Forecast for October 19, 2020

THE TOP LINE

Thursday. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a meeting to consider the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barret on Thursday. In addition, there’s a growing effort to push Sen. Feinstein out as the Committee’s Democratic leader after she poorly handled the proceedings. I have a lot to say on what’s happened, so please read Barrett, Graham, Feinstein, and de Tocqueville.

COVID deal fake-out. The negotiations are just for show and the upcoming Senate vote is cynical. Speaker Pelosi missed her chance back in the spring to insist on different priorities, and everything has ineluctably followed from that.

House Dem leadership election dates are set for November 18th and 19th, the first week the House comes back in session after the election, with votes for contested committee chairs on the 30th. (Anyone know the dates for the Senate or House Rs?)

House Rules. We hosted a webinar on how the House of Representatives will consider updating its rules and some of the ideas under consideration. Check out the video and the slides from the presentation. We summarized the proposals put forward by Members of Congress before the House Rules committee to modernize the House rules. Here are our ideas.

Party rules. After the election, the parties will hold elections and transact a lot of other business. House DemocratsHouse Republicans, and Senate Republicans now post their party rules; Senate Dems seemingly do not. We ran down (as far as we could) who gets to appoint committee members, i.e., those who are on the House Democratic Steering Committee and Republican Steering Committee, although we don’t have the full list. We don’t know who serves in that capacity in the Senate. And we had no luck at all in obtaining the rules of procedure for the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. More on the chair races below.

CONGRESSIONAL OPS & BUILDING A BETTER CONGRESS

Can the House sue to enforce subpoenas? Perhaps, but the courts are so slow this is a right without a remedy. The DC Circuit scheduled its hearing in the Don McGahn case for next year, which is two years after the original subpoena was issued. Basically, all the Executive branch has to do is wait out the Congress. IMHO, Congress must enact better statutory contempt procedures (that firmly establish standing for a single chamber, don’t rely on the AG for enforcement, and streamline court proceedings) and also pursue inherent contempt processes. Lawfare has a lengthy article on all this that I’ve only skimmed.

Remote and hybrid hearings in the Senate. As part of its polemical work in support of the Barrett nomination, the Senate Republican Policy Committee released a brief on hybrid hearings held in the Senate over the last six month. Of course, the Senate did not change its committee rules that require a majority of members to be physically present to report our bills or nominations, nor did it change its floor rules requiring members to be physically present. Are Republicans still pursuing legislation to undermine remote deliberations in the House?

The SCOMC final report was released last week, with 97 recommendations in total.

No unpaid interns. The European Parliament has banned unpaid internships in Parliament.

MOVING ON

Rep. Mark Pocan is not seeking another term as co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He plans to remain active in the caucus next Congress as chair emeritus and co-chair of the group’s PAC.

Rep. Bruce Westerman plans to run for the top spot on House Natural Resources next Congress, opening up a spot for someone to become RM on Transportation and Infrastructure. GOP House Conference Rules prohibit Members from leading more than one committee at a time.

BIDEN ADMINISTRATION

Why this section? This is a new section in the Forecast for us, but it seems silly to ignore how a potential incoming Biden administration relates to questions around Congress.

No corporate hires on Biden’s team. A group of progressive House lawmakers led by Rep. Grijalva sent this letter (endorsed by us and others) to House and Senate leadership urging the Senate to reject any corporate lobbyist or c-suite officer for appointment to the Executive branch. There are tons of good people from diverse backgrounds who would qualify.

Economic policy? Early forecasts show that if Biden takes the White House, the GOP plans to revert to austerity, making it even harder for any stimulus efforts to move forward (or at least shielding Republicans for responsibility for voting for it).

Lessons from Obamacare. Norm Ornstein has an explainer on how McConnell led Republicans to avoid compromise and undermine the Obama administration’s health care reform initiative, with obvious lessons for how the next Congress and next administration should proceed.

SCOTUS ended the Census count early, siding with the White House’s legal team. Advocates and even former Census Bureau directors fear the administration won’t properly correct what looks to be the most inaccurate count in decades. This decision will have massive implications for redistricting and gerrymandering next cycle.

TRANSPARENCY

Is the NSA spying on Congress? Rep. Eshoo has asked the ICIG to find out after getting a non-answer from the NSA.

Yes, billions. Reclaim The Records made a FOIA request asking for billions of digital images and text metadata created though NARA’s public-private digitization partnership program.

ETHICS

South Carolina Dems filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee against Sen. Graham after he made a campaign fundraising comment to reporters following the Judiciary Committee hearing last Thursday. Fundraising in a Federal government building while in working in an official capacity is illegal.

Sonny Purdue deliberately mispronounced Kamala Harris’ name in a fit of racist dog-whistling. They’ve been in the Senate together for 3 years and serve together on the Budget committee, as the AJC points out.

Zero stars. Top GOP Ethics Committee Member Kenny Marchant spent over $1,300 in campaign funds on a five-star hotel in London while traveling on a CODEL.

Collins finally reports to prison. For 26 months. Camp Fed isn’t so bad, according to the Buffalo News.

Ex-Rep Duncan Hunter reports to prison next year, andwill serve his 11-month federal prison sentence at Federal Correctional Institute La Tuna in Anthony, Texas.

ODDS & ENDS

Capitol Police reported two arrest incidents last week, including one where 21 protestors were arrested outside Dirksen.

EVENTS

• The Federal Depository Library is holding its annual conference October 20th – 23rd.

Wednesday

• Code for America is hosting a panel titled “Getting the Right Data to the Right People at the Right Time” on data sharing within the government at 10 PT/1 EST; register here.

Down the Line

• The Levin Center and the Wayne State University Law Review are holding the third and final online panel in their 2020 series examining congressional oversight of technology and science issues on Thursday, October 29th, from 3:00-4:15pm. RSVP

• Lincoln Network is hosting its 7th annual Reboot conference on November 6th, 9th, and 10th. The sessions will explore the intersection of technology, media, and public policy.