First Branch Forecast for August 15, 2022: A call to arms


Recess. Barring emergencies, Congress is out until September. On Friday, the House passed the reconciliation package — the Inflation Reduction Act — which now goes to Pres. Biden for signature. The process by which this legislation was considered and enacted underscores the importance of allowing a bare majority to work its will and the structural problems that hamper majoritarian rule and force legislation to the political right.

Should congressional staff have a $45,000 minimum wage? If you poll voters, majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans agree that there should be a minimum salary floor for all congressional staffers according to a new Data for Progress poll. In fact, of likely voters, 56 percent support a pay floor while only 30 percent oppose. While the House has put in place a pay order setting the minimum wage at $45k, the Senate has increased funding available to offices but has not instantiated a minimum pay requirement.

What’s inside?
↣ Rising incidents of political violence, part of America’s long history of violence
↣ Securing member communications
↣ Congress’s oversight powers work in theory, but not in practice


The search warrant executed against ex-President Trump has some of his political allies calling for an investigation of the Justice Department, including Minority Leader McCarthy and Judiciary Ranking Member Jordan. It’s too soon to know the focus of the investigation — court filings suggest the loss, concealment, destruction, and mishandling of a variety of records concerning defense information specifically, government records generally, and records relating to a government investigation.  We do not know whether the Justice Department is taking other actions, which creates an information vacuum that many are rushing to exploit.

The Mar-a-Lago search is riling up Trump’s base, per Politico, and that base has effectively cowed many of the saner minds in the party. In the words of one anonymous senior House Republican, “If Trump decides to call them to arms, then I think he could get another Jan. 6.” A significant feature of Trumpism from the campaign on forward is increasing right-wing violence and threats of violence.

Violence is far from unknown in our political system, even if many of us have forgotten how common it was. Did you know that between 1830 and 1860 “there were more than seventy violent incidents between congressmen in the House and Senate chambers or on nearby streets and dueling grounds?” The use of violence and threats of violence as a political cudgel to silence oppositional voices is an age-old problem in the U.S., which we detail in the article behind that link; it’s often been used for authoritarian purposes to drive voices out of the conversation.

One modus operandi is stochastic terrorism, which we’ve written about before and is the focus of this recent Press Watch article. The short version: rhetoric that intentionally increases the likelihood of violence but you cannot necessary predict the specific individual who will become violent. Stand back and stand by, so to speak.


The FBI seized a Republican Member’s phone a day after the Mar-a-Lago raid, according to Fox News. Not just any Republican, but Scott Perry, the Freedom Caucus Chair. Again, this is a thorny issue. We don’t know whether it’s Perry’s work or personal device, but there’s a potential speech or debate clause issue, discussed in this CRS report that, ironically, you can get from but not the official CRS website.

TikTok and cybersecurity. The House Chief Administrative Officer sent a letter warning House staffers of the security concerns associated with TikTok last week. This admonition should be a ban. Moreover, the House should be doing its utmost to secure all official and non-official devices used by Members and staff.


Trump tax investigation. Trump’s tax records can, in fact, be obtained by the Ways and Means Committee, a federal appeals court ruled last week. This is cold comfort. The request for the records, governed by federal statute and likely headed to the Supreme Court, will evaporate should the House change political control. Trump has successfully stonewalled the request since April 2019. While we might have had a more timely result had Chair Richard Neal not delayed in making the original request, this illustrates why Congress must change the laws to ensure it gets timely answers to its information requests.

Speaker Pelosi extended proxy voting through September 26. It is apparent to everyone that proxy voting is not being used only for pandemic purposes. We’re not a fan of proxy voting per se, but remote or hybrid deliberations where members retain all their powers should be allowed on the floor during emergencies, during recess, and for individuals whose personal circumstance necessitate it. Members can be accountable to their constituents who can judge whether it is used appropriately.


Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler lost her primary last week, which is notable for our purposes because she’s the ranking Member of the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee.

Higher ed to the Hill. There’s a partisan divide in where staffers attended collegeLegiStorm reports. While Democratic staffers tend to attend college in the DC area, the top Republican undergrad schools are in Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas..

Federal salaries lag 22.5% below the private sector new report conducted by the Federal Salary Council finds.

Parliamentary library conference. The Parliaments section of the International Federation of Library Associations held a conference on how library and research services provide value for parliaments last month.

Old Capitol stones on the move. Stones from the Capitol’s original East Front that have sat in DC’s Rock Creek Park since the ‘70s are now being moved to storage in Maryland.


Progressive talent pipeline. Are you a progressive thinker, communicator, or organizer interested in working in Congress or the executive branch? The Progressive Talent Pipeline is now accepting applications for its 2022 round of endorsements. The program identifies, trains, and recommends candidates for staff roles in order to bring new perspectives and energy into government and advance progressive priorities.

The House Digital Service seeks a software engineer, aka Digital Service Expert. Applications close August 20.