At last, we have a mostly-operational Congress as the Senate finally adopted its organizing resolutions appointing members to committees. (Wouldn’t it be nice if the Senate made its resolutions available to the public online before it adopted them?) So far, the House has oscillated between self-congratulation over tweaks to legislative process, grave pronouncements on the debt limit crisis, and playing in the funhouse mirrors of identity politics like the 8:00 hour of certain cable TV news channels.
All of that is coming out at once on the debt limit issue. Both House Leadership and President Biden struck statesmen-like postures, sitting down to discuss the issue and initiate a dialogue that can be acknowledged by the political press, even as the underlying issue shouldn’t be subject to negotiation. Speaker McCarthy emerged speaking of a “good faith” conversation and confidence in finding common ground. Blue Dog Democrats declared their eagerness to help in the negotiations. Meanwhile, the Republican Study Committee reminded themselves that Democrats were “gaslighting” the public for not swallowing Mises Institute economics whole and daring to pass spending packages by majority rule. Apparently oil and natural gas drilling permits are worth crashing the global economy and Congress should repeal the infrastructure bill many Republicans voted against but repeatedly take credit for back home.
So here we are, with new members of the Oversight Committee insisting a single elementary school in Illinois spent more than the equivalent of three space shuttle launches on diversity training. Everything for public consumption seems like messaging. But what is the message?
This week President Biden will deliver the State of the Union Address on Tuesday at 9 PM EST. The Senate will hold one vote on a judicial nomination Tuesday as well. The House is in session for votes and hearings Monday through Thursday. The House Appropriations Committee will organize on Wednesday and HSGAC will organize on Thursday.
Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton will testify before the Committee on House Administration on Thursday at 9 AM EST. Although Blanton will discuss the AOC’s strategic plan for the 118th Congress, which includes physical security for the campus, it’s an opportunity for committee members to question him about the myriad ethics violations that the AOC inspector general detailed last fall. Don’t forget that Democrats have called for the Architect to resign and bipartisan legislation was introduced to empower Congress to push him out. As we discussed recently, statute does not create a clear path for removing Blanton other than impeachment. The appointment and removal process for senior legislative branch leadership is a much broader and poorly understood issue that our colleague Taylor Swift explored in this report.
Remember that AOC also serves on the US Capitol Police Board, which oversees the most untransparent police force in the US. Yes, I’m a bit surly when it comes to this topic. Would the Architect support giving the USCP IG full independence and jurisdiction over the Board? What about making its reports publicly available, like all other IGs? Does the USCP Board now have more than 1 FTE staffer available to support its oversight work? Is the Board routinely taking minutes and providing them to all members of the oversight committees? Does the Architect believe, as did his predecessor, that the Capitol Police Board is needlessly deeming information as sensitive or classified so as to prevent congressional oversight? How many GAO and IG recommendations are still not fully addressed?