Appropriators Should Provide Adequate Funding to Congress

Congress is significantly underfunded — especially compared to the executive branch — and it has suffered deep staff cuts over the last 25 years. In March and in September, we co-authored letters naming the fact that not only does the Legislative Branch receive the smallest funding level of the 12 appropriations subcommittees, it has received funding cuts (in real terms) over the last decade even as other appropriations subcommittees have received increases.

As we speak, the House and Senate are negotiating over how much in new funding to give to each of the 12 appropriations subcommittees. In play is how to divvy up a significant increase in overall funding: a $27 billion increase in non-defense discretionary spending over the next fiscal year.

According to CRS, in FY 2019 the legislative branch was funded at $4.836 billion. How does the proposed increases in Leg Branch funding from the House and Senate compare to last year’s funding level?

 

Screenshot 2019-10-31 at 11.57.43 AM
Comparison of proposed changes in the allocation to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Committee for FY 2020, in millions of dollars.

Continue reading “Appropriators Should Provide Adequate Funding to Congress”

The OLC SUNLIGHT Act brings much needed transparency to DOJ legal opinions

The OLC SUNLIGHT Act — which would bring desperately needed transparency and accountability to the often secret opinions of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel — was introduced today.

How often are those opinions secret? No one knows, because there’s no publicly or congressionally-available list of all the opinions. The opinions that have become publicly available reveal that they often have undermined federal legislation and reinterpreted the Constitution in ways favorable to the executive branch and harmful to the framers’ system of checks and balances. This is intolerable.

The OLC Sunlight Act does two things —

  1. It requires a publicly available list of all OLC opinions, including when they are issued and a summary of the legal question presented.
  2. It requires OLC to publish all its final opinions online, with allowances for text to be withheld when it is properly classified, contains materials that impact privacy, and in other limited circumstances.

The original cosponsors are Reps. Matt Cartwright, (PA) Mike Quigley (IL), Zoe Lofgren (CA), Blumenauer (OR), Cardenas (CA), Carson (IN), Clay (MO), Davis (CA), Gomez (CA), Johnson, Jr. (GA), Hill (CA), Holmes Norton (DC), Phillips (MN), Raskin (MD), Tlaib (MI), and Vargas (CA). A bipartisan coalition of 17 organizations from across the political spectrum, including us, issued a letter endorsing the legislation.

Congress has long struggled to provide public and congressional transparency to OLC opinions. We are a nation of laws, not a nation of secret laws. In our system of government, Congress makes the law, not the president, and the president must faithfully execute the law.

We applaud the cosponsors for introducing the legislation. Public access to OLC opinions has long enjoyed bipartisan support, and we urge all Members of Congress to take up the fight for the rule of law.

A modernized OTA is a key step in addressing Congress’s S&T capacity gap

by Daniel Schuman and Zach Graves

Last week, bipartisan bicameral legislation was introduced by Reps. Mark Takano (D-CA) and Bill Foster (D-IL), and Sens. Maizie Hirono (D-HI) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), aimed at strengthening Congress’s ability to understand science and technology policy issues. (H.R. 4426, S. 2509) We welcome these developments and are encouraged to see ongoing bipartisan support for enhancing Congress’s science and technology capacity and expertise. Continue reading “A modernized OTA is a key step in addressing Congress’s S&T capacity gap”

Forecast for August 19, 2019.

The House and Senate are out but we’ve got a brief First Branch Forecast for you to hold you over. Here’s what you need to know:

ON YOUR RADAR
Acting AOC is out. The Acting Architect of the Capitol’s resignation was effective on Saturday (surprise?!) and Tom Carroll is the new Acting Architectwhile the search for a permanent AOC continues. Unrelated, but also notable in AOC news: a new AOC IG report is out (looks like they found some problems).

The BLAG? Everyone’s heard of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, but the House of Representatives has a legal office that articulates the institutional view of the people’s chamber: the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group. The BLAG decides when the House General Counsel should intervene, but not much is known about its work. Fourteen civil society organizations wrote to the General Counsel and Members of the BLAG to encourage the adoption of some basic transparency measures. (We had recommendations in our House rules recs, too.) Also, wouldn’t it be fun to rename it the BLAWG?

We are experimenting with a new Twitter account, @CongressRadar, which we will hand curate to provide First Branch-y news all week long. It joins our automated accounts @AppropsTracker@EveryCRSReport@LeadershipFlack@OpenAtAGlance & @CongressRFP. Continue reading “Forecast for August 19, 2019.”

The Crystal Ball on Funding for the Office of Technology Assessment

Earlier this year, the House’s Appropriations Committee favorably reported a Legislative Branch Appropriations bill for FY 2020 that contained $6m in start-up funds for the Office of Technology Assessment spread out over two years. Now that the House and Senate have agreed upon top line spending numbers for the federal government, where does all this stand?

As you might recall, the House of Representatives passed 10 out of 12 appropriations bills, but the Legislative Branch bill was not among them. It got hung up on the House floor over an unrelated fight over providing members of Congress with a cost of living increase. Continue reading “The Crystal Ball on Funding for the Office of Technology Assessment”

Job Announcement: Policy Analyst (Position Has Been Filled)

POLICY ANALYST, DEMAND PROGRESS

Want to fix Congress? Do you think members and staff are captive to a broken process and lack the resources to do their jobs? Do you want your government to be transparent, accountable, and effective? Do you want to rebuild Congress’ science and technology capabilities? If so, this job is for you.

Demand Progress is looking for a smart, self-starting, intensely curious person fascinated by legislative policymaking who is willing to roll up their sleeves to make things better.

WHAT YOU’LL DO
You will be a policy analyst working as part of a small team focused on strengthening Congress’s capacity to govern and understand science and technology issues, led by Daniel Schuman, Demand Progress policy director.

You will spend 100% of your time working to improve Congress, using whatever techniques we can figure out to help us get there. We are focused on supporting the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, the Committee on House Administration, the Senate Rules Committee, the House and Senate legislative branch appropriations subcommittees, and the support support offices and agencies.

The work includes:

• Research and Writing: Performing research; writing reports, articles, blogs; supporting the writing of those resources; and contributing to our weekly newsletter (the First Branch Forecast).

• Connecting with People: Attending hearings, convening people, working with the media, representing the organization at coalition meetings, and using electronic media (twitter, listservs, etc.).

• Lobbying and lobbying support: This is a smaller but important part of your job: helping to write one-pagers, keeping in touch with staff, and supporting legislative staff who have good ideas.

• More: Figuring out new ways to solve problems, as well as a fair amount of the usual humdrum paper-pushing.

We strongly believe in helping staff grow and achieve their potential. You will get a lot of runway (and a lot of help), and we want you to make the most of it.

We are a small but mighty team.

OUR PHILOSOPHY AND BACKGROUND
Demand Progress has a progressive philosophy; however, making Congress better is not a liberal or conservative issue. You are expected to be able to work with everyone from across the political spectrum. I do mean everyone. At the same time, the institutions inside Congress that support legislative expertise come out of the progressive era, so it’s important to stay grounded in the idea that Congress must work for all Americans.

COMPENSATION
The salary is $55-65k, depending on your experience. In addition, Demand Progress offers excellent benefits such as employer-paid health insurance, a 3% retirement match, 3 weeks vacation (plus the week between Christmas and New Years), parental leave, travel expenses, and short and long term disability insurance. This position is considered exempt for overtime purposes.

You can work from wherever you want— we don’t have a central office — but you are expected to regularly attend meetings with Congress and with civil society organizations in the Washington, D.C. area. You also can keep flexible hours, subject to the approval of your supervisor and the needs of the job.

This is a grant funded position and this position is funded for the next year.

QUALITIES YOU SHOULD POSSESS:

  • Openness to implementing unconventional and innovative ideas.
  • Be self-starting, resourceful, and organized.
  • The ability to manage multiple projects and meet deadlines.
  • Be a proactive problem solver (and avoid the word proactive).
  • Strong attention to detail.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.
  • A willingness to learn and to teach.
  • A sense of humor and a sense of the absurd.

PREFERRED EXPERIENCE AND SKILLS:
A bachelor’s degree with at least 2 years of work experience. Ideally, you’ll have worked on or around Capitol Hill as staff, as a journalist, or in an advocacy role in civil society. It is a plus if you already possess expertise in how the lawmaking process works, and experience with the aforementioned committees and offices is a real bonus. Familiarity with the former Office of Technology Assessment and efforts to revive it also is a plus. You must be a capable and fluent researcher and writer that is used to working on a deadline. This is not an entry-level position.

Comfort with Google applications (Gmail, Google docs, calendar, etc).

Basic computer/technology skills or understanding thereof.

Strong analytical skills. You be able to figure out why things work as they do and what the effects are of changing the underlying system.

ABOUT DEMAND PROGRESS
Demand Progress is a national grassroots organization with 2.5 million members that promotes the democratic character of the internet and uses it to break concentrated power and make government accountable. Our work focuses on the final part: building up the legislative branch as an institution capable of overseeing the executive branch and making smart legislative decisions.

We are fiscally sponsored by New Venture Fund and the SixteenThirty Fund, 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations. In other words, we’re a traditional non-profit and we can lobby and engage in political activity. Your work largely will fit comfortably into 501(c)(3) work, although you will do some 501(c)(4) work. Depending on the circumstances, you may have to register as a lobbyist if you spend 20% of your time lobbying, although that is unlikely.

HOW TO APPLY
We will begin reviewing applications no later than August 9, 2019, and continue on a rolling basis.

Please submit your job application to jobs@demandprogress.org. Please follow the following directions:

  • In the subject line, write: “Policy Analyst: yourname
  • In the body, please include your first and last name, your phone number, and an email address to contact you.
  • Please attach a cover letter, resume, and a writing sample or two. The writing sample (or two) should demonstrate your ability to analyze, explain, or summarize a topic, ideally something that’s congressionally-related.

MORE ABOUT DEMAND PROGRESS
Demand Progress is committed to the principles of social and economic justice, and we try to build a workplace where all employees are treated fairly, feel respected as individuals and enjoy working together. Additionally, we recognize that the issues we work on play out differently in different kinds of communities, and value the perspective of people from communities that have traditionally experienced discrimination.

People of color, women, people with disabilities, and LGBT people are especially encouraged to apply.

NEW VENTURE FUND CAREERS
Demand Progress is a project of the SixteenThirty Fund, a 501(c)(4) advocacy organization; and Demand Progress Education Fund is a project of the New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity that incubates new and innovative public-interest projects and grant-making programs. The New Venture Fund is committed to attracting, developing and retaining exceptional people, and to creating a work environment that is dynamic, rewarding and enables each of us to realize our potential. The New Venture Fund’s work environment is safe and open to all employees and partners, respecting the full spectrum of race, color, religious creed, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, political affiliation, ancestry, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, and all other classifications protected by law in the locality and/or state in which you are working.

(First announced on August 5, 2019)

 

Job Announcement: Policy Manager (Position Has Been Filled)

POLICY MANAGER, DEMAND PROGRESS

Want to fix Congress? Do you think members and staff are captive to a broken process and lack the resources to do their jobs? Do you want your government to be transparent, accountable, and effective? Do you want to rebuild Congress’ science and technology capabilities? If so, this job is for you.

Demand Progress is looking for a smart, self-starting, intensely curious person fascinated by legislative policy-making who is willing to roll up their sleeves to make things better.

WHAT YOU’LL DO
You will be a policy manager working as part of a small team focused on strengthening Congress’s capacity to govern and understand science and technology issues, led by Daniel Schuman, Demand Progress policy director.

You will spend 100% of your time working to improve Congress, using whatever techniques we can figure out to help us get there. We are focused on helping the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, the Committee on House Administration, the Senate Rules Committee, the House and Senate legislative branch appropriations subcommittees, and Congress’s support support offices and agencies.

The work includes:

• Research and Writing: Performing research and writing white papers, reports, articles, blogs, and contributing to our weekly newsletter (the First Branch Forecast).

• Connecting with People: Attending hearings, convening people, working with the media, representing the organization at coalition meetings, and using electronic media (twitter, listservs, etc.).

• Lobbying and lobbying support: This is a smaller but important part of your job: helping to draft legislation, one-pagers, keeping in touch with staff, and supporting legislative staff who have good ideas.

• More: Figuring out new ways to solve problems, as well as a fair amount of the usual humdrum paper-pushing.

We strongly believe in helping staff grow and achieve their potential. You will get a lot of runway (and a lot of help), and we want you to make the most of it.

We are a small but mighty team.

OUR PHILOSOPHY AND BACKGROUND
Demand Progress has a progressive philosophy; however, making Congress better is not a liberal or conservative issue. You are expected to be able to work with everyone from across the political spectrum. I do mean everyone. At the same time, the institutions inside Congress that support legislative expertise come out of the progressive era, so it’s important to stay grounded in the idea that Congress must work for all Americans.

COMPENSATION
The salary is $80-95k, depending on your experience. In addition, Demand Progress offers excellent benefits such as employer-paid health insurance, a 3% retirement match, 3 weeks vacation (plus the week between Christmas and New Years), parental leave, travel expenses, and short and long term disability insurance. This position is considered exempt for overtime purposes.

You can work from wherever you want— we don’t have a central office — but you are expected to regularly attend meetings with Congress and with civil society organizations in the Washington, D.C. area. You also can keep flexible hours, subject to the approval of your supervisor and the needs of the job.

This is a grant funded position and this position is funded for the next year.

QUALITIES YOU SHOULD POSSESS:

  • Openness to implementing unconventional and innovative ideas.
  • Be self-starting, resourceful, and organized.
  • The ability to manage multiple projects and meet deadlines.
  • Be a proactive problem solver (and avoid the word proactive).
  • Strong attention to detail.
  • Strong written and oral communication skills.
  • A willingness to learn and to teach.
  • A sense of humor and a sense of the absurd.

A bachelor’s degree with at least 3 years of related work experience, ideally as staff on Capitol Hill. (Hill journalists count, too.) You must already possess significant expertise in how the lawmaking process works, and experience with the aforementioned committees and offices is a definite plus. Familiarity with the former Office of Technology Assessment and efforts to revive it also is a plus. You must be a capable and fluent writer that is used to dealing with complex subject matter at length and on a deadline. This is not an entry-level position.

Comfort with Google applications (Gmail, Google docs, calendar, etc).

Basic computer/technology skills or understanding thereof.

Strong analytical skills. You must be able to figure out why things work as they do and what the effects are of changing the underlying system.

ABOUT DEMAND PROGRESS

Demand Progress is a national grassroots organization with 2.5 million members that promotes the democratic character of the internet and uses it to break concentrated power and make government accountable. Our work focuses on the final part: building up the legislative branch as an institution capable of overseeing the executive branch and making smart legislative decisions.

We are fiscally sponsored by New Venture Fund and the SixteenThirty Fund, 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations. In other words, we’re a traditional non-profit and we can lobby and engage in political activity. Your work largely will fit comfortably into 501(c)(3) work, although you will do some 501(c)(4) work. Depending on the circumstances, you may have to register as a lobbyist if you spend 20% of your time lobbying, although that is unlikely.

HOW TO APPLY
We will begin reviewing applications no later than August 9, 2019, and continue on a rolling basis.

Please submit your job application to jobs@demandprogress.org. Please follow the following directions:

  • In the subject line, write: “Policy Manager: yourname
  • In the body, please include your first and last name, your phone number, and an email address to contact you.
  • Please attach a cover letter, resume, and a writing sample or two. The writing sample (or two) should demonstrate your ability to analyze, explain, or summarize a topic, ideally something that’s congressionally-related.

MORE ABOUT DEMAND PROGRESS
Demand Progress is committed to the principles of social and economic justice, and we try to build a workplace where all employees are treated fairly, feel respected as individuals, and enjoy working together. Additionally, we recognize that the issues we work on play out differently in different kinds of communities, and value the perspective of people from communities that have traditionally experienced discrimination.

People of color, women, people with disabilities, and LGBT people are especially encouraged to apply.

NEW VENTURE FUND CAREERS

Demand Progress is a project of the SixteenThirty Fund, a 501(c)(4) advocacy organization; and Demand Progress Education Fund is a project of the New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity that incubates new and innovative public-interest projects and grant-making programs. The New Venture Fund is committed to attracting, developing and retaining exceptional people, and to creating a work environment that is dynamic, rewarding and enables each of us to realize our potential. The New Venture Fund’s work environment is safe and open to all employees and partners, respecting the full spectrum of race, color, religious creed, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, political affiliation, ancestry, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, and all other classifications protected by law in the locality and/or state in which you are working.

(First announced on August 5, 2019)