Civil society urges Senate passage of the PLUM Act

The Senate was urged to pass the Periodically Listing Updates to Management Act (PLUM Act, S. 3650) by a coalition of 27 organizations and individuals led by Demand Progress in a letter sent to Senate leadership last week. The PLUM Act would increase transparency and oversight of the most senior leaders of the Executive Branch. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted to favorably report the bipartisan legislation on March 30, 2022.

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First Branch Forecast: April 25, 2022

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This week. The Senate is in today; the House is in tomorrow. This week, we’ll be glued to another round of Leg branch approps hearings on the Library of Congress, GPO, & the AOC; a CJS approps double-header with the Justice Department, a ModCom hearing on modernizing the legislative process; and a House Judiciary hearing on judicial ethics. Oh, and on suspension is the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act, which passed the Senate already and, if enacted, would create a stock trading and online financial disclosure system for the judiciary.

Unionization timing. We’re still waiting to see when House leadership will finally bring the congressional unionization resolution to a floor. The Congressional Workers Union called for a floor vote this week. It’s been 81 days since Speaker Pelosi offered full support for Congressional staff to unionize (on Feb. 3rd) and 54 days since the House Admin Committee held a hearing on unionization (on March 2nd.) As this decision is entirely within their power, why the delay? Vox’s excellent explainer on Congressional unionization asks “how committed are [House Democrats] to unions when it’s their own employees who want one?” Well?

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First Branch Forecast: April 18, 2022

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This week. The House and Senate are out until next week. When they’re back it is going to be pandemonium— the next three months everything accelerates and decelerates at the same time — so prep now and remember to spend some time outside.

Appropriations redux. Our calendar of upcoming testimony deadlines is here, with House member requests to committees dues between April 27-29. Public witness testimony deadlines are being announced, with CJS on May 13th. House approps subcommittee and full committee markups are tentatively set for June, with floor votes in July. The Senate likely will have an equally aggressive schedule, but all that depends on whether the two chambers (and two parties) can agree on top line budget numbers. If not, this could be the end of appropriations-not-by-CR for the foreseeable future. We are expecting minibuses and omnibuses unless, of course, everything gets railroaded.

In Case You Missed It. We know, faithful readers, that you endeavor to read each and every newsletter when its bits and bytes are newly minted. But we forgive you if last weeks’ was too much and you were too busy. So, ICYMI —

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First Branch Forecast for April 11, 2022: Fox on Stocks

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This week. The House and Senate are in recess for two weeks and not a moment too soon, with many Members of Congress reporting they’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and, we suspect, many others failing to make a public announcement. Mandatory mask wearing should return to the halls of Congress, positive tests should be recorded and published, and maximum telework should continue, but we expect symbolism will remain elevated over safety. Please be safe (and smart) out there.

Last week was so busy and we expect it will be even worse before the start of the next recess. When Congress returns in two weeks, approps season will be at full blast; we’ve compiled upcoming deadlines for approps testimony here.

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Will House Offices Increase Staff Pay? Hypothetically, Yes. Actually, Maybe Not.

By Timothy M. LaPira and Alexander C Furnas

Recently, House Administration Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) sent a letter to all House member offices authorizing them to spend an increase in their Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA). The Legislative Branch Appropriations bill was included in the omnibus spending bill passed earlier this month, which raised the MRA by 21% for the current fiscal year. 

We applaud this exceptional boost in spending on Congress’s capacity to govern. It comes on the heels of decades of brain drain stemming from increasingly competitive pay on K Street, high turnover, and traumatic, morale-depleting pandemic- and insurrection-related working conditions on the Hill. 

Citing our research, House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) appealed to appropriators in 2021 to increase office budgets to cover a cost of living bump for staffers. After the omnibus became law earlier this month, the party leaders once again called for the increase to apply to House staff pay. The 21% MRA increase, then, is intended to catch up for years of declining wages in the House, which has become increasingly uncompetitive compared to the Senate, the Executive branch, state and local governments, and especially the private sector. 

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House Breaks Promise to Committee Staff On Pay Adjustment

Spreadsheet of spending on committees

Earlier today, the Committee on House Administration favorably reported a resolution to provide a 10% pay adjustment to most committee staff — which sounds like good news until you remember that the House had promised a 21% adjustment, in line with increases to personal office and leadership staff. I realized the discrepancy yesterday when crunching the numbers, which I’ve published below.

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First Branch Forecast for April 4, 2022: 4/04 Resolution Not Found

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On the calendar. The Senate and House are in today. The week before recess is often a whirlwind of activity and this week is no exception. In the committees, we have four — four! — House Leg branch appropriations hearings, a ModCom hearing on Continuity of Congress, a House Admin STOCK Act hearing, and … the Congressional Hackathon (RSVP here).

We’re still waiting

⟶ Where is the House unionization resolution? House Admin held a unionization hearing a few weeks back, Rep. Levin introduced a resolution, leadership pledged their support along with 3/4s of House Dems, so what’s the holdup? Are we waiting for the House Admin Committee to report a resolution? Something else?

⟶ Where are the increased funds for committees? AFAICT, new funding for committees (to address staff pay) have yet to come through. As I understand the process, even after money is appropriated (when the president signed the omnibus on March 15th), the House Admin Committee still has to report out a resolution that allocates the funds to the committees, which must then be passed by the House. (Here’s how that process works at the start of a new Congress.) House Admin hasn’t held a business meeting since mid-March, postponed the STOCK Act hearing to this week, and there’s no indication of a committee poll on this issue, so the Committee has yet to report out a resolution for consideration on the floor and thus the new funds haven’t gone to the committees for them to disburse to staff. Maybe there are other ways for a resolution to come to the floor, but I haven’t seen anything that looks like a funding resolution on

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Key Policy Provisions Included in the FY 2022 Legislative Branch Bill and Joint Explanatory Statement

President Biden signed the FY 2022 appropriations omnibus bill into law on March 15th, 2022. Included in the omnibus package was the FY 2022 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, which contains dozens of policy provisions that aim to strengthen congressional capacity, oversight, technology, and modernization. This legislation signifies a monumental investment in restoring the Legislative branch.

We and our civil society colleagues recommended dozens of items for inclusion in the bill text and committee report — see our FY 2022 Appropriations requests, FY 2022 appropriations testimony, and 2020 report on updating House Rules — many of which were considered and included.

As the FY 2023 appropriations process begins, this blogpost highlights some of the notable policy provisions reflected in the FY 2022 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bills. You can find the complete FY 22 Legislative Branch portion of the bill here and the Joint Explanatory Statement here. For resources on prior Legislative Branch Appropriations bills, go here.

We recently published a blogpost on the key funding items included in the FY 2022 Legislative Branch Bill. You can compare final line item funding for FY 21 versus FY 22 (and the proposals for FY 23) by looking at our spreadsheet. Please note that some agencies/entities are funded by more than one line on the spreadsheet.

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FY 2023 Leg Branch Approps Requests

We were curious about how the requests for the Legislative Branch for FY 2023 compared to prior years. So we took each line item for the requests published in the president’s budget for FY 2023 and compared it against the line items for FY 2022 and FY 2021. The following spreadsheet, which is also available online here, uses the raw data that we gathered by hand and does not adjust for inflation.

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