The Capitol Police Board has regulations governing firearms, explosives, incendiary devices and other dangerous weapons which specify that no person shall carry any firearm inside the chamber or on the floor of either House.
The full regulations can be seen in the following image, which has been transcribed as text at the end of this article.
Today armed Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an apparent and temporarily successful effort to disrupt the vote to certify the 2020 presidential election results. Members, staff, and journalists were forced to hide throughout the terrifying ordeal and many took to Twitter asking the fundamental questions: Where are the Capitol Police and how could this happen?
The U.S. Capitol Police is the security-force/police-department hybrid tasked with keeping Congress safe and open for business. The little-known department has a budget that exceeds $515 million for FY 2021— constituting almost 10% of Legislative branch funding — and nearly 2,450 employees, around 2,000 of whom are sworn officers. The size of the Capitol Police’s budget can compete with major municipal police forces such as San Antonio’s, which is responsible for a population of 1.5 million, and USCP’s workforce size eclipses that of major city departments like New Orleans and Miami. Notably, their extended jurisdiction covers less than 2 square miles, and there are many other police and security forces in Washington, D.C.
How is the department using those resources to enforce the law and protect the Congress? It is difficult to say because the Capitol Police are infamously opaque. Only in response to significant outside agitation did we obtain any details about their operations. For example, the department started posting weekly arrest summaries in December 2018, following prodding from civil society and congressional overseers. These summaries are among the limited information the department shares publicly — although we have reason to suspect they are not complete, among other shortcomings.
The House Rules package for the 117th Congress has been approved and all the juicy details are in Monday’s Congressional Record. Don’t have time to comb through the 50+ dense pages? We’ve got you covered with a handy index of what’s included:
Resolution adopting the rules of the House for the 117th Congress H. Res. 8
Chair Announcements on 1. floor privileges 2. introduction of bills and resolutions 3. unanimous consent requests for the consideration of legislation 4. 1-minute speeches 5. recognition for special order speeches 6. decorum in debate 7. conduct of votes by electronic device 8. use of handouts on the House floor 9. use of electronic equipment on the House floor 10. Use of the Chamber 11. Conduct during a covered period
Senate appropriators released their Fiscal Year 2021 Legislative Branch spending bill proposal back in November — more than a month into the fiscal year. How does their pitch stack up against the House numbers released in July?
To find commonalities and differences in funding, we created a side by side comparison, including dollar and percent differences, available online here and embedded below. Please note the below data does not factor in continuing resolutions keeping the lights on until a final FY 2021 spending agreement is enacted.
Agreement? House and Senate appropriators reached a bipartisan agreement last Tuesday on the 302b numbers — the amount of funding available for each appropriations subcommittee — but LOL, we won’t know these numbers until the bill is released. Is there a path to completing the omnibus on time? Kevin McCarthy announced he will oppose the deal ($) because it does not follow the (pre-COVID) 2019 budget cap agreement. So much for a veto-proof vote?
Senate committees are in limbo, including the ratio of majority to minority staff, awaiting the resolution of two senatorial elections in Georgia. WaPo’s Paul Kane described the consequences of three headless committees that can’t hold confirmation hearings, a senator who may lose his job for two days, and the potential for a lot of confusion. We previously wrote about how Senate committees get their funding and their funding levels, and CRS has more on historic ratios of Senators on committees.
The next two months will be a legislative train wreck. On deck are the FY 2021 spending bills, COVID relief, the NDAA, and a ton of pent-up legislation. Notably, Republican Senators finally released draft text for the FY 2021 spending bills with less than a month until a shutdown. In addition, new Members are in the middle of orientation, Senators just voted on leadership rosters and House Dems will be voting remotely on theirs, disputed Committee Chairs and party rules will be decided in short order, and on the horizon are a new House rules package and legislative planning for the 117th Congress… assuming any legislation moves.
Well, that’s settled. President Trump backhandedly recognized Pres. Biden’s election in a tweet this weekend that simultaneously falsely contested the election results as a “rigged.” He reversed himself in a subsequent tweet. Elections rumble on in Georgia while the incoming Biden administration is blocked from engaging with the agencies and getting classified briefings; also congressional Republican leadership still won’t publicly acknowledge Pres.-elect Biden.
Amid the COVID tsunami, the House Admin Committee certified the existence of secure tech tool for remote voting; the next step is the House Rules Committee promulgating regulations. The report is worth a read: it acknowledged problems with proxy voting; outlined steps the House took to support electronic processes; and covered the tremendous amount of work that’s happening remotely. It outlines a welcome process change: public reporting of floor votes in real time. Speaker Pelosi has not been a huge fan of remote voting, but maybe the increasing tempo required for legislating and the metastasizing pandemic will change her mind. We’ve been all over this issue: check out our resources page on Continuity of Congress and our many reports. In the meantime, the emergency proxy voting period has been extended through the end of the year.
Dinner theater. I probably shouldn’t highlight this, but House leadership had planned a nice dinner for new Members in Statuary Hall before receiving blowback because having Members eating together inside is not only poorly advised, it’s bad messaging. Please stay safe, everyone.
Before we jump in, if you’re new to our newsletter or are reading a forwarded email, why not subscribe? Also, don’t hesitate to drop us a line.
Congratulations on making it through Election Week. We’re going to walk through what to expect during the interregnum and beyond, but first, if you’re new to our little newsletter or are reading a forwarded email, why not subscribe?
THE TOP LINE
In an unusual election cycle, President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris have yet to be acknowledged as the winners of the presidential race by congressional Republican leaders (e.g. Sen. McConnell and Rep. McCarthy) amid Pres. Trump’s intentionally false claims of voter fraud and that he won the election — and Pres. Trump’s long standing unwillingness to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Somehow Democrats appear to have lost seats (largely more conservative Democrats) in the House despite massive fundraising and winning the presidential tally by 4 million votes; Dems also managed to narrow control in the Senate without taking over (with two races — in Georgia! — outstanding).
But you know all this. The apparent Democratic failure to take control of the Senate is unusual in historical terms, as an incoming president usually has a majority. While some say Senate Republicans will largely acquiesce to President-elect Biden on his nominees in light of a long history of Senate deference, others argue that Biden will need to pick folks who meet Republican litmus tests and should narrow his vision accordingly. There’s a third option: Biden can use recess appointments and the Vacancy Act to circumvent a Senate buzzsaw. With our majoritarian Senate, option 3 is the path of least resistance, although it reinforces historic trends of undermining Congress’s powers.
But that’s a fight for January 20th and there’s a lot that must happen in the next 72 days. There’s new member orientation, leadership elections, committee assignments, appropriations expiring on December 11th, a possible COVID economic relief bill, the NDAA, dozens of bills that are ready to become laws, and the adoption of House rules. Oh, and Congress has to certify the election results. LOL.
With so much attention on what will happen when voting wraps up tomorrow, our little newsletter will stay focused on what comes next. (But we will cover implications for Congress if, as Axios suggests is already in the works, Pres. Trump prematurely claims victory and tries to undermine vote counting.)
Money problems. Sen. McConnell said there won’t be a COVID deal during the lame duck, which comes after he told the White House he wouldn’t support a deal before the election. He’s likely protecting his members from taking tough votes that could hurt them in 2022 and trying to set up the next administration for failure. None of this bodes well for when the CR ends on December 11th. What will Sen. McConnell be focused on instead… do you have to ask?
Musical chairs. AFAICT, leadership races and chair elections are set for November. House Dems will hold caucus elections on Nov. 18-19, with contested committee races on Nov. 30. We don’t know the timing for everyone else, but we expect our journalist friends to cover that shortly in their curtain-raisers.
Fixing Congress. House Admin published a handful of Clerk and CAO reports on efforts to modernize the House. More below. Here are our ideas for fixing the House and Senate.
Senate rules and procedure are in the news with the ongoing confirmation proceedings for Judge Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is why we hosted a webinar with three Senate rules and procedure experts on October 8, 2020, focused on the nomination and Judiciary and floor procedure. The panelists were:
Sarah Binder, senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and professor of political science at GW
Matt Glassman, senior fellow at the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown
Molly Reynolds, senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution
Daniel Schuman, moderator, policy director at Demand Progress
Didn’t catch the event live? Watch it online below or click here.
This weekend has been insane. I hope you’re staying safe. Here’s some of what’s inside:
• Coronavirus and the Supreme Court: what a 47-47 Senate means for the Barrett nomination.
• How to protect Congress, its staff, the press, and everyone else.
• The House Rules Committee heard ideas on how to fix Congress — what are they?
Of course — you know us — there’s a lot more on transparency, ethics, power of the purse, and oversight.
Interested in learning more about Senate rules and procedure? We’re hosting an online Q&A, with noted Senate rules experts Sarah Binder and Matt Glassman (other guests TBA), this Thursday at 3:30 pm ET. RSVP here.
Interested in learning more about modernizing the House rules? We’re planning a briefing for House staff, but open to everyone, that focuses on how House rules are changed, some of the top recommendations made so far for reform, and an opportunity to answer your questions (in a format where your identity is protected). RSVP here for the presentation made by yours truly on Wednesday, Oct. 14, set for 4:00 pm ET.