Members of Congress on Mastodon

Fourteen years ago, an organization I was involved with pushed to change congressional rules to allow members of Congress onto Twitter. Like many of the starry-eyed democracy and technology efforts of that era, we saw the potential upside — closing the gaps between elected officials and the people they represent, allowing movements to push their governments to liberalize their policies — but we did not anticipate the potential downside, especially how Twitter would weaponize its algorithms to elevate the worst in people in pursuit of “engagement” and money.

Twitter became, in part, the crossroads between politicians, journalists, civil society, and notable individuals in our society. But it has become a toxic cesspool that aided the rise of authoritarianism.

For many years social entrepreneurs have sought to elevate the virtues of micro-blogging platforms while ameliorating the downside. The Fediverse, and Mastodon most notable, is one such example.

A forthcoming blogpost will address some of the many lessons we’ve learned since the early days of “let our Congress tweet,” especially how the Congress — and the federal government writ large — should support engagement on those platforms.

For now, we’re tracking as Members of Congress, congressional committees, leadership offices, and non-partisan legislative branch offices make the plunge onto Mastodon.

Our spreadsheet listing elected officials on Mastodon is below and available at this link. We are working to verify congressional offices so that we can confirm it is an official account. We verify the account either by receiving an email from an official congressional address to my email account, [email protected], or if they’ve updated their Twitter bio to include their official Mastodon email address.

Demand Progress and Lincoln Network Issue Bipartisan House Rules Recommendations Calling for Rebalancing Power in the 118th Congress

The progressive grassroots policy advocacy organization Demand Progress and the right-leaning technology nonprofit Lincoln Network have joined forces to urge the House of Representatives to adopt modern rules that improve congressional transparency, oversight, technology, and more. The bipartisan recommendations issued today by the two groups emphasize changes to House Rules that give more power to the rank-and-file members to shape legislation. 

The recommendations are timely, as the House Rules Committee hears today from members concerning the Rules they want adopted at the start of the 118th Congress in January. 

“There’s too much concentrated power in congressional leadership, which distorts the legislative process and stifles collaboration by members who share common interests,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress. “These common-sense recommendations restore balance in the House so that all members can meaningfully engage in policymaking.”

“The Rules the House enacts will shape how Congress will function and who will have power,” said Zach Graves, executive director of Lincoln Network. “It’s important to democratize the House so more rank-and-file members have a say in the legislation that gets considered and so that committees don’t have their roles usurped by leadership. All members are elected to Congress and each one has a duty and obligation to represent their constituents.”

The package of bipartisan Rules recommendations identifies improvements the House should adopt to improve transparency of legislative information, internal operations and scheduling, congressional efficiency and oversight, congressional security, congressional capacity and staff, and ethics, as well as which Rules to retain from the previous two Congresses. 

Continue reading “Demand Progress and Lincoln Network Issue Bipartisan House Rules Recommendations Calling for Rebalancing Power in the 118th Congress”

Recs on Making GovInfo More Transparent, Useful, & Accessible

In response to the White House’s announcement of an open government engagement session on increasing federal data access and utility, Demand Progress Education Fund submitted these recommendations for making government information more transparent, useful, and accessible.

Continue reading “Recs on Making GovInfo More Transparent, Useful, & Accessible”

Special First Branch Forecast for November 28, 2022: Rules Rules Rules

This week is a big week for party leadership elections and party and chamber rules. We realize we just sent our weekly First Branch Forecast newsletter Monday morning, but this update is both important and timely.

As a reminder, we’ve gathered resources on proposals to update the caucus and conference rules. Also, don’t forget our compilation of recs to update the House chamber rules and the Senate chamber rules.


House Rules. The House Rules Committee meets tomorrow for a Member Day hearing on the House Rules. Presumably, proposals will be published here. Tomorrow morning, Demand Progress and the Lincoln Network will jointly release bipartisan recommendations for updating the House’s rules. Stay tuned.


House Democratic Leadership. House Dems start holding elections for caucus leadership on Wednesday at 9 a.m., according to BGOV. No competitive races at the top. Punchbowl expects the new triumvirate + Clyburn will be elected by unanimous consent. Down ballot will be decided later, as will committee appointments.

— We continue to ask: why aren’t the Dem Policy and Steering Committee membership list and rules publicly available?

House Democratic Caucus Rules. Dems to vote on proposed changes to caucus rules on Wednesday. The proposals aren’t publicly available (argh!) but Punchbowl has obtained them, which we’ve republished here.

— Demand Progress Education Fund released a detailed list of proposed amendments to the caucus rules to bring needed transparency and accountability.

Proposed amendments go before the secretive Committee on Caucus Procedures on Monday afternoon — chaired by Grace Meng, regarding which there’s no public list of members. The Committee’s purpose is not to propose rules changes of their own, but to review and make recs on the proposed amendments. The full Caucus will vote on Wednesday.

— What are the 11 proposed amendments? The following are my summaries. By the way, the amendments most likely to provide the rank-and-file more of a voice in the policymaking process are amendment #9 and amendment #10, of which the former lessens leadership control and the latter lessens committee chair control & rules committee control.

  • Amendment 1. Implements ranked choice voting for contested caucus elections. (Beyer)
  • Amendment 2. Allows the caucus to vote by 2/3s of its members to waive the requirement that the Caucus vote by secret ballot to approve or disapprove the [Steering and Policy Committee chosen] nominee to chair a standing committee (Eshoo)
  • Amendment 3. Requires a secret standing committee chair retention election whereby a chair who wishes to serve more than 6 years needs an affirmative vote from a majority of the caucus. (Foster)
  • Amendment 4. Democratic Leader nominates the chair of the DCCC by Feb 15; caucus votes on that nomination (and any others made by 5 caucus members) by March 1. (Current rule doesn’t have the leader make a recommendation.) (DelBene, Schneider, Pocan)
  • Amendment 5. Creates the position of Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. (Cicilline)
  • Amendment 6. Creates another party position akin to the regional reps, the Battleground Leadership Representative, elected by a majority vote of “Battleground Members.” (Lee)
  • Amendment 7. Allows members who temporarily serve on a committee to gain seniority over other members who also have temporarily served on the committee. (Kelly)
  • Amendment 8. I don’t understand this amendment. I think it allows a member whose bid, made in order of seniority, to serve as a subcommittee chair was rejected by the committee to stand for another election before the committee for that position, this time against everyone who has declared themselves interested in the subcommittee chair spot. (Sherman)
  • Amendment 9. Significantly increases rank-and-file influence on the currently-Speaker/leadership controlled Steering and Policy Committee by doubling the numbers of regional representatives and reducing the number of members who get to serve on the committee by virtue of their office. Specifically, it would allow for two representatives from each region instead of one, reduce the number of members appointed by the Speaker to 5 from 15, and eliminate the ex officio appointments of the senior chief deputy whip, all chief deputy whips, a member of the freshman class, and some committee chairs. (Case)
  • Amendment 10. Improves the ability of rank-and-file to get legislation considered in committees and on the floor. Requires committee chairs to markup any bill co-sponsored by both a majority of the Democratic Caucus and a majority of Democratic members of the committee of jurisdiction. Also requires Democratic Leadership to bring to the floor any bill cosponsored by two-thirds of the Democratic Caucus. (Larson)
  • Amendment 11. Directs the Caucus to provide technical support for Members to participate in hybrid/remote caucus proceedings and also to ensure that the meetings are secure. (Jackson Lee)
Continue reading “Special First Branch Forecast for November 28, 2022: Rules Rules Rules”

First Branch Forecast for November 28, 2022: Stopping by Congress


The next House will be symmetrical to this one: 222 Democrats becoming 222 Republicans. The incoming coalition, however, is a lot less stable than the outgoing one. How Rep. Kevin McCarthy navigates the complex journey to the speakership could break either way for the institutional health of Congress. Meanwhile, Democrats, like good Thanksgiving guests, are in full conflict avoidance mode within their caucus.

This week, The Senate returns on Monday and will vote on cloture for the Respect for Marriage Act. The House returns on Tuesday. It looks like a light legislative week in the people’s chamber even as the clock ticks down on many important legislative efforts, big and small.

The House Rules Committee will hold a Members’ Day hearing Tuesday to gather rules change proposals for the 118th Congress. House and Senate Democrats will vote on their caucus rules Thursday.


We’ve been focused on the House Freedom Caucus and the rest of the hard-right faction as it positions itself for greater influence in the 118th Congress. It’s hardly the only faction, or even the largest, in the GOP conference, however. Politico last week reported on how party “moderates” and some Democrats are considering utilizing their own leverage, particularly as Rep. Kevin McCarthy plays 17-dimensional chess to secure enough votes for the Speakership. They may be looking for potential rules or committee structure changes, which is intriguing.

The story is a reminder that the tactical posturing of establishing the 118th Congress represents real rifts developing between some key constituencies in the Republican Party and for some Democratic “moderates.” Republicans who see themselves representing white Christian conservatives have broken with corporate America over companies becoming “woke” on social equity issues that affect both public reputations and employee satisfaction. Their constituents, especially the wealthy mega-donors and grassroots donors, want control of the party for their decades of commitment as its activist base. But they’re running up against very powerful and wealthy (corporate) interests that are used to political dominance.

Perhaps the first problem the Problem Solvers Caucus might end up solving is the HFC.

Continue reading “First Branch Forecast for November 28, 2022: Stopping by Congress”

First Branch Forecast for November 21, 2022: Twilight of the Idols


Last week, the transition of leadership in the Democratic caucus of the House grabbed the spotlight even as control of the House finally flipped. Off stage, we started tracking whether an institutional transition is underway from the current party/leader management structure.

Splinter groups of Republicans in both chambers are dissatisfied with their subordinate positions and could be driving towards a different model of power sharing and deliberation within their conferences, beginning in the next Congress. Similarly, many Democrats — progressive and otherwise — share a similar frustration, if not the same tactics, and we will see in the coming weeks whether their calls for institutional change will be implemented within the caucus.

For our part, today we’re publicly releasing a report containing recommendations for House Democrats to update their caucus rules. Most of these recommendations are common-sense, heck, if you like this newsletter you’ll like most of the ideas, although somehow leadership has managed to overlook some of our prior efforts to nudge things in a better direction. House Democrats are expected to vote in a week on their caucus rules, with draft amendments due by the end of this week.

We also published a list of House rules adopted in the 116th and 117th Congresses that should continue on to the 118th. The Freedom Caucus has talked about reverting the House rules to before Democratic control, which would be a mistake in many instances. It would also be a political blunder. We’ll soon be releasing a comprehensive list of what Republicans should include in their chamber rules.

Sorry, friends, but you know we love the rules stuff. In fact, we’ve put together this wiki page that has all the caucus and conference rules we could find plus the text of the 24 proposed amendments to the 118th Republican conference rules. (Confidential to Sen. Schumer: it’s time for Senate Dems to publish their caucus rules.) ICYMI, FreedomWorks hosted this excellent event last Monday with many of the leading lights in the effort to decentralize power in the Republican party — we loved the statement that there are now three parties in the House: Democrats, Republicans, and Freedom Caucus. And I enjoyed serving as a panelist for the Lincoln Network’s look at modernizing the House on Thursday, which, alas, was not recorded.

Some of why we’re optimistic about the potential for a Congress that shares power more widely was on display last week in several committee hearing rooms, where members demonstrated mutual respect and an interest in understanding complex issues collaboratively at hearings before the Rules Committee and the House Modernization Committee.

THIS WEEK Congress takes a week-long break for Thanksgiving, with a few hearings scheduled.

Oh, and the number of Members of Congress on Mastodon has grown by 300%, to 3. If your boss/committee/office is setting up an account, please let me know.

Continue reading “First Branch Forecast for November 21, 2022: Twilight of the Idols”

Recs to Update the House Democratic Caucus Rules for the 118th Congress

We are pleased to release our recommendations to House Democrats on modernizing their caucus rules. The House Democratic Caucus rules provide the framework for how Democrats in the House of Representatives organize their Caucus. They address how they choose their leaders and committee members, identify their priorities, and express their values.

With the transition in leadership of the House Democratic Caucus, there are significant opportunities for the rules to further communicate Democratic values and shape the Caucus’s operations. In our view, Caucus rules should reflect the values of the members and the voters who elected them.

Demand Progress Education Fund has compiled a set of “low-hanging fruit” recommendations, broken into five sections, focused on making the Caucus more equitable, transparent, and democratic. A sixth section, entitled “empowering all members of the caucus,” addresses improved power sharing among leadership, committees, and the rank-and-file.

A hyperlink to Demand Progress Education Fund's Recommendations for House Democratic to Modernize their Caucus Rules

The 118th House Rules Package Should Retain Fixes From the 116th and 117th Congresses

Written by Taylor J. Swift

The conservative House Freedom Caucus issued a 52-page guide to new GOP candidates last month on what they’ll face as freshman members, with recommendations for updating the rules for the chamber and for the party, and the conservative Lincoln Network just published their own recommendations for the rules and procedures the House should adopt at the start of the 118th Congress.

The Freedom Caucus’ guide is an excellent outline of what new members will expect and accurately summarizes the chamber’s power dynamics. It contains thoughtful recommendations for rule modernization, which is an opportunity for the incoming majority to control its flow of operations and distribute power. The Lincoln Network’s recommendations highlight a number of reforms to strengthen the people’s chamber. However, one Freedom Caucus proposal, to wipe clean the rules enacted by Democrats over the last four years, is misguided. 

The following is a partial list of the House rules and standing orders, enacted over the last four years, that we believe a Republican majority should retain should they gain power. These nonpartisan rules improve the House’s operations and support a more transparent, efficient, ethical, and accountable legislative body. For a summary of the rules adopted over the last four years, see these resources for the 116th and 117th Congresses. 

Committee Operations

Member Hearing Days: Each standing committee is required to hold a Member Day Hearing during the first session of Congress to hear testimony from any Member of the House on proposed legislation within its jurisdiction. The House Rules Committee was empowered to hold its Member day in the second session to receive testimony on proposed standing rules changes.

Amendment Availability: The 117th House Rules made amendments adopted by their committees publicly available within 24 hours by requiring all other amendments – which includes failed or withdrawn amendments – to be posted within 48 hours of their disposition or withdrawal. This requirement does not apply to amendments not offered.

Electronic Vote Availability: The 117th House Rules modernized the requirement for committees to make the results of record votes publicly available by removing the requirement that they be made available to the public for in-person inspection in committee offices. Committees will still be required to make the results of record votes publicly available electronically within 48 hours of the vote.

Electronic Filing of Reports and Electronic Signatures: 117th House Rules Subsection (l) authorizes electronic filing of committee reports, which was temporarily allowed by House Resolution 965 of the 116th, and allows electronic signatures to be used for signed views in committee reports and for select forms received by the Committee on Ethics. Reports received electronically will be processed as otherwise provided in rule XIII, and committees filing electronic reports should continue to consult with the Clerk regarding proper format and other administrative requirements.

Truth-In-Testimony Reform: The 117th House Rules amended the disclosure requirements for witnesses appearing in nongovernmental capacities by: (1) adding grants to the reporting requirement for foreign payments; (2) expanding the lookback period for reporting to 36 months; (3) requiring witnesses to disclose whether they are the fiduciary of any organization or entity with an interest in the subject matter of the hearing; and (4) requiring, to the extent practicable, the disclosures be made publicly available 24-hours prior to the witness’s appearance at a hearing. The subsection also updates the text of clause 2(g)(5) of rule XI for clarity. The House is also working to modernize its Truth-in-Testimony documents and to make the information they contain available online in a central database.

Remote Deliberations for Committees: House Committees are allowed to hold hearings and markups where some or all members participate remotely by videoconference. This allows for witnesses from all around the world to testify and for members who are not physically present to participate in the proceedings. This allows for the scheduling of proceedings when the House otherwise would not be in session; expands the times when less popular committees can hold their meetings so that members are more able to attend; and creates significantly more flexibility should an emergency arise.

Continue reading “The 118th House Rules Package Should Retain Fixes From the 116th and 117th Congresses”

First Branch Forecast for November 14, 2022: Who’s the Boss?

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We still don’t know many things after Tuesday’s congressional elections, including who will control the House of Representatives. It appears at the moment that Republicans can do no better than a two-seat majority in the House, and winning control is not guaranteed. Democrats will retain control of the Senate, and, pending a run-off, may be able to exit the power-sharing agreement with McConnell and take charge (to the extent the filibuster lets them do so).

One thing we do know is the current status quo is over. Congressional majorities haven’t been this slim in both the House and Senate since 1931-32 (which, of course, didn’t last long). This election is bizarre in historical terms. As James Fallows points out, “Every first-term president since World War II (except one) has suffered midterm election losses,” with an average loss of 30 House seats. By those metrics, this was a modest blue wave, albeit one tempered by the structural disadvantages in how districts for House members are constructed. It also suggests something new is happening within the plate tectonics of our political system.

The resulting razor thin margin in this era of high partisan polarization leaves us thinking of the myriad unknowns going forward in the near and longer term for Congress and the federal government. Rifts between hard-line conservatives and Republican leadership in both chambers already have opened up, as has Democratic infighting over messaging and resourcing of candidates.

Continue reading “First Branch Forecast for November 14, 2022: Who’s the Boss?”

First Branch Forecast for November 7, 2022: The Longest Weekend

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The fallout from the attempted murder of Paul Pelosi reverberates as Americans go to the polls. Those charged with protecting Members of Congress have asked for even more money while the proximate cause of security failures — bad leadership, bad management, bad oversight — remain unaddressed. As some on the new right escalate and make light of political violence, its likelihood increases.

This week Americans elect a new Congress.

Staff pay. The House Chief Administrative Officer circulated a new analysis of pay for congressional staff, comparing average annual salary ranges for 2022 v. 2021 based on third-quarter pay rates. For the positions compared, the average salary increased by 23%, from $67,420 to $82,849. This significant increase reflects a tremendous House commitment to restore pay levels for staff to their 2010 levels, as they had been cut mercilessly in the intervening years. We also note that no staffer in a House personal office surveyed is paid below the floor of $45,000 annually, which was not true previously. The analysis only covers personal office staff and does not include committee or leadership positions. The details are here.

Mastodon. The great #TwitterRapture, or perhaps #ElonExit, is taking place, with Mastodon now hosting 4.5 million accounts and 1.3 million active users and growing at a fast pace. When will Members of Congress, committees, leadership, and non-partisan offices open up accounts? Will there be an official congressional “instance,” such as So far the only congressional account we saw was for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and that retweets her Twitter account. Know any congressional offices on Mastodon? Let us know here. The unofficial tally is here. I’m online here. Is this all a good idea? I’m old enough to have worked at the Sunlight Foundation when it ran a campaign called “Let Our Congress Tweet.” There’s definitely a lot of lessons learned. OTOH, at least one government has jumped in.

Down the line, Congress will reconvene on Nov. 14, with the Senate scheduled to take up the NDAA. House Republicans will hold conference rules and leadership elections through the week of the 14th. The House Modernization Committee will vote on its final set of recommendations Nov. 17. Democratic leadership elections look likely at the end of the month, or perhaps later.

Continue reading “First Branch Forecast for November 7, 2022: The Longest Weekend”