Forecast for January 27, 2020.

THE TOP LINE

The “Senate is hiding from all of us,” writes longtime hill reporter Kathy Kiely, who said “the current security scheme appears designed to protect lawmakers from reporters’ questions.” The restrictions on press access, which we oppose, are a black eye on the Senate and a provocation for future restrictions.

Care about leg branch funding? We’ve built the definitive spreadsheet on funding, tracking every line item appropriation over the last 25 years.

Congress’s Science & Technology Policy capabilities were the subject of a recent NAPA report; our white paper covers the reports strengths and weaknesses and now we are pleased to release a 1-page summary. Stay tuned for news about an upcoming hill briefing on recs we co-authored (and will release soon) with the Lincoln Network.

Whistleblowers and CBO hearings: House Oversight will discuss whistleblower protections tomorrow at 2. The House Budget Committee has a hearing on “The Congressional Budget Office’s Budget and Economic Outlook” at 10 on Wednesday.

War and PeaceTonight at 5, House Rules will consider a measure from Reps. Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna to repeal the 2002 AUMF and prohibit military strikes on Iran absent Congressional authorization; the effort is an aspect of the leg branch’s reassertion of its proper role. (Notable is the procedural posture to avoid defection from a handful of Dems by sidestepping a MTR.) In addition, newly introduced legislation would provide long overdue reforms of the government’s surveillance powers — some authorities are set to sunset in March — in the wake of revelations of misuse of those authorities and a recent DOJ IG report on FISA process abuses. See our primer on section 215.

Just for fun: the NYT made a 3-D tour of how the Senate was transformed for the impeachment trial. Continue reading “Forecast for January 27, 2020.”

25 Years of Legislative Branch Appropriations

Every year Congress determines exactly how much money will be made available to the Legislative Branch and the purpose for which it can be spent. The Legislative Branch Appropriations bills directs congressional spending, line-item by line-item — but, alas, the instructions are published as prose, can run for dozens of pages, and it is difficult to see how appropriations spending has changed over the decades.

We’ve gone through  all of the spending bills for the last quarter-century and lined up the spending items in a downloadable spreadsheet. Now you can see how spending on each line-item has changed from 1994 forward.

Peruse the Legislative Branch budget line items from fiscal years 1994-2020 below, or download the data set here Continue reading “25 Years of Legislative Branch Appropriations”

Forecast for January 21, 2020.

House Members are in their districts this week but the Senate is in for impeachment trial proceedings, which start today. Senators are the deciders, but they are not jurors.

Before we start, it’s worth rereading MLK’s letter from a Birmingham jail. I found this section resonant: “I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.”

THE TOP LINE

Press under attack: the Senate has implemented ridiculous press restrictions for impeachment trial coverage. Coalitions of transparency advocates (like us), free press representatives, and the Senators themselves all are saying the restrictions must go. There’s no public-facing written guidance on the rules, but that’s not stopping the Capitol Police from ending voluntary conversations between Members and press if they’re outside the press pens. More details in the impeachment section below.

The Fix Congress committee discussed how to reclaim Congressional power last week; we summarize the discussion below.

Freedom for all press: the DCCC filed a House ethics complaint against GOP “trackers” for recording video in public House hallways. Continue reading “Forecast for January 21, 2020.”

Forecast for January 13, 2020.

THE TOP LINE

8 House Dems voted to cede Congress’s constitutional role in matters of war and peace by voting ‘No’ on the House war powers resolution while Rep. Amash plus GOP Reps. Gaetz, Massie, and Rooney voted ‘Yes’ to protect our system of checks-and-balances. Notable, in addition to the vast majority of Republicans who likely would have voted differently if HRC were president, were the two dozen-ish Rs who flipped their vote, perhaps out of fear of political retribution.

The FY 2021 approps cycle is gearing up w/ Thursday deadline for public witness testimony for the H. Interior Approps SubC. Follow all the deadlines with our nifty Approprs Tracker + watch announcements on our Twitter bot @AppropsTracker.

Fix Congress Cmte hearing on Restoring Congressional Capacity is set for Tuesday.

Welcome the 21st century Frank: the House launched a public-facing website that publishes Member mass communications to constituents. More below.

Can’t wait until Monday for the First Branch Forecast? Follow @CongressRadar for real time Congress news, commentary, and unfunny inside jokes. Also, don’t forget to tell us what you think of our little publication!

Continue reading “Forecast for January 13, 2020.”

Forecast for January 6, 2020.

Welcome back. An astonishing amount has happened over the break, so let’s dive back in.

THE TOP LINE

The US assassinated Iranian Maj. Gen Qassem Soleimani in what may be a violation of US and international law — in flagrant violation of Congress’s war powers. Much more on this below in the section entitled “Wag the Dog,” I mean “Congressional War Powers.”

Impeachment part II: it’s unclear when the Senate will begin its trial, but there’s a lot of news from the courts. Details below.

ICYMI we covered approps, the NDAA, and House impeachment in our December 23rd newsletter, which is soooo good we’re linking to it here.

Don’t miss our latest 5 articlesPaid Parental Leave: Coming to a Congressional Office Near YouFirst Branch, Second Rate FundingTools Every Congressional Staffer Should Know AboutThe Legislative Branch is More Than Congress; and CBO Changes Make Finding Bill Scores Easy.
Continue reading “Forecast for January 6, 2020.”

First Branch, Second-Rate Funding

Of the $4.7 trillion proposed federal budget for FY 2020, $1.4 trillion is discretionary spending, that is,optional spending made through appropriations bills. Before Congress can spend that money, it is divided into 12 slices—one for each of the 12 appropriations subcommittees. These slices are called 302(b) allocations

Lawmakers are supposed to agree on 302(b) numbers early in the appropriations cycle, but this time around the agreement was (very) delayed. Without finalized topline numbers, lawmakers weren’t able to negotiate over the line items in the spending bills; after all, how could they dole out funds if they didn’t know how much money they were working with in the first place? 

Since Fiscal Year 2020 started on October 1st, lawmakers have pieced together short-term-spending agreements, or continuing resolutions, to keep the government’s lights on. Lawmakers finally agreed on final 302(b) numbers for FY 2020 at the end of November, and earlier this week Appropriators introduced two minibus bills that will keep the government funded for the remainder of FY 2020. 

So, what do the numbers tell us?

Continue reading “First Branch, Second-Rate Funding”

Forecast for December 16, 2019

TOP LINE

It’s your jam. For weeks, we’ve been gearing up for leadership to jam members with tons of major votes as they head out the door. This week we will see at least two appropriations minibuses (likely Tuesday in the House), impeachment (Wednesday in the House), USCMA (i.e. NAFTA v2, likely on Thursday), a long list of suspension bills, and more. Of course, the Senate won’t consider impeachment and USCMA until after the holiday. As a bonus, just about everyone we know on the hill is coming down sick. Happy times. Continue reading “Forecast for December 16, 2019”