All Non-Confidential CRS Reports Should be Available Online

The public does not have access to a comprehensive database of non-confidential Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports. Recently, Demand Progress, American Enterprise Institute, and Free Government Information, and a coalition of 39 other organizations and 21 experts on Congress, including many CRS analysts, wrote to Representative Zoe Lofgren and Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Chair and Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on the Library, requesting they direct the Library of Congress to publish all non-confidential CRS reports online.

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First Branch Forecast: ModCom, PODA, PACER, + USCP 12/13/2021

Welcome‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌First‌ ‌Branch‌ ‌Forecast,‌ ‌your‌ ‌regular‌ ‌look‌ ‌into‌ ‌the‌ ‌Legislative‌ ‌branch‌ ‌and‌ government ‌transparency.‌ ‌Tell ‌your‌ ‌friends‌ ‌to‌ subscribe.

THE TOP LINE

Bonus week. The Senate is in today; the House is in tomorrow, with the ominous last vote predicted at “???” We’ll see both chambers vote to raise the vestigial debt ceiling thanks to legislation waiving the filibuster that apparently didn’t cause the demise of democracy or an end to the world’s greatest deliberative institution. Also on the Senate docket is a more pro-militarist version of the NDAA than usual, shepherded by the Armed Services committees outside of regular ordersans 1991 + 2002 AUMF repeal, sans independent protection for victims in sexual harassment cases, and with a $25 billion bump above what the Pentagon requested, equivalent to 50% of the cost to vaccinate the world against COVID. The House will ponder holding Mark Meadows in contempt and adopting legislation on Islamophobia. In committee: the Jan. 6th committee is expected to report out a contempt resolution on Meadows; the Coronavirus committee will consider the need to accelerate vaccinations — say, what about that extra $25 billion? Not listed on Congress.gov, but apparently happening: a Thursday House Admin hearing on the Smithsonian. There’s also a ton of nomination proceedings.

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Put Senate Bills and Amendments Online Before Votes

The public does not have real time access to bills and amendments as they are considered on the Senate floor. This week, Demand Progress, Lincoln Network, and a coalition of 41 other organizations and 15 experts sent a letter to Senate leadership requesting the Senate publish bills and amendments online while they are still under consideration.

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First Branch Forecast: Police, PODA, and the Courts 12/06/2021

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Welcome to the First Branch Forecast, your regular look into the Legislative branch and government transparency. Tell your friends to subscribe.

THE TOP LINE

This week: the Senate is in today; the House is in on Tuesday. Congress cleared a CR that funds the government through February 18th so this week expect a debt limit vote, NDAA consideration, and likely the Protecting our Democracy Act (PODA). Watch as the House’s suspension list becomes ridiculously long. In committee, Senate Rules will look at the Capitol Police on Tuesday; House Rules will consider which of the 57 amendments to allow for the Protecting Our Democracy Act on Tuesday; Senate Judiciary will mark up a bill modernizing PACER on Thursday. ICYMI, the 2022 House Calendar is out.

A cranky note: appropriations are how Congress dictates priorities, so the ongoing use of CRs and the threat of a long-term CR is no less than an abdication of the responsibility to govern and an undermining of congressional prerogatives. It’s not the “Trump” or “Biden” spending bill, but Congress’s.

Capitol Police. In advance of Tuesday’s USCP oversight hearing, today we are releasing model public records request regulations (announcement) (regs). We got tired of waiting for the Capitol Police to implement Congress’s instructions to create a FOIA-like process — the agency is notoriously opaque — so our resident experts on FOIA and Congress spent the last few months drafting model regulations to (1) show that it’s possible and (2) create a standard to judge the USCP should they act. Perhaps it will liven up Tuesday’s hearing with the USCP IG.

Succession. It’s no secret there will be many changes in party and committee leadership in the 118th Congress and that jockeying is happening now. We are intrigued by the American Prospect’s deep dive into Hakeem Jeffries record and leadership style. On the Republican side, an opinion column from a senior fellow at a conservative think tank asks the question of whether McCarthy is suited to be Speaker. There’s also some drama around Elise Stefanik. For our part, we’re still wondering whether Rep. Jeffries will release the rules for the House Dem Policy and Steering Committee and Sen. Schumer will release the Senate Democratic Party Caucus rules.

Also: Our long-awaited recap of the 2021 Library of Congress virtual public forum on public access to legislative information is now available. (The Library has not committed to holding additional conversations with the public; the prior ones had to be requested by Appropriators). And see a new Twitter bot that tracks Leg branch procurements. The bot is how we know, for example, the Capitol Police are ordering 281 units of body armor.

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The Capitol Police Should Issue FOIA-like Regs — Here’s our Model Regs That Show Them How

Today Demand Progress Education Fund released model public records request regulations for the United States Capitol Police Force. If implemented, these regulations would create a FOIA-like process for the Capitol Police, which our multi-year investigation had previously revealed to be particularly secretive.

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