First Branch Forecast for September 26, 2022: Rules Power Play

TOP LINE

Where will power reside in the next Congress? And what systems of control will delegate and manage that power? These are core questions to understanding the legislative branch at any time, of course. But the answers to those questions may be shifting, perhaps faster than anticipated and in ways that fundamentally change our current politics.

This week the House and Senate observe Rosh Hashanah Monday. The House returns Wednesday night for votes the rest of the week, the most pressing being a stopgap funding bill to carry the Federal government beyond September. The body also may consider revisions to the STOCK Act and we spy a bill changing the GPO Director’s service to 10-year renewal terms. The Senate returns on Tuesday.

In committee, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee will markup the Electoral Count Act (S.4573) on Tuesday. Senate HSGAC will meet on Wednesday to vote on the nomination of Colleen Shogan to be Archivist of the United States and a bill amending the Lobbying Disclosure Act regarding exemptions under FARA.

The House January 6th Committee will hold a public hearing on Wednesday at 1:00 PM.

Down the line, the Senate is still on track to be in session the first two weeks of October, with authorizing the NDAA looming.

Continue reading “First Branch Forecast for September 26, 2022: Rules Power Play”

First Branch Forecast for September 19, 2022: Fixing Congress

First Branch Forecast Logo

TOP LINE

The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress held its final hearing last Wednesday, aptly on how Congress should continue its work.

The Committee has issued 177 recommendations over its three-and-a-half year tenure and likely will surpass the 200 mark before its work concludes at the end of this Congress. By its own count, only 37 of those recommendations have been fully implemented. In advance of the hearing, Roll Call provided this excellent preview of what’s done and what’s yet to be done.

Continue reading “First Branch Forecast for September 19, 2022: Fixing Congress”

First Branch Forecast for September 13, 2022: And We’re Back

TOP LINE

A pre-midterm cram session is emerging as the Senate tries to squeeze in votes on same-sex marrige protections, reforms to the Electoral Count Act, insulin pricing, energy permitting reform, FDA user fees…oh, and avoiding a government shutdown Oct. 1. So here we are, less than two months before a very consequential midterm election with the prospect of a variety of major legislation heading to the President’s desk – and with significant bipartisan support. Weird, huh?

Finalizing the government spending package sounds much more like a when than an if, as both parties were seeking a continuing resolution that carried well past the midterms. The Biden Administration’s request of an additional $13.7 billion in military aid for Ukraine and more COVID spending may slow that down. Democratic leadership also has several tactical decisions to make on what measures to attach to the CR.

Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Susan Collins are continuing to seek out Republican co-sponsors of their marriage bill to get it over the filibuster threshold. On the ECA (S. 4573), Senator Charles Grassley’s office confirmed he will sign on to be the 10th Republican co-sponsor, joining Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, and others critical of President Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection.

The shifting political environment is providing a spark for reviving the ECA before the lame duck session. After President Biden’s speech in Philadelphia denouncing the “MAGA” faction of the GOP as a direct threat to democracy, 58% of poll respondents agreed with his assessment. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed by CBS News at the end of August predicted an uptick in political violence in the coming years, up from 51% in Jan. 2021. On the question of democratic decline, 54% agreed that the country would be less democratic a generation from now.

A ban on stock trading by sitting Members of Congress also may sneak in under the election wire. Progressive and moderate sponsors of a bipartisan House bill have asked for a vote by Sept. 30. Reps. Jayapal, Rosendale and Senators Warren, Blackburn, Daines, and Stabenow have introduced their own bill. The House Administration Committee was expected to release a stock ban framework in early August, but if they have, we must have missed it.

This week on the floor. The House begins three weeks of votes starting Tuesday. Don’t miss Wednesday’s ModCom hearing on a roadmap to the future and the Transparency Caucus’ panel discussion on what’s next in transparency across the government.

Continue reading “First Branch Forecast for September 13, 2022: And We’re Back”

EveryCRSReport Adds Federation of American Scientists CRS Reports

We are pleased to announce that EveryCRSReport now includes all CRS reports published online by the Federation of American Scientists. Steven Aftergood, who led FAS’s efforts on CRS reports for decades, has retired from that role, although he still is active on a number of projects. He gave us permission to add those reports to our collection. Dr. Josh Tauberer, who runs govtrack.us and manages our website, incorporated the new reports this past week.

Continue reading “EveryCRSReport Adds Federation of American Scientists CRS Reports”

Agencies Get Marching Orders on Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act

The Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act, which Demand Progress supported and became law last year, is coming into its own. The law requires (1) the publication of all agency Congressional Justifications on USASpending.org within two weeks of their submission to a house of Congress; (2) CJ publication at a vanity URL on the agency website; and (3) online tracking of when the reports were due to be submitted and whether they were published online on time.

OMB just released an update to Circular A-11 that, for the first time, contains updated guidance in section 22.6(c) that will put the law into effect. This has been a long time coming, as OMB had resisted requests from appropriators to ensure that the reports are published online in a central location, intended to address both linkrot (when a URL goes dead) and that there was no central place to find all the reports. They’ll also have to have their data published in a structured format.

Continue reading “Agencies Get Marching Orders on Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act”

First Branch Forecast for September 6, 2022: Democracy

TOP LINE

This week: Congress is back. The committee calendar is looking quiet. The House has a committee work week; the Senate floor will start by addressing some nominations.

On tap for the month: a continuing resolution publishing Appropriations until December is likely. On Friday, the White House’s OMB published what it would like to see included in the measure beyond continuity of operations: support for Ukraine, COVID-19, monkeypox, and natural disaster recovery. Also, the National Defense Authorization Act likely will be brought to the floor in the Senate. We will see whether the House considers/passes legislation concerning congressional stock trading.

NEW! We just released Union Organizing Rights on Capitol Hill, a report authored by Kevin Mulshine, who served as Senior Advisor and Counsel on the first staff of the Office of Compliance and later served as IG for the Architect of the Capitol. The report is designed as a handy guide for congressional staff who want to understand —

• How House staffers can select a union representative
• The value of collective bargaining in House offices
• What a contract might guarantee

Follow the link to read the report.

Transparency Across the Federal Government is the focus of a panel discussion set for September 14th and hosted by the Congressional Transparency Caucus in the Rayburn Building. The event, hosted by Reps. Quigley and Walberg, will feature panelists including me, POGO’s Liz Hempowicz, Free Law Project’s Mike Lissner, with moderation by Politico’s Katherine Tully-McManus. Learn more or RSVP here.


Continue reading “First Branch Forecast for September 6, 2022: Democracy”

Eras of Control of the House of Representatives

It is easy to imagine that the way the House of Representatives is run now is how it has been run in the past. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In the history of the House of Representatives, the Speaker has been all-powerful and virtually powerless; the president has run the House and has been run by the House; legislation enacted by the chamber has reflected the views of a majority of the House, reflected the views of the majority party, and reflected the views of just a handful; work was done by all the members in the committee of the whole and divvied up among the committees; power was centered in the floor leader, the speaker, the party caucus, the full chamber, the rules committee, and no one.

It is not too much to say that the rules of the chamber reflect efforts by its members to have and retain power and to address the problems that arise when members who desired power could not obtain and use it. Fights over the rules, and the leadership of the House itself, have at times consumed weeks of deliberations on the House floor — where the chamber is run under general parliamentary law until a package was drafted that could be adopted by the full chamber.

I’ve been looking at the history and development of the House by reading some of the leading experts and have started to put together a summary of the eras of control of the House of Representatives. This is a working document and likely contains inaccuracies, overstatements, and many other issues. But I thought it might be of interest to you so I’m publishing a live version of the working document below.

Continue reading “Eras of Control of the House of Representatives”

House and Senate Security Manuals Now Publicly Available

The House and Senate Security Manuals have been the focus of litigation between journalist Shawn Musgrave and the House and the Senate. Musgrave is litigating whether a common law right of access exists for congressional documents, and he is ably represented by Kel McClanahan of National Security Counselors. He recently had a big win.

Continue reading “House and Senate Security Manuals Now Publicly Available”