This week. We promised we’d take the week off from the newsletter, but we just can’t quit you. Please note that House subcommittee markups for the NDAA are happening this week and appropriations hearings are continuing. (See our appropriations tracker for the latest deadlines.) We understand the January 6th Committee will hold the first hearing in a series of eight at 8 PM EST on Thursday, June 9.
The Judiciary Committee at Work. The House Judiciary Committee held a markup on Thursday, June 2nd, focused on gun violence, entitled “Protecting our kids.” The proceedings were unusual in that they were scheduled when the House was in recess (although still holding pro forma sessions). Remote deliberations, whether hybrid or fully virtual, allow a committee to quickly respond to current events regardless of whether the chamber is in session. One big, and often unfair criticism, is that Congress is not “at work” when it is in recess, but the reality is remote deliberations allow members and committees to perform legislative work based upon exigent needs, not a travel schedule. Moreover, when Congress is able to act on time-sensitive matters, it prevents the erosion of its power to the Executive branch, which is a big issue for anyone who cares about the strength of our democracy.
War Powers Resolution. A war powers resolution that would end unauthorized U.S. military participation in the Saudi-led war in Yemen was introduced during the May 31st pro forma session, co-sponsored by dozens of members and enjoying broad support from civil society. Endorsing the proposition that Congress decides matters of war and peace is a BFD, as a former senator would say, and there’s great need to strengthen how Congress can exercise its rightful authority. If you want to know why this matters, look no further than Saturday’s blockbuster Washington Post report entitled, “Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen have been called war crimes. Many relied on U.S. support.” Despite the so-called end to US support for “offensive operations,” “maintenance contracts fulfilled by both the U.S. military and U.S. companies to coalition squadrons carrying out offensive missions have continued,” with airstrikes responsible for the vast majority of civilian deaths.
Pathways to Congressional Service are the focus of a forthcoming House Modernization Committee hearing on Wednesday, June 8th.
Gina Haspel, who went on to lead the CIA, personally witnessed the CIA torturing at least one detainee at a black site in Thailand — torture that she condoned, seemingly authorized, and oversaw — but refused to publicly answer questions concerning during her 2018 Senate confirmation hearing.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report, which investigated these unlawful and shocking CIA actions, had, in 2014, only the executive summary of the 6,900 page document released after two years of CIA foot-dragging around its declassification and in the wake of the CIA literally spying on Senate investigators.
The delays, and change in control of SSCI to Sen. Richard Burr, who made sure the Executive branch did not learn its lesson and aided them in preventing release of the report under FOIA — he later stepped down from that committee over an ethics investigation into insider trading — was part and parcel of an effort to keep its findings secret forever.
After significant public pressure, Pres. Obama made the report a presidential record, ensuring the report cannot be erased (many copies had been destroyed to avoid public disclosure) and will become eligible for declassification review starting in 2029. The report was completed in 2012, however, and the likely two decade-plus delay in release means that no lessons will be learned from its findings and no one held accountability. Why wait to start the declassification review and release process?
In light of all that transpired — the lying, the spying on congressional investigators, the use of classification to hide unlawful behavior, the destruction of records that empower accountability — Sen. Warner, the current chair of SSCI, should exercise his authority to push for its declassification and release now, a a decade after it was completed.
Bad news for democracy. A recent poll by the Southern Poverty Law Center found frighteningly high levels of popular approval for political violence, including approval of 1 in 5 for assassinating a politician who is “harming the country or our democracy.” The context for the poll was a review of popular support for the racist “great replacement” conspiracy theory. Senate Judiciary will hold a hearing on Tuesday on domestic terrorism and HSGAC will hold a hearing this Thursday on Domestic Extremism in America. The House will vote this week on a resolution sponsored by Rep. Bowman condemning the replacement conspiracy theory, according to BGOV ($) but not yet reflected in the weekly leader.
The insurrection bar to holding office. CRS has a new report on a Fourth Circuit opinion that held “a Reconstruction-era statute granting amnesty to former Confederates” does not bar application of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment against people who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States from holding certain federal government office. It is unclear whether the case is moot with the primary loss of Rep. Cawthorn. CRS notes that H.R. 1405 would authorize the US Attorney General to bring a civil action against government officeholders who have engaged in insurrection or rebellion.
AROUND THE CAPITOL HILL CAMPUS
Capitol Police Officer Arrested. The Justice Department announced the indictment of Capitol Police Officer Thomas Smith for “violating a man’s civil rights and for obstructing justice.” According to the DOJ allegations: “Smith drove his police vehicle in a reckless and dangerous manner and was deliberately indifferent to the risk of harm he created, which resulted in Smith crashing his car into the victim and injuring him. Smith then knowingly drove away from the scene of the crash without rendering aid, alerting medical authorities, and taking any other reasonable steps to obtain help for the victim. Following the crash, Smith falsified U.S. Capitol Police records to cover-up his misconduct.” According to the USCP, Smith was suspended without pay following the 2020 crash.
Unsettling arrest. According to the USCP, the Capitol Police arrested Jerome Felipe outside of the U.S. Capitol on June 3rd for possession of high capacity magazines and unregistered ammo. The USCP alleged that Felipe had a “fake badge, a BB gun, body armor, high capacity magazines and other ammunition.” The arrest came after Felipe, a retired New York Police officer, “presented the USCP officers with a fake badge that had ‘Department of the INTERPOL’ printed on it” and asserted he was a criminal investigator with INTERPOL.
Unions. BGOV reports ($) on open questions concerning House staff unionization, noting that many staff who advocated for House unionization still are unwilling to be publicly named because the regulations will not go into effect until July 18, a timeline the OCWR has the option to accelerate.
The second shift. Congressional staff are often arm-twisted into working for their boss’s campaigns without receiving additional compensation, Business Insider ($) reports.”Working 80-hour weeks, filling multiple roles, and adhering to far-from-black-and-white ethics rules are just a few of the challenges Capitol Hill staffers must overcome when the boss’ campaign needs help.”
ODDS & ENDS
Judicial review? The U.S. Code contains more than 650 provisions governing judicial review, and the Administrative Conference of the United States compiled a list of the statutory language, published it, and made suggestions to clean up the provisions to eliminate traps for the unwary.
Food for thought. The House’s first quarter Statement of Disbursements report is online. When the second quarter comes out, an enterprising person could calculate how many offices adjusted staff pay and by what amount in the wake of enactment of the FY22 appropriations bill. In the meantime, Politico crunched the numbers on how much money congressional offices spend on food.
National Action Plan. The Biden Administration hosted a public meeting on the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan on May 19th, and now has published online video and notes from the proceedings. Individuals and organizations interested in the co-creation process can learn more by visiting the National Action Plan website on USA.gov.
Susan Collins was the subject of a lengthy, gauzy WaPo profile (in the opinion section), but I am concerned because it did not mention that she is in line to be chair or RM of the Senate Appropriations committee or how she would approach that role.
• Pathways to Congressional Service — House Modernization Committee (Wednesday at 10 a.m.)
• Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress — semi-annual meeting (Friday at 10 a.m.)
Down the line
• Bulk Data Task Force — quarterly meeting (Tuesday, June 21 at 2 p.m.)