrum (with PopVox’s Marci Harris).

Please stay safe and keep healthy.

March 12, 2020

Dear [Members]:

As you work to respond to the coronavirus threat on Capitol Hill, we urge you to consider the following:

Prioritize the health and safety of the public, staff, press, and lawmakers: We recognize that there are contradictory pressures to project calm while also modeling appropriate responses, such as the “social distancing” recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. In this vein, we encourage Congress to adopt a “putting on your own mask before assisting others” approach, to take rational steps to limit exposure on the Capitol Campus and within district offices. By temporarily postponing school tours, industry fly-ins, and in-person advocacy meetings, Congress will wisely decrease the risk of contagion to the public and staff.

Continue reading “Special Thursday Forecast”

House Passes Modernization Committee Resolution

Yesterday, the House overwhelmingly passed H.Res 756, the bipartisan resolution voted unanimously out of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (SCOMC). The resolution includes 29 recommendations that aim to make Congress more effective, efficient and transparent. Some of these recommendations include taking critical steps to improve staff retention and diversity, updating House technology and security, and increasing public access to congressional offices and information.

SCOMC, by definition, does not have any legislative authority. The passage of this resolution marks the first time that legislative action has resulted from a select committee. SCOMC has held 16 hearings and numerous Member and staff-level briefings and listening sessions to solicit ideas and recommendations for reforming the legislative branch since March 2019.

Continue reading “House Passes Modernization Committee Resolution”

Forecast for March 9, 2020.


There’s more news than can fit in our little newsletter.

The House Rules Committee did its part to encourage the Article I Renaissance (to steal a phrase from Lorelei Kelly) with a nearly four-hour hearing spiced with thoughtful expert testimony examining how Congress’ role has been diminished over decades and how to reassert congressional authority. (How, you ask?)

Members and outside experts testified before the House Leg. Branch Approps Subcommittee, covering greatest hits like Congress needs more resources to do its jobhow to restore Congressional capacity, and the fan-favorite let’s rebuild in-house science and tech expertise. We cover the entire album, or you can watch the live-to-tape Member testimony and Public Witness testimony. If you tune in to nothing else, check out Rodney Davis’ written statement.

House Officers — the Clerk, the SAA, the CAO, and others — had their day before leg branch approps. We cannot help but highlight questions raised by Rep. Ruppersberger on providing sufficient clearances for congressional staff. We note that the CAO’s funding request contains a notional $10m to fulfill Modernization Committee recs, but the Clerk’s funding request would need a plus-up. Rep. Clark asked excellent questions on the value of increasing the student loan repayment cap to $80k, and whether Leg Counsel can provide draft legislation as Word files in addition to PDFs (so offices can make their own edits). I couldn’t make heads or tails of the testimony by Congress’s Attending Physician, but I think he said the question of whether to close Congress would be made by leadership.

GPO’s new director testified before House Admin this past week (written testimonyvideo), and we were impressed with the agency’s desire to fundamentally rethink Congressional documents so they are user-friendly, easy to generate, and designed for a modern legislative process. We also were interested in the new GAO IG’s efforts to transform that office after recent lapses.

Pay staff better. That’s the simple message of a bipartisan letter, organized by the R Street Institute, and sent to appropriators.

Lots of reports about Congressional operations are due, and we’ve got this month’s list. If anyone has the unclassified report on how long it takes staffers to receive their clearances in the House, which was due on March 1, send it my way. 🙂

If you’re looking for a little light reading, check out our 65-page list of approps requests, plus our House Leg. Branch testimony on congressionally-mandated reportscongressional clearances, and Capitol Police arrest data.

Continue reading “Forecast for March 9, 2020.”

Capitol Police Round Up: Week Ending March 5, 2020

For the week ending March 5, 2020, there were 10 Capitol Police incidents reported; 14 individuals arrested. There were 7 traffic related incidents, including 3 invalid permit arrests. Capitol Police arrested 4 individuals who were demonstrating during a committee hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Friday, February 28 around 9 am. 

Here’s how this week’s activity was distributed:

Continue reading “Capitol Police Round Up: Week Ending March 5, 2020”

House Legislative Branch Appropriations: Member Day & Public Witness Testimony Recap

Members and outside experts testified before the House Leg. Branch Appropriations Subcommittee last week. Don’t have a few hours to watch Member testimony and Public Witness testimony or read all the testimony from Members and Public Witnesses? We’ve got the highlights below.

Continue reading “House Legislative Branch Appropriations: Member Day & Public Witness Testimony Recap”

Recap of the House Officers’ FY 2021 Appropriations Request

Last week House Officersthe House Clerk, Sergeant at Arms and Chief Admin Officertestified before the House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee. These officers are responsible for floor and committee proceedings, security and the internal workings of the House. They do the tough behind the scenes work that keeps Congress going. Not sure what their duties entail? We’ve got you covered with some examples from last week’s hearing.

Continue reading “Recap of the House Officers’ FY 2021 Appropriations Request”

March Update: Legislative Branch FY2020 Appropriations Items Due Dates

Back in December 2019, Congress passed the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill for FY 2020, starting the clock on dozens of Leg. Branch projects and reports. 

Last month, our team reviewed requests from the Leg. Branch approps bill, broke them down by entity, and summarized the deadlines. For those interested in looking at the complete spreadsheet, you can access it here.

We will regularly post a list of items due from the Leg. Branch approps bill, broken down by entity. We also will include which items were due during the previous month at the end of the report. 

Expected This Month

Below are the items that are expected in March 2020, broken down by entity:

Continue reading “March Update: Legislative Branch FY2020 Appropriations Items Due Dates”

Forecast for March 2, 2020.


Approps season is firing on all cylinders, with many Members schedules double- or triple-booked. It’s running us ragged, too. (At least we can help you keep track of testimony deadlines.) Maybe Congress should take a real look at fixing its hearing schedule? Anyway—

Leg Branch heard testimony from LOC and GAO this past week, and there’s news in a CBO QFR response. (More on that below.) Hearings this week include House Officers (Tuesday at 1), Members (Wednesday at 1), the public (Wednesday at 2), the AOC (Thursday at 10), and GPO (Thursday at 11). If you’re looking for good ideas to strengthen Congress, watch the public witness testimony on Wednesday and check out our detailed list of approps requests. It looks like Tuesday is going to be super.

This week is jam-packed with other notable hearings, including on—

• Reasserting Congressional Authority, H. Rules on Tuesday at 10

• GPO Oversight, H. Admin on Tuesday at 10

• Member Day testimony, H. FSGG Approps on Tuesday at 10

• Markup of the Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act (H.R. 4894) + more good government bills, H. Oversight on Wednesday at 10:30

• Making Federal IT a Priority, H. Oversight on Wednesday at 2

The Coronavirus supplemental is expected to top $7 billion. Considering how little trust there is on the administration’s handling of this issue, I wonder if it will prompt a reinvestment in Congress’s Science and Technology Policy capacity — whether in the STAA, a new OTA, or something else. As you know, we have recommendations. Also, how will the virus affect Congressional operations? What’s the plan for continuity of Congress?

The renewal of (bad) surveillance provisions under FISA hit a speedbump when Intel Committee Chair Adam Schiff threatened to torpedo a secretly-negotiated H Judiciary bill — which was published two days before the markup — when it became apparent that bipartisan amendments to strengthen civil liberties protections would be offered (and likely succeed) in a Judiciary Committee markup. The proceedings were indefinitely postponed. {{BOOM}} This dynamic — of Intel working to limit popular reforms likely to be adopted by the primary committee of jurisdiction, i.e. the Judiciary committee — has been going on for years and suggests structural problems with how the committee referral system provides undue veto power. (It also points to problems with how HPSCI is organized and run).

• The Senate is pushing a straight reauthorization of the failed CDR program, which is evidence of Congress’s unwillingness to legislate and conduct oversight over national security matters. After significant pushback, House Dems are now saying they’re unwilling to use the Coronavirus supplemental as a vehicle. Speaker Pelosi expects a vote on surveillance before March 12; the underlying legislation expires on March 15, after an extension was jammed through in a must-pass bill in December. (We have primers on section 215 here.) Notably, this issue separates Democratic leadership (which is pro-surveillance and had joined with the Republicans previously on an extension) from the vast majority of Democratic party members (who support civil liberties protections) and a few dozen Republicans.

Sunshine week, which focuses on open government and is centered around Madison’s birthday, is coming up quickly. We will be co-hosting an event on March 12 in the Capitol Visitor Center (info here); additional events are listed here and in the calendar section below.

Continue reading “Forecast for March 2, 2020.”