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.

UNION

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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First Branch Forecast for May 9, 2022: Union means together

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Welcome back. The Senate is in today; the House is back tomorrow. On the House floor, a resolution to allow House staff to unionize will be brought to a vote later this week. Senate Leg branch approps has started its hearings, with the Architect, CBO, and Senate SAA on Wednesday; House FSGG approps will hear from the federal judiciary on Thursday and hold a member day hearing on Friday.

TREATING STAFF LIKE PEOPLE

Overview. This week had a ton of good news for Congressional staff. A vote is set to adopt Rep. Levin’s resolution that would afford many House political and non-political staff the opportunity to organize into a union. Speaker Pelosi issued a pay order that will require, by September 1, that all House staff be paid no less than $45,000 annually. And Speaker Pelosi increased the maximum pay a staffer can earn to $203,700, from $199,300, an amount identical to the top rate for Senate staff. The minimum pay levels and pay order enjoys strong bipartisan support, and rightly so. Last week Reps. Hoyer and Jeffries sent an excellent letter calling for COLAs for political offices and a wide range of improved staff benefits. And, lest we forget, the House Modernization Committee has advanced scores of recommendations to improve legislative operations. This House is on track to improve the working conditions for its staff in the 117th Congress more than Congress has over the last three decades combined.

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