First Branch Forecast for August 29, 2022: Letter of Note


This week, recess continues.

Last week saw two big announcements from the White House: (1) the partial student loan forgiveness program, which incidentally could help 2,000 staffers (or more!) on the hill, and (2) making federally-funded research free and publicly available, which will improve the availability of information for policymaking deliberations.

You didn’t ask us, but congressional student loan repayment assistance should be centrally administered, available to all regardless of the view of a particular member, and not subject to clawback if a staffer moves on.

Pay your interns. On the topic of centrally administered programs — did you like that segue? — check this opinion piece from my colleague Taylor Swift and Pay Our Intern’s Habiba Mohamed that calls for the creation of a House Intern Resource Office.

Mark your calendars. The Library of Congress announced its next virtual public forum on will be held this September 21 from 1:30 to 4:30 PM. To attend you must RSVP online. The Library also has an online feedback form for those who wish to submit comments individually. See you there.

They’re running. Reps. Jamie Raskin, Gerry Connolly, and Steven Lynch have all announced they’re running to succeed Rep. Carolyn Maloney as top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. This committee, which grew out of the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments, and itself was created from 11 separate House committees that oversaw government spending, is rooted in House committee efforts to oversee federal spending that go back at least to 1814.

Whistleblower powers. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced legislation last week, the Congress Leads by Example Act of 2022 (H.R. 8743), to grant Legislative branch employees greater whistleblower and other antidiscrimination protections for occupational safety and health complaints. The bill would put into effect recommendations from the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights to:

  • Bring the Legislative branch in line with the legal requirements of private sector employers and the Executive branch;
  • Provide subpoena authority to OCWR to conduct inspections and investigations into OSHA violations;
  • Prohibit Legislative branch offices from making adverse employment decisions on the basis of an employee’s wage garnishment or involvement in bankruptcy proceedings; and
  • Bolster the CAA’s recordkeeping requirements.
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First Branch Forecast for August 22, 2022: The Executive Strikes Back


It’s still recess, with two weeks until the Senate reconvenes and the House has a committee work week.

House and Senate Security Manuals are now publicly available thanks to litigation brought by journalist Shawn Musgrave. The House and Senate resisted the effort, brought under a common law right of access, and only ceded ground after it became apparent that their assertions to the court were incongruent with the facts.


↣ White House pushing back against Congress’s oversight authority
↣ Clearances, classified information, and the Espionage Act
↣ Updating the ADA regs that apply to Congress

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First Branch Forecast for August 15, 2022: A call to arms


Recess. Barring emergencies, Congress is out until September. On Friday, the House passed the reconciliation package — the Inflation Reduction Act — which now goes to Pres. Biden for signature. The process by which this legislation was considered and enacted underscores the importance of allowing a bare majority to work its will and the structural problems that hamper majoritarian rule and force legislation to the political right.

Should congressional staff have a $45,000 minimum wage? If you poll voters, majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans agree that there should be a minimum salary floor for all congressional staffers according to a new Data for Progress poll. In fact, of likely voters, 56 percent support a pay floor while only 30 percent oppose. While the House has put in place a pay order setting the minimum wage at $45k, the Senate has increased funding available to offices but has not instantiated a minimum pay requirement.

What’s inside?
↣ Rising incidents of political violence, part of America’s long history of violence
↣ Securing member communications
↣ Congress’s oversight powers work in theory, but not in practice

Continue reading “First Branch Forecast for August 15, 2022: A call to arms”

First Branch Forecast for August 8, 2022: It’s recess?


This week. It’s recess-ish. The Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act reconciliation package over the weekend and the House is expected to briefly reconvene on Friday, August 12 to pass that legislation and perhaps a few other bills.

The events of the past week highlight that normal spending processes rarely go by the book; that ethics and accountability issues still plague Congress and the Executive branch; and that Congress plays a role in foreign diplomacy. More below.

We did the legwork on Leg branch approps. Please see our list of every notable policy provision in the Senate Leg Branch Approps bill that relates to congressional capacity, transparency, and accountability, and also a list of select civil society recommendations incorporated into the draft bill and accompanying report.

The Congressional Workers’ Union announced its interim board last week. Congrats to all Board members: Philip Bennett, Emma Preston, Courtney Rose Laudick, Kyle Decant, Taylor Doggett, Saul Levin, Mason Pesek, Courtney Koelbel, Alexander Gristina, Jessica Schieder, Janae Washington, and Leigh Whittaker.

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First Branch Forecast for August 1, 2022: Reconciliation


This week. The House floor is closed until Sept.13 (with committee work starting on Sept. 6); the Senate is in for its last scheduled week until Sept. 6. The Senate will stick around until it passes the “Inflation Reduction Act,” AKA mini-reconciliation, timing depending on Democratic Members not testing positive for COVID; and the House is expected to return to pass that bill during August recess.

In Senate committee news this week: the Judiciary Cmte will hold a hearing on antitrust remedies (but Sen. Schumer still hasn’t scheduled antitrust bills for a floor vote). HSGAC will hold a markup of a few good-government bills. And Senate Rules Cmte will hold a hearing on the Electoral Count Act, following up on the bipartisan proposal to reform the ECA. We note some Members are voicing dissatisfaction with the proposal — as Rep. Raskin told Politico, the effort is “fine and necessary, but not remotely sufficient to meet the magnitude of the threat against democracy now.” (The Jan. 6 panel reportedly plans to release its own slate of recommendations for stopping the stealing of elections this fall, a time when there is the least amount of legislative runway.)

Last weekSenate Democrats published their FY 2023 approps bills. We’ve added the bill text, explanatory statements, and summaries to our tracker (toggle to the Senate tab) and will be working through the bills in the weeks to come. It seems obvious to us that there won’t be a markup process in the Senate, just like last year, and everything will get worked out — if anything gets worked out — behind the scenes. Sen. Leahy says he hopes the release of draft bills encourages good-faith Republican negotiation and emphasized the high stakes of repeating last year’s delays. Senate Republicans published a list of demands for items they consider “non-starters” and threatened a long term CR. It’s clear we’re heading for a short term CR, probably until after the heat of the election. We likely will hear a lot of carping about budget reconciliation as well.

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First Branch Forecast for July 25, 2022: Après moi, le déluge


This week. In the House, it’s the last week before summer recess. It’s also the Senate’s penultimate week before recess — though we’re seeing calls for both chambers to stay in session. The House will consider a huge semiconductor R&D bill and perhaps public safety legislation concerning firearms. Senate Democratic Appropriators may publish their approps bills. Expect scores of UC and suspension bills.

In committee this week, House Admin will hold two relevant hearings: one on foreign and domestic sources of disinformation and another on the so-called independent state legislature theory. On Thursday, the ModCom will hold a hearing on innovative approaches to fixing Congress. There are also a bunch of red meat hearings.

Last week. The House passed the minibus package of six appropriations bills, but Majority Leader Hoyer told BGov it’s unlikely the other three (CJS, Labor-HHS-Education, and State and Foreign Operations) originally slated to go before recess will be brought to a vote, and of course there’s three more not yet on the docket. Steve Bannon was found guilty of contempt of Congress, but how we got here highlights problems with how the contempt process works. And ICYMI the ModCom favorably reported 29 new recommendations. More on contempt and ModCom below.

Building digital capacity in Congress. The recently-launched House Digital Service pilot presents an excellent opportunity to streamline and institutionalize congressional tech improvements. The Lincoln Network has a new report out with recommendations for strengthening the HDS. The authors advocate securing strong funding for the program; ensuring oversight over HDS; creating pathways for interacting with civil society; broadening HDS’s mandate; and more.

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First Branch Forecast for June 27, 2022: Apropos everything

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What to expect from Congress this week? The House is holding a committee work week before joining the Senate, which is already out on recess. They will return the week of July 11th. We are writing this newsletter before 5pm on Friday, so you’ll have to check the House committee calendar for upcoming hearings, but we know the upcoming week is filled with Approps bills markups. By the end of the week, the appropriations committee process will be complete on the House side — phew — at least until there’s an agreement on the top line numbers, and we can expect the bills to move on the floor soon. The Senate approps timeline is more difficult to divine, but given that the deadlines for public witness testimony wrap up July 1, we could start seeing subcommittee markup notices in July. Or Senate Dems will simply release their draft bills prior to summer recess while leaders negotiate over the top line numbers. Stay tuned.

We’re not going to address the big news out of the Supreme Court on abortion and guns, or what’s happening with the NDAA, or the gun control law, the January 6th stuff, and most of the items that came out of the appropriations process. It’s simply too much for us to manage, but you can expect some of these items — to the extent they fit within this newsletter’s mission — coming up in the upcoming weeks.

Last week saw several big wins for strengthening the Leg branch. On Tuesday, a host of excellent congressional data modernization improvements were announced at the quarterly meeting of the entity formerly known as the Bulk Data Task Force; significant improvements in funding and operations for the Legislative branch were favorably reported by the full House Appropriations committee; and a significant increase in the wage available to interns was promulgated by the House Admin Committee. The House Defense Approps bill contains language to sunset the two AUMFs from 2001 and 2002 that have been abused ever since. We’ve got more below, along with summaries of two hearings that helped define what still needs to be done to modernize Congress: a House ModCom hearing on Congress and Technology and the Senate’s Leg Branch Approps hearing on the GAO & GPO.

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First Branch Forecast for June 21, 2022

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This week. The House is in today and so is the Senate. After this week, both chambers will take a break from floor legislative activities until July 11th — according to the House floor calendar and Senate floor calendar — although the House will hold a committee work week next week. Afterward, the House has scheduled only 3 weeks of floor activities, and the Senate has scheduled only 4 weeks of floor activities, before both chambers go into summer recess. Rapidly approaching elections suggest the September work period will be short and the interregnum work period in December will be chaotic. It also means that over the next few weeks even the most minor legislative issues will take on a political import that scrambles the likelihood of passage in unusual ways.

As you might expect, this week is terribly busy. In fact, today is the longest day. (Sorry.) We are watching (and participating in) Tuesday’s meeting of the Bulk Data Task Force, Wednesday’s House Appropriations Committee markup of the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill and the Senate’s Leg Branch Approps hearing on the GAO & GPO, and Thursday’s House Modernization Committee hearing on Congress and Technology. There will be several Jan 6th Committee hearings and all of the House Approps subcommittee markups will wrap up this week. (House full committee approps proceedings wrap up next week.) There’s also an interesting House Judiciary hearing on oversight of the DOJ’s National Security Division on Wednesday and a House Admin hearing on disinformation. For more info, see the combined committees schedule.

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First Branch Forecast for May 23, 2022: Member Days

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This week. The Senate is back Tuesday; the House has a committee work week. Approps hearings continue, with USCP, GAO, and the Library of Congress testifying re: their budget requests before the Senate Leg Branch SubCmte on Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, HSGAC will hold a markup for a slate of good government bills, some of which are worthy of our attention. (More on that below.)

Unionization timeline. The OCWR published its final regulations allowing for House staff to unionize on May 16th. This sets a 60-day clock for implementation on July 15, 2022. The OCWR declined to exercise its authority to shorten the waiting period “for good cause,” but maybe it can be persuaded.

Approps. When is your testimony due? Remember our list of appropriations deadlines.

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First Branch Forecast for May 16, 2022: A better Congress

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This week. The Senate is in today as is the House. Next week is a House committee-only work week, followed by the Memorial Day break in both chambers. On suspension on the House floor is a bill to strengthen the VA IG. The committee schedule is filled with appropriations hearings, but we also note that the House Judiciary Cmte has a hearing on potential reforms to emergency powers and the House Leg Branch SubCmte is holding a Member Day hearing.

Because this IS appropriations season, here is our list of appropriations deadlines for member testimony and public witness testimony in both chambers.


The big news. Many political and nonpolitical House staff will be able to unionize now that Rep. Levin’s resolution, H.Res.1096, passed the House last week. The OCWR must publish the regulations in the Congressional Record and (oddly) the OCWR has not (yet?) exercised its authority to shorten the 60 day waiting period, which starts upon publication in the Congressional Record, for the protections to go into effect. OCWR had testified to House Admin that the House could speed up implementation if it elucidated good cause to shorten the window, suggesting (at the time) that those views could be published in an accompanying committee report. Maybe there’s some other way they could be communicated?

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