USASpending Publishes (Some) Budget Requests In A Central Location

Every year federal agencies explain to Congress their requests for funding in a document known as a Congressional Budget Justification (CBJ). Unlike other budget documents, these requests are written to be read and understood by most people. 

Hundreds of agencies and sub-agencies submit these requests and OMB requires executive branch agencies to publish their CBJs online, but there hasn’t been a ‘one-stop-shop’ government database that aggregates all the requests in one place…until now (sort of).

Continue reading “USASpending Publishes (Some) Budget Requests In A Central Location”

The Crystal Ball on Funding for the Office of Technology Assessment

Earlier this year, the House’s Appropriations Committee favorably reported a Legislative Branch Appropriations bill for FY 2020 that contained $6m in start-up funds for the Office of Technology Assessment spread out over two years. Now that the House and Senate have agreed upon top line spending numbers for the federal government, where does all this stand?

As you might recall, the House of Representatives passed 10 out of 12 appropriations bills, but the Legislative Branch bill was not among them. It got hung up on the House floor over an unrelated fight over providing members of Congress with a cost of living increase.

To date, the Senate has not marked up any appropriations measures because leadership decided to hold off on markups until the House and Senate reached an agreement over the top line number for federal spending spending. With that now resolved, Senate appropriators reportedly made a secret determination about how the Senate will divvy up those funds among among the appropriations subcommittees — that information won’t be public until September — and staff likely are working feverishly over the August recess to draft the Senate’s appropriations bills. We should expect to see the Senate move as many appropriations bills as possible before the fiscal year ends at the end of September, although there may be a long term Continuing Resolution for the controversial measures and a short term CR if they cannot complete the non-controversial measures by October 1.

Also behind the scenes, I would expect that House and Senate appropriators are working out their differences over how much funding should be available to each of the appropriations subcommittees — the House and Senate bills need to be identical, after all — and perhaps they even are looking at what to include in those bills. It’s likely that most controversial measures will not be included. However, making determinations about what to include may be awkward as Senate appropriators do not have official baseline text.

What does this mean for OTA? Usually leg branch approps is the least controversial of all the spending bills and it would already have been passed by the House. But that did not happen and time is running short. I expect the House will pass its leg branch approps bill in September — at least, it seems reasonable they do so — and the recent bipartisan recommendations from the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress on bringing back OTA in some form may firm up the House’s position in support of the start-up funds.

Senate appropriators may be less enthusiastic about bringing back OTA as an independent entity and more supportive of providing more funds to GAO’s STAA, but with the House’s strong support for restoring an OTA-like entity, it seems likely that they would acquiesce to some modest start-up funds.

The biggest determining factor likely is the amount of money that’s available for spending on the legislative branch, which has gotten the back hand for funding as compared to other appropriations subcommittees, and how leg branch priorities will be shoe-horned into that bill.

The Long Arm of the U.S. Capitol Police

The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) isn’t your standard police department: tasked with keeping Congress safe while maintaining an open environment, USCP is more of a police-force-security-agency hybrid. The agency enjoys wide jurisdiction, but how wide exactly? We contacted the department in June to find out. 

We requested a map of USCP’s jurisdiction and the agreement with DC police governing how the departments address jurisdictional overlap. USCP’s public information office declined to substantively respond to our request and several follow up inquiries. 

Fortunately, it turns out a map of USCP’s extended jurisdiction is available on the USCP website, buried inside the traffic code document (page A85). Here it is: Continue reading “The Long Arm of the U.S. Capitol Police”

Rule of Law(makers)

We’ve previously written about the rules that rule the rules, which has to be one of the world’s wonkiest subjects. In short, each party in the House and Senate has rules that govern their conference or caucus, leading to different party rules for (1) House Democrats, (2) House Republicans, (3) Senate Democrats, and (4) Senate Republicans. 

Party rules shape the power structure inside the party: they govern things like committee chair assignments and term limits for leadership. These rules can empower rank and file members and give them a voice, strengthen committees, or consolidate power in the hands of a few at the top.  Continue reading “Rule of Law(makers)”

GPO Watchdog Testimony Raises Concerns About the Agency

The Government Publishing Office’s (GPO) lack of permanent leadership was just one of the major issues raised at this week’s oversight hearing of the GPO Office of the Inspector General.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt kicked off the hearing by voicing concerns over shaky leadership: the agency hasn’t had a permanent director since October 2017 and has been under the leadership of Acting Deputy Director John Crawford for the last 12 months. On top of that, five of the ten GPO executive leadership team positions are vacant with employees serving in an acting capacity, according to Chairman Blunt’s remarks. 

The Chairman also noted that it’s not just the agency leadership that’s in flux; GPO Inspector General (IG) Michael Leary is the third person to hold the position in the last 16 months. Continue reading “GPO Watchdog Testimony Raises Concerns About the Agency”

Capitol Police Arrests: What Department Data Does and Doesn’t Tell Us

It’s been a little over six months since the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) started posting arrest summaries. Here’s what the data tell us:

Between December 19, 2018 and June 24, 2019  USCP disclosed 271 incidents where 531 individuals were arrested. Incidents can involve more than one individual getting arrested, which explains the gap in those two figures. Of these 271 incidents:

  • 13.7% (37 incidents) took place at or around Union Station, with 54% (20) of those incidents involving drugs.
  • 12.5% (34 incidents) took place in congressional office buildings and the Capitol or directly adjacent to those buildings. 188 individuals were arrested during these incidents. 
  • The most common charges issued: 36% of incidents included charges for driving without a valid license (98 incidents) and 13% of incidents included charges for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (36 incidents). 

Continue reading “Capitol Police Arrests: What Department Data Does and Doesn’t Tell Us”

The Changing Nature of Misconduct Complaints Against Capitol Police Employees

Demand Progress obtained ten years’ worth of reports summarizing complaints against U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) employees. According to the data:

Total complaint cases are up by almost 70% in the last decade. USCP reported 151 complaints in fiscal year (FY) 2009 compared to 253 complaints in calendar year 2018. We should note that the number of USCP officers has also significantly increased over that time: the department has 1,799 full time employees in FY 2009 compared to 2,283 at the start of FY 19.

Internal complaint cases have more than doubled since 2016. USCP reported 212 internal complaint cases in 2018: that’s a 118% increase from the 80 reported in 2016 and a 226% jump from the 65 reported in FY 2010. These has been some suggestion this has been caused, in part, by race-based and gender-based discrimination within the department. Continue reading “The Changing Nature of Misconduct Complaints Against Capitol Police Employees”