Forecast for August 27, 2021

Welcome to the First Branch Forecast, your regular look into the Legislative branch and government transparency. This is an unusual Friday edition; we are hoping to not publish next week. Subscribe here.

THE TOP LINE
The House returns for a committee work week on Tuesday; the Senate is out until September 13th.The House’s National Defense Authorization Act markup will start on September 1. There are a number of important deadlines: House and Senate committees are expected to report their portions of the reconciliation package by September 15th; appropriations bills of some kind must be enacted before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30th; and the debt limit will be reached in October or November.

Don’t forget: The Library of Congress has a virtual public forum (which means you!) on its digital services set for Sept. 2nd. This is an opportunity to ask for new tools, features, and information from the Library.

CAPITOL SECURITY
A “rally” by Trump insurrectionists and fellow right wing extremists set for Sept. 18th is alarming Capitol security officials who fear it will be violent; the event is set for a Saturday and reports do not indicate the expected size of the crowd. Earlier in the week is the 20th anniversary of 9/11, which also is raising alarm bells, although news reports provide no real information about what kind of threat, if any, may arise. We cannot tell the extent to which USCP operations have been reformed in the last 8 months, but transforming the agency into a capable security force will take years and we have grave doubts about the ability of its intelligence units to assess the circumstances.

After it was reported in the press, the USCP issued a press release acknowledging it completed its internal investigation into the shooting of Ashli Babbitt. The findings (or a summary thereof) were not released so we do not know what it says except flat assertions in the news release itself; the officer will not face internal discipline; and the officer (who is not being officially named) and their family have been “subject of numerous credible and specific threats.” The twitter thread in response to the USCP announcement apparently includes the name of the officer and a revolting amount of insurrection-related vitriol.

That officer, Lt. Michael Byrd, gave an interview with NBC news where he explained his actions were a last resort to protect members of Congress holed up in the House chamber. Lt. Byrd has received death threats and has gone into hiding for months as Trump insurrectionists and fellow travelers turn the unfortunate but likely inescapable shooting of insurrectionist Babbitt into a twisting rallying cry. We found this coverage provides the best context.

Ring, ring. The January 6th Committee is set to request telephone companies preserve phone records of certain Members of Congress, among other people.

The Capitol Police responded to a new IG flash report with this press statement. Oddly, IG flash report #5 is not publicly available, but the AP reported on it. The headline: “Report details mishandling of police emergency system on 1/6.” The USCP IG does not release reports to the public as a matter of policy (even though it’s routine for IGs across the government), although House Admin has been releasing the IG’s new flash reports, which appear to be designed for public consumption. Appropriators had requested the IG compile a list of reports over the last three years that it could release, and that report is due by September 30th. Maybe the IG should just go ahead and release this one instead of holding it for the likely House Admin hearing.

The August Capitol bomber, Floyd Ray Roseberry, has been “diagnosed with bipolar disorder and needs more medical treatment.” Roseberry, who said he had a bomb but did not have one that functioned, made a number of far right statements during a stand-off with security forces. To my mind, this highlights the danger of violent rhetoric that can activate all sorts of people.

Oddly, but not unsurprisingly, the U.S. Capitol Police’s weekly arrest summary does not include the arrest of Floyd Ray Roseberry. The Capitol Police put out a press release on 8/19 saying they arrested him, so we know they did it, and yet… nothing. This suggests, as we have long suspected, that the Capitol Police’s weekly arrest summaries are not comprehensive or reliable. When we dug into this previously, the USCP gave us a cryptic response about what they exclude from these reports.

7 Capitol Police officers have filed a civil lawsuit against ex-Pres. Trump and others “claiming they conspired to violently overturn the results of the 2020 election.” Josh Gerstein, as usual, does a good job of putting this all in context and links to the filing — bravo. You can follow the docket (including getting alerts) on CourtListener.

TRANSPARENCY
Appropriations requests are published online by Sen. Braun, which is something we don’t recall having seen before. This includes the date a letter was sent, the sender, the dollar amount, and the purpose, but not the text of the letter itself.

How does newly enacted legislation amend prior legislation? The use of technology to answer that tricky question has moved a step forward with GPO’s publication of statute compilations in USLM XML. If that last sentence is confusing, what it means is that we now have modern metadata for laws that are not officially included in the US code so it becomes possible to automate updates of that legislation and also to show how draft legislation would amend those laws.

The Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act has passed the House and Senate, going to Pres. Biden’s desk for signature. It has earned bipartisan praise. It requires the publication of an agency’s current and historical Congressional Budget Justifications in a central place online so it is possible to find them easily.

Declassification reforms are classified. Yes, the fixes pushed by Sen. Wyden are contained in the classified annex, so we can’t know what they are. What is classified legislation? Well…..

ODDS AND ENDS
Lobbying. Lobbying by an industry increases when there is greater consolidation (i.e., fewer players) in the industry, according to a new report from the American Economic Liberties Project. The tentative conclusion: monopolies seek to acquire political power through lobbying to avoid competition in the open market.

Endless impeachments from here on out is the premise of Paul Kane’s opinion piece, pointing to Republican calls to impeach Biden over all sorts of stuff, including by Republican notables. He quickly pivots to #bothsides, blaming the bases of both parties, so I don’t exactly recommend his analysis. But Republicans do seem more likely to impeach any Democratic president and Democrats are more likely to impeach Republican presidents who follow in the Trumpian model.

You shouldn’t be afraid at work, but congressional staff are becoming resigned to political violence being part of the job.

Rep. Mooney may have used campaign funds for personal use and used gift cards to hide the recipients of campaign funds, which are no-nos and, according to Roll Call, the topic of an OCE report to the Ethics committee.

ERRATA
The Senate Secretary of the Senate, not the Sergeant at Arms, oversees the Office of Senate Security. I know that, having written a primer on it a while back, but I mixed it up in the last issue.

CALENDAR
Down the road…

• The Library of Congress will host a public forum on Congress.gov on September 2nd from 1 to 4pm ET.

• Make Congress Great Again — the Lincoln Network is hosting a reception on Congressional modernization and reform on September 2nd from 5-7 pm ET. RSVP here.
• Internapalooza, a virtual orientation for interns, will take place on September 9th and 10th.

• The 30th annual LegisTech for Democracy Conference will be held online on September 13th and 14th — save the date now.

• The Senate will return on September 13th.

• Constitution Day is September 17th.