First Branch Forecast for August 29, 2022: Letter of Note


This week, recess continues.

Last week saw two big announcements from the White House: (1) the partial student loan forgiveness program, which incidentally could help 2,000 staffers (or more!) on the hill, and (2) making federally-funded research free and publicly available, which will improve the availability of information for policymaking deliberations.

You didn’t ask us, but congressional student loan repayment assistance should be centrally administered, available to all regardless of the view of a particular member, and not subject to clawback if a staffer moves on.

Pay your interns. On the topic of centrally administered programs — did you like that segue? — check this opinion piece from my colleague Taylor Swift and Pay Our Intern’s Habiba Mohamed that calls for the creation of a House Intern Resource Office.

Mark your calendars. The Library of Congress announced its next virtual public forum on will be held this September 21 from 1:30 to 4:30 PM. To attend you must RSVP online. The Library also has an online feedback form for those who wish to submit comments individually. See you there.

They’re running. Reps. Jamie Raskin, Gerry Connolly, and Steven Lynch have all announced they’re running to succeed Rep. Carolyn Maloney as top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. This committee, which grew out of the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments, and itself was created from 11 separate House committees that oversaw government spending, is rooted in House committee efforts to oversee federal spending that go back at least to 1814.

Whistleblower powers. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced legislation last week, the Congress Leads by Example Act of 2022 (H.R. 8743), to grant Legislative branch employees greater whistleblower and other antidiscrimination protections for occupational safety and health complaints. The bill would put into effect recommendations from the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights to:

  • Bring the Legislative branch in line with the legal requirements of private sector employers and the Executive branch;
  • Provide subpoena authority to OCWR to conduct inspections and investigations into OSHA violations;
  • Prohibit Legislative branch offices from making adverse employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s wage garnishment or involvement in bankruptcy proceedings; and
  • Bolster the CAA’s recordkeeping requirements.


Caught our eye. The House Ethics Cmte dismissed the Office of Congressional Ethics’ referral of Rep. John Rutherford for allegedly failing to report certain financial transactions. (Ironically, Rep. Rutherford is a member of the House Ethics Committee). The dismissal was odd, as was this language in their press release: “The Committee takes the statutory financial disclosure requirements and its oversight of them very seriously. It is working to address various programmatic issues raised by the referral and will publicly address them at a later date.” (emphasis added). I wonder what this means.


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.


We’ve been reading History of the House of Representatives by George Galloway, and it included this 1974 letter from Rep. David Obey to a constituent about how he spent his time. I won’t retype the whole thing, but here are some of my favorite snippets:

Dear Art:

I received your note in which you state that Congress was in session 180 days last year and wondering what I did the other 185.

Anyone who assumes that a member of Congress is only working when he is on the House floor is either a charter member of the flat-earth society or he is just about as uninformed about the legislative process as I would be about business if I suggested that the only time a hardware dealer is working is when he is standing behind the cash register.

Time spent on the House floor represents a small portion of the working day of any member of Congress and I am sure you know that….

Art, if you still think that a member of Congress has such a soft life and if you wonder what we do on these so-called “vacations”-as they are euphemistically called by some-I would invite you to travel with me through the 7th District on my next so-called vacation”….

The worst problem is that by the time we attend hearings, meet with every group in sight who wants to talk with us about legislation and meet with every group at home ranging from mayors and county boards, to private citizens, we have previous little time to do what is more important-to think and read about problems that we have been sent here to deal with in the first place.

The second thing which is incredibly time-consuming is the necessity to respond to the over 50,000 letters a year which come into this office. Most of them are legitimate letters asking questions or expressing opinions on issues facing the country but more and more these days, we’re also finding some that represent downright foolishness from people like yourself who should know better.


Down the line

The FOIA Advisory Committee will hold public meetings on September 8 and 14.

Library of Congress virtual public forum on, set for September 21 from 1:30 to 4:30 PM. and submit comments here.

Law reform. The Seventh International Conference on Legislation and Law Reform, a conversation about how laws are written in the US and around the world, will be held November 3 and 4 in-person in DC. Register here.