CBO Changes Make Finding Bill Scores Easy

Capitol West Lawn Bright

Good news for Hill staff and Congressional spending nerds alike: the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has made some significant improvements to how it publishes data. 

The agency, which is responsible for advising Congress on the potential economic impact of legislation, announced several transparency-friendly changes on its site last week. Changes include:  Continue reading “CBO Changes Make Finding Bill Scores Easy”

Capitol Police Round Up: Week Ending November 21, 2019

We are resuming our weekly updates on U.S. Capitol Police activity, which were previously embedded in our weekly newsletter the First Branch Forecast.

For the week ending on November 21, 2019, there were 13 incidents reported with a total of 56 individuals arrested. 

Noteworthy incidents included an individual attempting to bring an unregistered firearm and ammunition into the Russell Senate office building—he was arrested when his weapon went through the x-ray machine—and USCP approaching and arresting someone for suspected marijuana use. (The USCP’s role is to protect the Capitol Complex, so it is unclear how a pot arrest contributes to congressional safety and security.)

Here’s how this week’s activity compares to the average distribution: 

Comprehensive Good Government Bill Re-Introduced by Rep. Quigley

We have good news for fans of government accountability and cleaning up the swamp: Rep. Mike Quigley has re-introduced the Transparency in Government Act (TGA). The bill is essentially a menu of everything needed to bring greater transparency to the federal government.

Major provisions of the bill include:

Continue reading “Comprehensive Good Government Bill Re-Introduced by Rep. Quigley”

Appropriators Should Provide Adequate Funding to Congress

Congress is significantly underfunded — especially compared to the executive branch — and it has suffered deep staff cuts over the last 25 years. In March and in September, we co-authored letters naming the fact that not only does the Legislative Branch receive the smallest funding level of the 12 appropriations subcommittees, it has received funding cuts (in real terms) over the last decade even as other appropriations subcommittees have received increases.

As we speak, the House and Senate are negotiating over how much in new funding to give to each of the 12 appropriations subcommittees. In play is how to divvy up a significant increase in overall funding: a $27 billion increase in non-defense discretionary spending over the next fiscal year.

According to CRS, in FY 2019 the legislative branch was funded at $4.836 billion. How does the proposed increases in Leg Branch funding from the House and Senate compare to last year’s funding level?


Screenshot 2019-10-31 at 11.57.43 AM
Comparison of proposed changes in the allocation to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Committee for FY 2020, in millions of dollars.

Continue reading “Appropriators Should Provide Adequate Funding to Congress”

Have CRS Annual Reports Disappeared?

Every year the Congressional Research Service submits a report to Congress that provides some information about the agency’s work over the preceding year. From these reports you can glean some insights about how the agency is run, what they prioritize, the long term projects they have undertaken, get a list of new CRS reports, and understand a bit about their interrelationship with Congress. In general terms, it’s a promotional piece for CRS that shows the agency’s work in the best possible light — it’s geared for appropriators — and also includes some useful information about CRS’s operations. Many agencies publish these kinds of promotional reports. 

The reports are a snapshot, and on their own don’t provide much information about changes in the agency’s behavior over time. However, if you take the data from reports across many years, you can start to draw conclusions about how their operations have changed. We’ve tried to do just that — but ran into some interesting stumbling blocks. This article is about how hard it is to get information that should be publicly available.

Continue reading “Have CRS Annual Reports Disappeared?”

CBO’s Conflicts of Interest Disclosure Forms

You may have heard of the Congressional Budget Office, the legislative branch agency tasked with advising Congress on the potential economic impact of legislation. In formulating these analyses, CBO may rely on outside experts. The agency has three panels of advisers (Economic, Health, and Health Insurance) composed of experts from academia, the private sector, and elsewhere that provide input on CBO analyses, and CBO also consults with other outside experts. 

These outside advisers have the potential to influence CBO’s perspective, which is why the advisers are required to disclose their significant financial interests as a way of surfacing potential conflicts. Until recently, CBO did not publish on its website information about how to review the forms

Continue reading “CBO’s Conflicts of Interest Disclosure Forms”