Forecast for August 17, 2020.

THE TOP LINE

In and Out. The House and Senate were “officially” out until September — officially as of this past Friday — with fewer than a dozen voting days remaining in the House until the government shuts down. Fyi, the Senate has yet to move an approps bill. (Send me what we should call the COVID-CR-Approps-Postal omnibus.)

Just when you thought they were out, they pull you back in! Mid-day on Sunday, the Democratic members in both chambers who lead committees with jurisdiction over the Post Office and elections, plus party leaders, requested the Postmaster General testify before the House Oversight Committee on August 24 at 10 a.m.. They also asked that he provide documents by August 21. Will this be in person, remote, or a hybrid? Will he show? Well… apparently the House now will be in session later this Saturday (to pass a postal bill.)  I hope it’s remote. (Sorry to those who had already left for a well-deserved vacation.)

There are no remote deliberation measures in place in the Senate, so we led a coalition letter urging leadership to implement remote measures, you know, just in case.

Appropriators requested the Library of Congress meet with public stakeholders in last year’s House Leg. Branch Appropriations report; the Library announced the public forum will take place September 10th. RSVP.

Senate cafeteria workers are facing layoffs.

CONGRESSIONAL OPS. & MODERNIZATION

Proxy appeal. Last week House Republicans requested an expedited appeal process following a district court decision upholding proxy voting.

COVID catalyzed a modernization push in Congress: according to CMF surveys, Members have become more comfortable with tech and constituent communications tools have improved, facilitating increased (virtual) contact and trust. (Sign-up to read it.)

What’s next for modernizing Congress when the Fix Congress Committee sunsets in December? One possible answer: a joint committee between House Admin and Leg Branch Approps.

Mitch McConnell’s obstructionism, and the inability to get to sixty, is why Democrats should get rid of the filibuster, the Washington Monthly argues.

OVERSIGHT

Congress’s role in foreign affairs is the subject of a new report from R Street’s; Casey Burgat finds the depletion of Congressional resources has left the Legislative Branch unable to assert its constitutional authority effectively.

How will OMB apportion money? Congress is asking for answers. They’ve asked before.

Absolute Testimonial Immunity. Does it exist and can Don McGahn claim it? Mike Stern breaks down the McGahn case that recently was remanded.

Health summaries for all 24 CFO ACT agencies are now available on Partnership for Public Service’s new Oversight Snapshots dashboard. It includes employee, budget, satisfaction stats, and more.

TRANSPARENCY

Classy. The Pentagon is stillover-classifying documents, the National Security Archive found. Maybe Congress should give its staff higher clearances?

The FOIA Advisory Committee announced its members for the 2020-2022 term. See last term’s final report here.

Here’s the RECAP on the PACER decision, regarding access to court documents, from Ars Technica.

A bipartisan bill reforming the Lobbying Disclosure Act was introduced by Reps. Phillips and Cline last week. It’s modeled after the report of the ABA’s Lobbying Reform Task Force.

A Coronavirus bill provision allowed the Federal Reserve to manage $450 billion behind closed doors; the Federal Reserve Sunshine Act, introduced last week by Reps. Green and Gabbard, would provide greater transparency.

THEY’RE HIRING

The Administrative Conference of the United States is seeking applications for an Attorney Advisor; administrative law and process nerds are encouraged to apply.

Blue Haven Civics, which invests in democracy building and reducing politics in corruption, is hiring a Special Projects Assistant.

TechCongress is still accepting applications from technologists until August 27 to work in Congress. Learn more on their podcast.

Mail it in.Rep. Jim Hagedorn fired his Chief of Staff after he spent 40% of the office’s MRA in the first quarter, primarily on printing and mailing correspondence.

ODDS & ENDS

House Ethics is investigating Rep. Steve Watkins,who is the recipient of three felony charges (and one misdemeanor) for allegedly illegally voting and lying to law enforcement about it. Rep. Watkins lost his primary election, so he won’t return in the next Congress. House Ethics terminates investigations when members no longer are in office, but he will enjoy all the privileges of a former member unless and until he is convicted.

Capitol Police disclosed zero arrests this past week.

Higher Education institutions are being investigated for receiving large gifts from foreign government entities. This worries us because House rules don’t place the same limits on them as other lobbying entities.

The echochamber among DC journalists is real and smaller than previously thought according to an academic analysis of beltway journalists’ twitter activity.

A new POGO newsletter, “Corrupted: The COVID-19 Response,” delves into how corruption and its side-effects are playing out in the crisis.

President over party? The belief among some House Republicans that House Minority Leader McCarthy prioritized loyalty to Trump over the good of the conference may lead to a leadership challenge.

EVENTS

Wednesday

• Login at noon to hear The Case for Rethinking the Pentagon Budget from R Street, POGO, National Taxpayers Union, and Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Thursday

• The Law Library of Congress is offering an Orientation to Legal Research: US Case Law at 11.

Down the Line

• Tuesday, August 25th at 11 the Law Library of Congress will hold an Orientation to Law Library Collections.

• Tuesday, September 1 at 5pm the Council for Court Excellence is hosting a dialogue on Challenges in Ensuring Public Access to Courts and Government During COVID.

• Friday, September 10th, the Library of Congress is holding the public forumrequested by Appropriators from 10-12.

Programming note: unless something major happens next week, we’re planning on skipping the First Branch Forecast.