Forecast for August 19, 2019.

The House and Senate are out but we’ve got a brief First Branch Forecast for you to hold you over. Here’s what you need to know:

ON YOUR RADAR
Acting AOC is out. The Acting Architect of the Capitol’s resignation was effective on Saturday (surprise?!) and Tom Carroll is the new Acting Architectwhile the search for a permanent AOC continues. Unrelated, but also notable in AOC news: a new AOC IG report is out (looks like they found some problems).

The BLAG? Everyone’s heard of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, but the House of Representatives has a legal office that articulates the institutional view of the people’s chamber: the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group. The BLAG decides when the House General Counsel should intervene, but not much is known about its work. Fourteen civil society organizations wrote to the General Counsel and Members of the BLAG to encourage the adoption of some basic transparency measures. (We had recommendations in our House rules recs, too.) Also, wouldn’t it be fun to rename it the BLAWG?

We are experimenting with a new Twitter account, @CongressRadar, which we will hand curate to provide First Branch-y news all week long. It joins our automated accounts @AppropsTracker@EveryCRSReport@LeadershipFlack@OpenAtAGlance & @CongressRFP. Continue reading “Forecast for August 19, 2019.”

Forecast for August 12, 2019.

THE TOP LINE
The House and Senate return on September 9th, which is 3 full weeks before the start of the next fiscal year
. Both chambers must pass and reconcile all 12 spending bills by October 1 to avoid a government shutdown.

So far the Senate hasn’t given notice of any approps markups. The House passed 10 of 12 bills earlier this year; new top line spending numbers mean there may be some adjustments to sync with the Senate.

USASpending (quietly) posted a page listing links to (some) federal agencies’ congressional budget justifications in one place, which we’ve been asking them to do and built a rough prototype of earlier this year. Their implementation is far from perfect, but it’s a welcome first step.

Curious where Capitol Police’s authority ends and DC Metro PD’s begins?We are, too. We built an interactive map of their jurisdiction and where they are reporting arrests. The USCP wouldn’t substantively answer questions about their jurisdiction, but it turns out the information was already up on their public site, buried 200+ pages into the traffic code. Don’t forget to check out related reads on the increasing Capitol Police employee complaints and analyzing six months of Capitol Police arrest data.

If you’re reading this newsletter you probably care about Congress; care about Congress professionally with Demand Progress — we’re hiring! Join us as a policy manager or policy analyst. Continue reading “Forecast for August 12, 2019.”

Forecast for August 5, 2019.

FirstBranchForecast

The Senate and the House are out for recess but we are still in session.

AT THE TOP
Want to fix Congress? We’re hiring!
 We’re looking for a policy manager and a policy analyst to focus on strengthening Congress. Please apply or tell your friends!

A beta whistleblower portal is live on Oversight.gov; it instructs whistleblowers regarding who to contact to blow the whistle or request assistance to address retaliation. The portal was jointly developed by CIGIE and the Office of Special Counsel.

House Democratic Caucus Rules still have not been changed despite a previously scheduled vote in February, but a party committee is continuing to work on proposed amendments, led by Rep. Meng. They’re soliciting comments. We have some.

Write-o. The UK Parliament has an interesting model for legislative e-petitions.

File any FOIAs recently? The federal FOIA Advisory Committee wants to hear how it went. Continue reading “Forecast for August 5, 2019.”

Forecast for July 29, 2019.

FirstBranchForecast

The House is out for August recess; the Senate has one week to go. Here’s what you need to know for the week of July 29, 2019.

SELECT COMMITTEE GRAND SLAM
The Fix Congress Committee
 adopted two-dozen recommendations last week and also turned their May recommendations into H. Res 526. A super-majority of the committee is required to adopt recommendations; these were adopted unanimously. Continue reading “Forecast for July 29, 2019.”

Forecast for July 22, 2019.

The last week before recess is always crazy and this week will be no exception. We apologize for skipping the Forecast over the last two weeks, but we were literally and figuratively underwater.

ON THE RADAR

Negotiations over appropriations levels and the debt ceiling must result in a long-term agreement, a short term agreement, Congress returning during the recess, or a government shutdown. Expect to see members forced to vote on a deal they don’t like. For our purposes, the big question is whether Pelosi fights to restore funding for leg branch, and, uh, whether the government shuts down.

Mueller’s testimony will dominate the news most of the week, alongside the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and Trump’s ongoing racist attacks on the squad. (Note I did not mention the refugee concentration camps, which have fallen out of the news, but are subtext to the appropriations fight and a BFD.) Trump impeachment on one hand and racist attacks may motivate base voters and it wouldn’t surprise me if two dozen more dems come out for impeachment.

Hearings worth monitoringContinue reading “Forecast for July 22, 2019.”

Forecast for July 1, 2019.

CONGRESS IN BRIEF

• Only 36 (working) days are left for Congress to pass all 12 spending bills, so why is McConnell pressing pause on the approps process? More below.

• 90% of House offices either don’t pay their interns or — more likely — failed to announce they have paid internships in job postings on their websites.

• The Bulk Data Task Force, where congressional technologists and civil society work to improve legislative data, will meet on Tuesday, July 9th at 11. Location TBA.

• The Supreme Court poked a hole in the Freedom of Information Act. A federal agency can withhold commercial and financial information from a requester merely by determining that the records fit within an expansive definition of ‘confidential’, instead of having to show as well that disclosure would cause harm to the private-sector submitter, as lower courts had held.

• PACER yourself. Sens. Portman, Wyden, Cruz, and Hirono and Reps. Quigley and Collins are trying to enable free access to court records on PACER via the Electronic Court Records Reform Act. Is it coincidence the Courts are forming an advisory committee on PACER?

• A House Ethics Committee working group wants to hear from you: submit comments by July 11th on how the rules should address conflicts of interest that arise from members of Congress and staff who sit on outside entities. Continue reading “Forecast for July 1, 2019.”

Forecast for June 24, 2019.

CONGRESS IN BRIEF

• Apparent mismanagement at CRS has created a 19% annual turnover rate in its law division and a lack of diversity in the agency’s senior leadership, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Last week’s House Admin hearing on CRS — the first in more than a decade — shed welcome light on problems facing Congress’s think tank. More below.

• Did you know the House doesn’t have a point person for HR? That point was made by Rep. Kilmer at the Fix Congress Committee’s hearing on congressional staff retention and diversity (video here), which featured experts on building strong, diverse workforces.

• Spending bills: the Financial Services and General Government bill will go to the House floor this week and, potentially, so will the leg branch spending bill (sans member pay raises). Plus, a minibus spending bill (Labor-HHS-Edu, Defense, State, and Energy) passed the House last week, amendments here. The second minibus bill (CJS, Ag, Interior, MilCon, and T-HUD) has been held up.

• The US almost went to war with Iran last week. Dems want to make that harder.

• Recess starts at the end of this week. Continue reading “Forecast for June 24, 2019.”