30 Years of Legislative Branch Appropriations: Data Spanning from 1994-2023 All In One Place

Each year, Congress allocates funding for the Legislative Branch entities through the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee. The Legislative Branch Appropriations bills direct congressional spending, line item by line item — but the instructions are not published as data and can run for dozens of pages, making it very difficult to see how appropriations spending has changed over the decades.

We have gone through all of the Legislative Branch spending bills for the last thirty years and lined up the spending items in a downloadable spreadsheet. The line item spreadsheet has sections for the House, Senate, and agencies, as well as tabs that adjust funding for inflation, allowing readers to see how spending on each line item has changed since 1994 in both constant and real dollars. 

Questions, comments, concerns? Reach out to [email protected]

First Branch Forecast for August 28, 2023: One more week


With only 12 working days after recess to avert a federal government shutdown, the interfactional dynamics of the House remain unchanged. Last week, the House Freedom Caucus once again saber-rattled about a government shutdown and declared their objection to being jammed in December.

The Senate also has conceded that this year’s farm bill will be late, too, pushing another significant legislative lift into the end-of-year scramble.

Meanwhile, House leadership is talking about the top priority when work resumes: impeachment.

Interested in offering an amendment to the House NDAA? Surprise: the deadline is August 30th.

What’s below:

  • The intersection of committee appointments and political power
  • A week focused on congressional technology
  • Ethics in Congress and the courts
  • The legacies of J6


Appropriations race. A bunch of Republican freshmen are chasing the soon-to-be-vacant appropriations seat of Rep. Chris Stewart, who is retiring from Congress on September 15. Also affected are Stewart’s seats on the Intel Committee and Judiciary Committees. Putting aside the Intel Committee spot, which is chosen by the Speaker but IMHO should not be, the process of how members get chosen to serve on committees is an incredibly important, fascinating, and hidden lever of power.

House Republicans are slightly more transparent than Democrats on this issue, publishing their list of Steering Committee members and the rules of their conference. House Democrats, by comparison, are publishing the rules of their caucus but have not publicly published their Steering and Policy Committee members. (We’ve previously looked at the question of who serves on the steering committee.) Incidentally, according to the House Democratic Caucus rules, there’s a separate set of rules for their steering and policy committee that are supposed to be in writing (see Caucus Rules 10(b)), but no one we’ve spoken with has ever seen those rules. We have begun to wonder whether they exist or are adhered to.

In the Senate, Democrats have published their conference rules here and listed the steering and outreach committee members here. Republicans, who historically have been on top of this, have apparently not re-upped publication of their conference rules — here’s what they had for the 117th — and I don’t know where to find a list of members of their Committee on Committees.

At least in the House, and especially for the Democrats, the steering committees are weighted towards leadership control, who get extra votes and name many members of the steering committee itself. It wasn’t always this way, in fact, at times leadership was largely locked out of the selection process. In the modern era, the Democratic Leader has obtained major control over this process. The Republican Leader, too, has significant control.

Political power in Congress rests on three legs: appointment to committees, control of the floor, and political fundraising. The story of how party leadership emerged and took control of these tools to aggregate and retain power is a fascinating one. (If you’re interested, Galloway’s History of the House of Representatives is a good, book-length place to start.) We have significant concerns that the over-centralization of power in the hands of a few people in the House is making it more unstable and less productive, which is why our sister organization Demand Progress released reports that recommend how to modernize those rules.

Both the chamber and the caucus/conference rules put limitations on who can serve on the various committees. The chamber rules have a light touch, but will say, for example, that committee membership must include someone who sits on another committee. The House routinely waives these requirements. The caucus/conference rules have additional restrictions and lay out a process by which people can self-nominate. The party will balance various factors, such as geographic diversity, seniority, and so on.

The caucus/conference rules are often waived and modified to serve the needs of leadership. They’re used as a discipline tool through which leadership punishes members who don’t toe the line. That’s often couched in terms of a member being in violation of some rule, but the rules in our time reflect the prerogatives of leadership to an extent that is unhealthy.

Naming Stewart’s replacement may rekindle Republicans’ discussion about the conference’s current term limit rules. The Huddle reported that the group may revisit the current rule of three terms as either chair or ranking member when naming Stewart’s successor because a number of current committee chairs would hit the limit after this Congress and would require a waiver to remain. This issue emerged when Rep. Virginia Foxx requested a waiver in January to remain Chair of the HELP committee. Holding firm on the current rules, of course, would benefit less senior members.

At times, what’s really happening with appointments is a fight between the different political factions within the party over whose allies get to serve in powerful positions. This is not necessarily an ideological fight, but rather that members of senior leadership have their own networks and seek to install their friends. Interestingly, the folks who hold senior leadership positions inside the party are often political rivals, although that’s papered over for public consumption. These networks are revealed to the extent you can figure out which members voted for which candidates for a committee, whether in the steering committee or a vote of the entire caucus/conference.

It’s notable that more junior members of the Republican caucus have been the most willing to organize to push back on leadership dominance, meaning reconsideration of chair/ranking term rules would create ripples within the broader dynamics of the caucus. Anyway, it’s interesting to see this process play out with respect to filling the vacant spot on appropriations, which is one of the few places a member can actually move any legislative ideas.

Continue reading “First Branch Forecast for August 28, 2023: One more week”

First Branch Forecast for August 21, 2023: The ides of August


Yes, friends, we’re headed for a continuing resolution in September. What’s left to be worked out is how long it will be for, at what levels, and the measures that will ride along on the bill. (Disaster relief? A pet project? It will be a fun surprise.) But wait, there’s more: a possible government shutdown. Will the CR be designed to jam members into voting for the appropriations bills? You betcha.

Trump’s indictment in Fulton County, Georgia, is notable because a president of the United States is being treated like any other citizen. (Read the annotated indictment here.) Fulton County’s behavior is a vast improvement over the deferential attitude shown by the Department of Justice.

Anyhoo, we also saw the indictment of former Rep. Mark Meadows, a co-founder of the Freedom Caucus that gained power and influence because of its understanding of the House rules and willingness to use them to exercise power. While we much prefer Rep. Justin Amash, another co-founder, the FC showed the way for members to use their procedural power to ensure they have a say in the Congress, a vital lesson other caucuses should learn.

For your calendar: The Library of Congress will hold its annual meeting on public-facing legislation information services, including Congress.gov, on Sept. 13. More info below.


Sen. McConnell is a cold warrior. That’s the gist, anyway, of a lengthy profile of the “declining” Senate Minority Leader in POLITICO. There’s not much of a discussion of how he’s shaped and led the Republican party and changed America — that’s apparently left for others.

Chinese spies hacked the campaign and personal email accounts of Rep. Don Bacon through the forging of Microsoft customer identities. While this was a sophisticated effort, it’s a reminder for everyone reading this newsletter — that means you — that your personal accounts are a gateway to your official information. Consider using two-factor authentication (like Authy, Google Authenticator, or a YubiKey, and not just text messages), a password manager to track all your passwords and make them more robust (we like 1Password), and Signal for your text messages. It won’t address a hack like this, but it will narrow the vulnerability window.

Should GAO have spelled out the ROI if agencies were to implement each of the GAO’s recommendations? The FAI’s Dan Lips argues yes, and points to legislation passed as part of the NDAA with such a requirement. Lips suggests the GAO missed an opportunity “to provide Congress with a detailed roadmap for cost-savings reforms” and urges the watchdog to “be open to making clear recommendations about areas to cut government programs.”

Don’t sleep on the Law Library of Congress, which just published a report on the safety and security of artificial intelligence systems. While the Congressional Research Service’s reports focus on domestic matters, the Law Library of Congress’s focus on international matters: in this instance, a survey of the safety and security of AI systems in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Uk, and the EU.

Which federal agencies are using AI? Marci Harris is keeping a list.

CBO scored S. 2073, Eliminate Useless Reports Act of 2023, at $0, which is good news for those who believe that federal agencies should identify outdated or duplicative reports in their congressional justifications.

Continue reading “First Branch Forecast for August 21, 2023: The ides of August”

First Branch Forecast for August 14, 2023: House HR help


Welcome to an abbreviated First Branch Forecast. We hope you’re on vacation and we’re looking forward to your creative OOO messages.


  • Congress shouldn’t create a new Pentagon slush fund, a commentary by William Hartung arguing that “using war spending to fund unrelated items was a bad idea during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it is a terrible idea now.”
  • Planning for the Next Emergencies, a white paper from the R Street Institute’s Jonathan Bydlak that discusses “the expansion of emergency powers and emergency spending” as flip sides of the same overspending coin Congress must address.
  • What does the GAO do? A podcast with Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, hosted by AEI’s Kevin Kosar.
  • Federal agencies often overlook federal territories, but new legislation aims to fix that


The House CAO’s Human Resources Hub announced the launch of new Member Office Career Paths, a career development resource for staff.

“Designed exclusively for House Member offices, this new resource provides career information for 16 Member office positions, organized within four primary career paths (Administrative, Communications, District, and Legislative).

House staff can use this resource as a guide to learn more about common Member office roles, responsibilities, and skills. Additionally, each career path contains helpful links to associated training opportunities and a host of potential career options.

The Office of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) is dedicated to providing and expanding innovative resources to address all the unique aspects of House staffers’ jobs as we help shape the future development of House staff.

House staff who are connected to the House network may visit the Member Office Career Paths page at CareerPaths.house.gov to learn more. Questions and comments may be submitted to the HR Hub Team” at [email protected].

Continue reading “First Branch Forecast for August 14, 2023: House HR help”

First Branch Forecast for August 7, 2023: Debt, Trump, and the Capitol Police


It’s still recessThis week, we cover:

  • The credit rating downgrade and how to get out of that hole
  • Lessons from the federal Trump insurrection prosecution
  • The bicameral hearing into problems at the Capitol Police
  • And a smattering of other issues.


Our political leaders have managed to talk the markets into downgrading the US credit rating because of the inane debt ceiling.

“The rating downgrade of the United States reflects the expected fiscal deterioration over the next three years, a high and growing general government debt burden, and the erosion of governance relative to ‘AA’ and ‘AAA’ rated peers over the last two decades that has manifested in repeated debt limit standoffs and last-minute resolutions.”

The proximate cause, we suspect, is the far right’s control over McCarthy and the flailing appropriations process. The Speaker is hostage to their whims and they’re using the debt ceiling for a variety of purposes. Some, it appears, may actually welcome the chaos of going over the cliff. Because negotiation with people who keep moving the goalposts is virtually impossible to successfully conclude, the result is a cycle of crisis and self-inflicted injury.

We also note that congressional Democrats, when they had the chance, did not push legislation to eliminate the debt ceiling, despite a range of options. Certainly those who wanted to do more had no help from Sen. McConnell, nor from Pres. Biden. Some of the fault can be laid at the feet of Manchin and Sinema — who did waive it once. There’s also a host of Democrats who are either afraid of the politics because of the public’s misunderstanding of what the debt ceiling is or foolishly welcome it as an austerity measure.

For an example of an austerity framework, look no further than Bezos’s Washington Post editorial board, which proposes that the way forward is to sacrifice the poor and elderly. There’s nary a mention of ending the Trump tax cuts, or the Bush tax cuts, reducing the trillions in tax expenditures, or the nearly a trillion in defense spending.

If you’ve been around for any time at all, you know that funding cuts that happen under a Democratic president are followed by tax cuts under a Republican president. No one is actually serious about cutting the debt, assuming that’s even a policy goal we would want to pursue. One result of this bait and switch dynamic: “19 of America’s biggest companies paid little — or zero — income tax.’” The fight, as far as I can tell, is about who bears the tax burden and what exactly is funded.

Rep. Brendan Boyle has one right answer to addressing the creditworthiness downgrade and the debt ceiling standoff: allow the Treasury to continue paying the debt unless the Congress passes a resolution of disapproval. This is a workable approach, although it still puts too much trust in the president. The best answer, for which Rep. Boyle also has introduced legislation, is eliminate the debt ceiling entirely. Instead of doing that, congressional leaders decided not to force the issue in the 117th, and now, in addition to a ticking time bomb, we have a series of future debt rating downgrades and higher costs to look forward to.

Continue reading “First Branch Forecast for August 7, 2023: Debt, Trump, and the Capitol Police”