Forecast for January 27, 2020.

THE TOP LINE

The “Senate is hiding from all of us,” writes longtime hill reporter Kathy Kiely, who said “the current security scheme appears designed to protect lawmakers from reporters’ questions.” The restrictions on press access, which we oppose, are a black eye on the Senate and a provocation for future restrictions.

Care about leg branch funding? We’ve built the definitive spreadsheet on funding, tracking every line item appropriation over the last 25 years.

Congress’s Science & Technology Policy capabilities were the subject of a recent NAPA report; our white paper covers the reports strengths and weaknesses and now we are pleased to release a 1-page summary. Stay tuned for news about an upcoming hill briefing on recs we co-authored (and will release soon) with the Lincoln Network.

Whistleblowers and CBO hearings: House Oversight will discuss whistleblower protections tomorrow at 2. The House Budget Committee has a hearing on “The Congressional Budget Office’s Budget and Economic Outlook” at 10 on Wednesday.

War and PeaceTonight at 5, House Rules will consider a measure from Reps. Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna to repeal the 2002 AUMF and prohibit military strikes on Iran absent Congressional authorization; the effort is an aspect of the leg branch’s reassertion of its proper role. (Notable is the procedural posture to avoid defection from a handful of Dems by sidestepping a MTR.) In addition, newly introduced legislation would provide long overdue reforms of the government’s surveillance powers — some authorities are set to sunset in March — in the wake of revelations of misuse of those authorities and a recent DOJ IG report on FISA process abuses. See our primer on section 215.

Just for fun: the NYT made a 3-D tour of how the Senate was transformed for the impeachment trial. Continue reading “Forecast for January 27, 2020.”

Forecast for January 21, 2020.

House Members are in their districts this week but the Senate is in for impeachment trial proceedings, which start today. Senators are the deciders, but they are not jurors.

Before we start, it’s worth rereading MLK’s letter from a Birmingham jail. I found this section resonant: “I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.”

THE TOP LINE

Press under attack: the Senate has implemented ridiculous press restrictions for impeachment trial coverage. Coalitions of transparency advocates (like us), free press representatives, and the Senators themselves all are saying the restrictions must go. There’s no public-facing written guidance on the rules, but that’s not stopping the Capitol Police from ending voluntary conversations between Members and press if they’re outside the press pens. More details in the impeachment section below.

The Fix Congress committee discussed how to reclaim Congressional power last week; we summarize the discussion below.

Freedom for all press: the DCCC filed a House ethics complaint against GOP “trackers” for recording video in public House hallways. Continue reading “Forecast for January 21, 2020.”

Forecast for January 13, 2020.

THE TOP LINE

8 House Dems voted to cede Congress’s constitutional role in matters of war and peace by voting ‘No’ on the House war powers resolution while Rep. Amash plus GOP Reps. Gaetz, Massie, and Rooney voted ‘Yes’ to protect our system of checks-and-balances. Notable, in addition to the vast majority of Republicans who likely would have voted differently if HRC were president, were the two dozen-ish Rs who flipped their vote, perhaps out of fear of political retribution.

The FY 2021 approps cycle is gearing up w/ Thursday deadline for public witness testimony for the H. Interior Approps SubC. Follow all the deadlines with our nifty Approprs Tracker + watch announcements on our Twitter bot @AppropsTracker.

Fix Congress Cmte hearing on Restoring Congressional Capacity is set for Tuesday.

Welcome the 21st century Frank: the House launched a public-facing website that publishes Member mass communications to constituents. More below.

Can’t wait until Monday for the First Branch Forecast? Follow @CongressRadar for real time Congress news, commentary, and unfunny inside jokes. Also, don’t forget to tell us what you think of our little publication!

Continue reading “Forecast for January 13, 2020.”

Forecast for January 6, 2020.

Welcome back. An astonishing amount has happened over the break, so let’s dive back in.

THE TOP LINE

The US assassinated Iranian Maj. Gen Qassem Soleimani in what may be a violation of US and international law — in flagrant violation of Congress’s war powers. Much more on this below in the section entitled “Wag the Dog,” I mean “Congressional War Powers.”

Impeachment part II: it’s unclear when the Senate will begin its trial, but there’s a lot of news from the courts. Details below.

ICYMI we covered approps, the NDAA, and House impeachment in our December 23rd newsletter, which is soooo good we’re linking to it here.

Don’t miss our latest 5 articlesPaid Parental Leave: Coming to a Congressional Office Near YouFirst Branch, Second Rate FundingTools Every Congressional Staffer Should Know AboutThe Legislative Branch is More Than Congress; and CBO Changes Make Finding Bill Scores Easy.
Continue reading “Forecast for January 6, 2020.”

Forecast for December 16, 2019

TOP LINE

It’s your jam. For weeks, we’ve been gearing up for leadership to jam members with tons of major votes as they head out the door. This week we will see at least two appropriations minibuses (likely Tuesday in the House), impeachment (Wednesday in the House), USCMA (i.e. NAFTA v2, likely on Thursday), a long list of suspension bills, and more. Of course, the Senate won’t consider impeachment and USCMA until after the holiday. As a bonus, just about everyone we know on the hill is coming down sick. Happy times. Continue reading “Forecast for December 16, 2019”

Forecast for December 9, 2019.

ON CONGRESS’S RADAR

It’s going to be a big week on Capitol Hill, so grab a pen and mark your calendars:

Impeachment proceedings continue with House Intelligence and House Judiciary presenting their findings today at 9 in 1100 Longworth. The Judiciary Cmte report on the constitutional grounds for impeachment came out this weekend.

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday at 10. He is expected to address his office’s investigation of FISA abuse, the report is expected today and AG Barr already is trying to discredit it.

The 2020 Senate Calendar was releasedwith all of January missing until the impeachment trial is scheduled. The House also changed its schedule and will meet the week of December 16th, most likely to accommodate a House impeachment proceedings and avoid a December 20th funding cutoff.

Watch for the appropriation bills, the articles of impeachment, the NDAA, and who knows what else. Expect things to seemingly accelerate out of control as recess gets closer.

The Senate is bored, at least according to a NYT article that explores whether McConnell has focused the chamber almost entirely on judicial confirmations (170 so far), steering it away from legislation. According to Senate Dems, “in 2019, there were 287 votes in the chamber related to nominations, compared with 98 regarding legislation.”
BEEP BEEP BEEP

Paid parental leave for federal employees may be included in the NDAA as part of a deal with Trump to create the spaaaaace fooooorce. It’s unclear whether leave would apply to the leg branch — but it should, including personal & committee offices. House Oversight is discussing paid leave tomorrow at 10. Also, watch to see if Dems cave in the NDAA on ending US support for the Yemen war.

Congress’s science and technology policy capacity (e.g., OTA) was the talk of the town, with a Science Committee hearing this past Wednesday, a Levin Center event on Friday, the release of a NAPA report, and our evaluation of the report. More below.

Good news for @approps & @budget techies: CBO added significant improvements to how it publishes data. Details below. (Kudos CBO!)

GPO Director Hugh Halpern. It’s official, he’s been confirmed. Congratulations, Hugh!

The House’s rules and procedures were the topic of a Fix Congress committee hearing on Wednesday, and the subject of one of our (in)famous letters. More below.

Congressional oversight of the intel community and its role as IC watchdog was the topic of a conversation at CATO’s Surveillance conference on Friday. Video will be here. Does this tie in to FISA? You betcha. Continue reading “Forecast for December 9, 2019.”