Forecast for June 29, 2020


Musical chairs. The House of Representatives will have new committee chairs in the 117th Congress, but how will they be chosen? That’s a difficult enough question that we dig into it below.

NDAA. House Armed Services will markup the NDAA on Wednesday; on Monday, the Senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed on its NDAA, with floor consideration expected the week of July 20th. Last year’s bill authorized ~$740 billion in spending.

Approps. House approps subcommittee markups are almost here, with the first markup on July 6. We summarized the schedule last week based on Chair Lowey’s Dear Colleague letter, but we couldn’t find a public notice. The Senate is still TBD, and rumors are there’s a CR in our future. The big question: what’s the top line numbers for the approps subcommittees? Meanwhile, we are gathering Leg Branch Approps docs here, including what happened in FY 2020, plus our wish list.

DC statehood. There’s a great story that someone should tell about how Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton got and won the House vote on DC statehood. I am personally fascinated by the 9 Democrats who voted in favor of the motion to recommit and the two RI senators who have yet to speak up.

Is it the fourth? It’s this Saturday, although Independence Day should really be July 2 because that’s the day the Continental Congress voted. Here’s the original roll call vote. In celebration, it finally is infrastructure week in the House, with a vote expected on H.R. 2.

Continue reading “Forecast for June 29, 2020”

Forecast for June 22, 2020


Appropriations subcommittee markups are now two weeks away, but there’s no agreement or public statement on how much money will be available to the 12 appropriations subcommittees. Today we released a letter urging a $500 million increase (+10%) in funding available for the legislative branch appropriations subcommittee, co-drafted with the Lincoln Network and signed by 40+ organizations and 16 Congress experts. Why is it important?

• Spending on House and Senate committees has declined by 25% over the last decade, or $202 million each Congress; spending on personal offices is down 21% in the House and 10% in the Senate, or $224 million annually. 23% of all funding now goes towards security or buildings, or $1.16 billion annually, which reflects a 279% increase in funding for the Capitol Police and a 131% increase in funding for the Architect of the Capitol since 1995.

• Congress got shorted on federal discretionary spending. Annual discretionary defense spending has increased by 69% over the last quarter century; non-defense spending increased by 55%; and leg branch (which is part of non-defense) increased by 26%. Breaking down that 26% number: 10% is for the Architect of the Capitol; 9% is for the Capitol Police, and the remaining 8% is for everything else. Here’s those same numbers, but as nifty graphs.

• What’s that in real numbers? For FY 2021, non-defense discretionary spending is capped at $627 billion (plus another $8b for OCO); defense discretionary spending is capped at $672 billion (plus another $69 billion for OCO); outside of those caps are all the COVID-19 stimulus bills (which are more than $1 trillion). Spending on the leg branch is expected at around $5 billion, or less than 0.36% of discretionary spending (excluding the stimulus). More context here. (By the way, if anyone has a historic chart of the final 302(a) numbers, including the OCO, it would be incredibly helpful.)

Continue reading “Forecast for June 22, 2020”

The Complete Guide to What We Know (And Don’t Know) About the U.S. Capitol Police

The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) has a critical mission of protecting Congress — Members, employees, and visitors — so constitutionally mandated business can be carried out in a safe and open environment. USCP has a massive $464 million budget for FY 2020 and 2,514 employees, of whom 2,060 are sworn personnel. By comparison, the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) is funded at $556 million and has 3,851 sworn officers.

Unlike the vast majority of local police forces, the USCP provides little public information about its activities. The Capitol Police is part of the Legislative Branch, which means it’s under no obligation to answer records requests and is not subject to Freedom of Information of law. Additionally, the department does not publish annual reports on its activities; does not publish reports from its oversight body, the Capitol Police Board, nor the USCP Inspector General; does not proactively publish its annual statistical summary of complaints drawn from Office of Professional Responsibility records; and only began in December 2018 publishing sparse information concerning its weekly arrests.

To help illuminate the operations and disclosures from the agency, our team has spent significant time over the past several years gathering information, including statements of disbursements, jurisdiction and responsibilities, and arrest report data. We also have written letters to the department requesting further information disclosures and submitted testimony to the Leg. Branch Subcommittee requesting heightened transparency regarding USCP arrest information, press releases, and announcements. 

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Appropriations Cheat Sheet: Reforms To Include In 2021 Spending Bills

The 2021 appropriations process is ramping up with markups scheduled over next month and just a few months left before the end of the fiscal year. Appropriations bills can be a vehicle for institutional reform; we would like to elevate a few modernization ideas from a number of civil society organizations that lawmakers may wish to consider. (All of our recommendations are available online.)

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Forecast for June 15, 2020


The House schedule has changed againJune 25 and 26 are for police reform legislation; the week of June 29 is for health care and infrastructure (!!!!); and the last two weeks of July are for Appropriations and NDAA.

Apropos approps: Oddly, the Senate will start approps mark-ups first, and some subcommittee bills will go directly to the full committee. (How will skipping subcommittee markup affect the contents?) Did we miss when Senate appropriators held oversight hearings? For this week, we only see S. FSGG, an FCC oversight hearing set for Tues. By the way, our approps requests are here.

SASC cleared the FY21 NDAA, floor debate is expected next week. This year’s package totals roughly $740 billion and authorizes $636.4 billion for the Pentagon budget and another $69 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations. A reminder: OCO is basically a huge discretionary slush fund that is not subject to budget caps.

Open means online when it comes to committee proceedings. Last Monday a coalition called on the Sen. Foreign Relations committee to livestream its proceedings after it inappropriately refused to allow a video livestream; Roll Call put the request in context in this news story.

We hold these truths— Speaker Pelosi called for removing confederate statues in the U.S. Capitol and requested the Joint Committee on the Library “immediately take steps to remove these 11 statues from display.” Among the statues: the president and vice president of the confederacy. We and the R Street Institute applauded the request. According to Politico, Sen. Blunt, who chairs the JCL, said Congress has no power to move the statues out of the Capitol short of passing a law, sidestepping the question of JCL’s power to relocate them — which we described last week and in this 2017 op-ed w/ the R Street Institute. I’d consider placing them underneath the crypt or in a sub-basement hallway; Speaker Pelosi had moved the statue of Robert E. Lee during her first term as Speaker. Regardless, the House could pass a concurrent resolution to force the location issue with the Senate; it could include language in the approps or NDAA bills; and committee members could force the JCL to hold a hearing. Also, the JCL chair rotates between the House and Senate, so this could come up next year — Vice Chair Lofgren has long supported their removal.

Who’s hiring on the Hill? We’ve built a new Twitter bot that consolidates job postings on Capitol Hill from nearly 20 sources, from member offices to the Architect to CBO. It’s a work in progress; send us feedback.

A lot is happening with Congress in the coming weeks, we will help you keep uptell your colleagues to subscribe.

Continue reading “Forecast for June 15, 2020”

Mapped Out: Capitol Police Arrests

It can be hard to ascertain the specifics of U.S. Capitol Police activity; to make it easier we created a map reflecting almost a year and a half of arrest incidents reported by the department.

Check out the map embedded below (or online here) to see where Capitol Police officers were most active between January 1, 2019 and June 1, 2020.


Forecast for June 8, 2020


Police reform takes center stage. Widespread outrage over the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, combined with dozens of videos of police attacking non-violent demonstrators, the use of unidentified internal security forces to police DC streets, and more than 140 police attacks on the press have elevated public pressure on Congress to address systemic police misconduct. This may prompt the House to restart its floor proceedings sooner than planned, possible with police reform legislation.

Majority Leader Hoyer updated the House calendar last week in a very unusual way. Every weekday in June is a committee work day, with no floor votes expected except for June 30-July 2, followed by another two weeks of committee work days, and another two weeks of floor votes. Unusually, the House will be conducting business M-F — it usually only holds meetings in DC from Tue.-Thurs. — which means the House will have more days to get work done and, if members do not fly in-and-out, more meaningful time to work and a more efficient work schedule. This will be an interesting experiment; you might recall that fixing the House’s calendar was one of the priorities of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

Appropriations and NDAA markups scheduled. On Thursday, Approps Chair Lowey indicated approps markups will be held the weeks of July 6 and 13, with the expectation that bills could be on the floor the weeks of July 20 and 27. Meanwhile, the HASC scheduled the FY21 NDAA to begin on July 1, with subcommittee markups starting June 22. The Senate begins mark ups for the NDAA today. Your guess is as good as ours about whether and how the hundreds of NDAA amendments will be considered on the floor.

The first bill to be enacted by proxy voting was signed by Trump. On Friday, the president signed the latest PPP reform bill into law, even though many House members voted by proxy when the measure passed the House two weeks ago. What does this mean for the Republican lawsuit against proxy voting?

FISA legislation still in limbo. This bill is a great illustration of how Democratic and Republican leadership join together and use their positions and informational advantage to put one over on the rank and file. Reauthorization of surveillance legislation — the USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act — remains in limbo after House Democratic and Republican leadership maneuvered the House to request a conference committee when it became clear that Republicans had joined with progressives on the bill’s substance and would succeed in killing the bill after leadership stripped out one very popular pro-civil liberties amendment (Lee-Leahy) and stymied consideration of another (Daines-Wyden). House leadership had previously prevented amendments in committee and on the floor, but the Senate passed a stronger version of the bill after civil libertarians sustained a filibuster and got concessions. The bill was moving forward until it became apparent that security hawks had added trojan horse language to the House version of the Daines-Wyden amendment, which would have inverted its effect. The House has named its conference committee members, but the Senate has yet to agree to conference.

The US Capitol Police and transparency is the subject of a letter we released this morning.

Continue reading “Forecast for June 8, 2020”

The PLUM Act: Transparency for Political Appointees

by Jason Briefel and Maggi Molina

A president will appoint more than 4,000 individuals to serve in an administration, yet “there is no single source of data on political appointees serving in the executive branch that is publicly available, comprehensive, and timely,” according to the Government Accountability Office in a March 2019 report.

Instead, these positions are compiled and published exactly once every four years in a congressional document known as the Plum Book (officially the United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions). This book is published only in December after a presidential election (before the president even gets sworn in) and includes important data for each position, including title, salary and location.  

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