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, 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.


Members of Congress are using campaign contributions to repay really old loans they made to past campaigns, Roll Call reports. Not discussed in this article is that Members of Congress can loan money to their campaigns at whatever rate they desire and are under no obligation to disclose these details. It can be a real moneymaker. Legislation in 2014, the MERIT Act, would have addressed this and many other loopholes. The original sponsor, Rep. Jackie Speier, has since retired, so any member of Congress could pick up the mantle on this important ethics bill.

Does Sen. Tuberville reside in Alabama or in Florida? The answer appears to be the latter, at least according to one account. Whether you agree with the Post’s analysis, did you know an amendment offered by Sens. Klobuchar and Cruz to the NDAA would make it impossible to do this kind of reporting, empowering Florida’s third senator to order residential information off the internet and out of databases?

Rep. Ronny Jackson was caught on video behaving badly and also was possibly the victim of law enforcement using unnecessary force. News accounts make it appear that Jackson got into an alpha male contest with a state trooper concerning treatment of a teenager in medical distress. Whatever the details, it’s not a good look for the volatile representative, who, as the Washington Post points out, had previously “bullied his staff, made inappropriate sexual comments about a female subordinate and exhibited an array of other concerning behavior,” per a DOD IG report. Will the Ethics Committee be asked to investigate?

Samuel Meile, a former fundraiser for Rep. George Santos, was indicted for impersonating Dan Meyer, Speaker McCarthy’s chief of staff. The impersonation was first reported here.


Congressional Committee Calendar

~ Monday ~

The House Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosts a virtual resume review from 1:00-2:00. Register for the event here.

~ Down the road ~

Internapalooza, a free, non-partisan orientation and welcome event for all interns, scheduled for September 11RSVP. forum from1-3 PM ET on September 13, hosted by the Library of Congress. RSVP for in-person or online attendance. This is the annual meeting, directed by appropriators, whereby the LC discusses its role in providing access to legislative information. See our recaps of the 20222021, and 2020 meetings. You can find our story on the announcement here.

Attorney General Merrick Garland is scheduled to testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee on September 20.

The Ridenhour Prizes, which celebrate whistleblowers, documentarians, and authors in support of government transparency and accountability, will hold its annual gala on October 25 at 6 PMSubscribe to this link for ticket information.

Are you planning, organization, or simply know about a cool event we missed? Just hit reply and let us know.