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” →
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” →
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” →
We just finished reading The Field of Blood, a book focused on violence in Congress in the lead up to the Civil War. Did you know that, according to the author, between 1830 and 1860 “there were more than seventy violent incidents between congressmen in the House and Senate chambers or on nearby streets and dueling grounds?”
Continue reading “Incivility” →
As Congress considering appropriations levels for the Legislative branch for FY2023, we thought it would be useful to compare line items inside the Legislative Branch bill. Below contains the actual funding levels for FY21 and FY 22, the requests published in the president budget, the appropriations levels supported by the subcommittee and full committee as they come out, and a comparison of how those levels have changed.
It can be, at times, somewhat difficult to track appropriations bill text, report language, and press releases and the legislation goes through its paces. Congress.gov maintains a thorough appropriations page, but as of the time of this writing it still has not been updated for FY2023. It’s UI could also be improved.
So we are trying an experiment and will see if we can track the bills as they go through their paces — at least the initial paces. Accordingly, find below our FY 2023 appropriations bill text, report, and press release tracking spreadsheet. Let us know what you think.
“Today is a proud moment in congressional history and portends a significant advance in the working conditions for congressional staff,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director of Demand Progress, a non-governmental organization focused on strengthening our democracy that has led a broad coalition to advocate for the right of congressional staff to unionize and pushed for higher staff pay.
Continue reading “Statement on House Unionization Vote + Establishment of Minimum Wage” →
This week. The Senate is in; the House is out until May 10. We are sending an abbreviated First Branch Forecast because we are tired. Don’t worry, we’ll have the highlights from the gazillion hearings this past week, including 3 Leg Branch, 2 CJS, and House Judiciary and ModCom hearings.
TREATING STAFF LIKE PEOPLE
No one noticed, but the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights published a notice of proposed rulemaking on updating outdated overtime regulations for the Legislative branch. This is a BFD if you think that staff who work more than 40 hours a week should receive overtime pay. And we do. OCWR said this rulemaking would “modify this substantially lower salary test set by the 1996 FLSA Substantive Regulations that are financially outdated and yet remain in effect.” How out of date? The current requirements make staff eligible for overtime only if they earn under $13,000 per year, way below poverty level. If you think it should be higher, public comments are due by May 26 to [email protected].
Compensating Leg branch staff on par with Exec branch staff remains a priority for Demand Progress and other civil society organizations, Chris Cioffi noted in Roll Call last week. The House should implement the House IG’s 2021 recommendations to ensure pay parity and provide an annual cost-of-living adjustment for Leg branch employees.
Continue reading “First Branch Forecast for May 2, 2022: A real coup” →
The Senate was urged to pass the Periodically Listing Updates to Management Act (PLUM Act, S. 3650) by a coalition of 27 organizations and individuals led by Demand Progress in a letter sent to Senate leadership last week. The PLUM Act would increase transparency and oversight of the most senior leaders of the Executive Branch. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted to favorably report the bipartisan legislation on March 30, 2022.
Continue reading “Civil society urges Senate passage of the PLUM Act” →
This week. The Senate is in today; the House is in tomorrow. This week, we’ll be glued to another round of Leg branch approps hearings on the Library of Congress, GPO, & the AOC; a CJS approps double-header with the Justice Department, a ModCom hearing on modernizing the legislative process; and a House Judiciary hearing on judicial ethics. Oh, and on suspension is the Courthouse Ethics and Transparency Act, which passed the Senate already and, if enacted, would create a stock trading and online financial disclosure system for the judiciary.
Unionization timing. We’re still waiting to see when House leadership will finally bring the congressional unionization resolution to a floor. The Congressional Workers Union called for a floor vote this week. It’s been 81 days since Speaker Pelosi offered full support for Congressional staff to unionize (on Feb. 3rd) and 54 days since the House Admin Committee held a hearing on unionization (on March 2nd.) As this decision is entirely within their power, why the delay? Vox’s excellent explainer on Congressional unionization asks “how committed are [House Democrats] to unions when it’s their own employees who want one?” Well?
Continue reading “First Branch Forecast: April 25, 2022” →