Capitol Police Fire Arm Regulations

The Capitol Police Board has regulations governing firearms, explosives, incendiary devices and other dangerous weapons which specify that no person shall carry any firearm inside the chamber or on the floor of either House.

The full regulations can be seen in the following image, which has been transcribed as text at the end of this article.

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A Primer on the Capitol Police: What We Know From Two Years of Research

Today armed Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an apparent and temporarily successful effort to disrupt the vote to certify the 2020 presidential election results. Members, staff, and journalists were forced to hide throughout the terrifying ordeal and many took to Twitter asking the fundamental questions: Where are the Capitol Police and how could this happen?

The U.S. Capitol Police is the security-force/police-department hybrid tasked with keeping Congress safe and open for business. The little-known department has a budget that exceeds $515 million for FY 2021— constituting almost 10% of Legislative branch funding — and nearly 2,450 employees, around 2,000 of whom are sworn officers. The size of the Capitol Police’s budget can compete with major municipal police forces such as San Antonio’s, which is responsible for a population of 1.5 million, and USCP’s workforce size eclipses that of major city departments like New Orleans and Miami. Notably, their extended jurisdiction covers less than 2 square miles, and there are many other police and security forces in Washington, D.C.

How is the department using those resources to enforce the law and protect the Congress? It is difficult to say because the Capitol Police are infamously opaque. Only in response to significant outside agitation did we obtain any details about their operations. For example, the department started posting weekly arrest summaries in December 2018, following prodding from civil society and congressional overseers. These summaries are among the limited information the department shares publicly — although we have reason to suspect they are not complete, among other shortcomings

Continue reading “A Primer on the Capitol Police: What We Know From Two Years of Research”

Your Guide to 117th Congress House Rules Proceedings

The House Rules package for the 117th Congress has been approved and all the juicy details are in Monday’s Congressional Record. Don’t have time to comb through the 50+ dense pages? We’ve got you covered with a handy index of what’s included:

Resolution adopting the rules of the House for the 117th Congress H. Res. 8H13
Vote to tableH18
Vote to refer to a select committeeH19
Section by section of the changes H. Res. 8 will make to the standing rulesH23
Vote on Rep. Cole amendment H34
Vote on motion to commit to a select committeeH35
Vote on the resolutionH36
Election of Members to certain standing committees H36
Fixing the daily hour of meeting for the first session of the 117th CongressH37
Consent to assemble outside the seat of Government H37
Authorizing Speaker, Majority Leader, and Minority Leader to accept resignations and make appointmentsH37
Granting Members permission to extend remarks and include extraneous material in the Congressional RecordH37
Making morning-hour debate in orderH37
Appointment of Members to House office building commissionH37
Reappointment of individuals to the US-China Economic and Security Review CommissionH37
Appointment of Members to act as Speaker Pro TemporeH38
Clerk designation of deputies with signing authorityH38
Sergeant at Arms notification of ongoing public health emergencyH38
Speaker designation of “covered period” for covid emergencyH38
Chair Announcements on 
1. floor privileges
2. introduction of bills and resolutions
3. unanimous consent requests for the consideration of legislation
4. 1-minute speeches
5. recognition for special order speeches
6. decorum in debate
7. conduct of votes by electronic device
8. use of handouts on the House floor
9. use of electronic equipment on the House floor
10. Use of the Chamber
11. Conduct during a covered period
H38
Regulations for use of deposition authorityH41
Remote committee proceedings regulationsH41
Remote voting by proxy regulationsH42
Executive CommunicationsH43
Public Bills and ResolutionsH43

House Rules for the 117th Congress

The House of Representatives adopted a new rules package on Monday. Here is the text of H. Res 8, a section-by-section summary, a press release that highlights some of the major changes, and a decent overview of activities of the House Rules committee. We have put together a guide to rules reform proposals over the last decade, and, as you know by now, we have advocated for a number of improvements and closely followed the Member-day hearing. Roll Call’s Lindsey McPherson has a good high level summary of the contents. Please note: the House made minor changes to the draft rules, previously called H. Res 5, between Sunday and Monday.

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Who Steers the Ship in the 117th Congress? An Examination of House Steering and Policy Committee Membership

House Democrats and Republicans use internal party committees to control major aspects of the legislative process, including choosing who gets to serve on legislative committees. Who serves on these committees and how are they chosen? Read on. (If this seems familiar, we looked at internal party committee makeup for the 116th Congress here).

Under the House rules, each party decides committee assignments for its Members. As a result, the steering and policy committees are an integral piece to secure intraparty power. With a large number of Members competing for a relatively small number of key committee assignments and leadership roles, the parties’ respective steering committees act as a filter for who rise and fall, creating a sorting mechanism among the party’s internal factions. It is also a mechanism by which leadership taxes Members to provide financial contributions in support of the party. 

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2021 Congressional Budget Priorities: House vs. Senate

Senate appropriators released their Fiscal Year 2021 Legislative Branch spending bill proposal back in November — more than a month into the fiscal year. How does their pitch stack up against the House numbers released in July?

To find commonalities and differences in funding, we created a side by side comparison, including dollar and percent differences, available online here and embedded below. Please note the below data does not factor in continuing resolutions keeping the lights on until a final FY 2021 spending agreement is enacted.

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Why isn’t the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights protecting Congress during the Pandemic?

Wouldn’t it be good to have an independent office that had the authority to impose a uniform set of mandatory safety and health standards across Capitol Hill? Such an office already exists and Congress is giving them a pass.

The Office of Congressional Workplace Rights (OCWR) is the independent, centralized workplace safety and health agency for the House, the Senate, and other Capitol Hill offices, including the Architect of the Capitol, Capitol Police, the Library of Congress, and even the Government Accountability Office. This office has strong enforcement powers. The OCWR also handles employment cases in a separate process.

Almost twenty-five years ago, this office, originally called the Office of Compliance, opened its doors. In 1997, the Office of Compliance Board of Directors, a panel of five private sector appointees, adopted regulations to implement the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, as required by law. Congress ignored them.

In the intervening years, this office has dropped the ball on pressing Congress to approve its OSH regulations. Now, there is a call for immediate action. The OCWR has the legal authority to develop standards for employees. Will it exercise its OSH authority to mandate enforceable standards?

Without regulations, the custodians and craftspeople, congressional staffers, and other essential workers are left without effective protection. One House member was reported to compel his staff to come to work without masks to show support for the Administration. The law requires OSH regulations, issued by the OCWR, because the federal OSHA rules don’t apply directly to the legislative branch. 

There is precedent for emergency standards to be imposed without advance congressional approval. For permanent standards to apply, Congress would need to approve OCWR-adopted regulations, but the OCWR must make the first move.

In the midst of a pandemic, one would think that the OCWR Board of Directors might take the initiative. Instead, it reflects the branch that created it. The OCWR is infected with congressional dysfunction.

Isn’t it time for congressional employees, Senators, or Representatives to demand action? Don’t hold your breath. And wear a mask!

Kevin Mulshine served as a Senior Advisor and Counsel to the Congressional Office of Compliance from 1995 to 1997. Subsequently, he served as Inspector General for the Architect of the Capitol. He is a cum laude graduate of the Howard University Law Center.

November Update: What Items are Due in the Modernization Committee Resolution

In early March, the House passed H.Res 756, adopting modernization recommendations of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. The resolution included 29 recommendations that were unanimously reported by the Fix Congress Committee in 2019. The resolution called on legislative support offices to start a number of projects and report back on how to implement others. 

Last week, the Committee on House Administration released a series of congressional reports that were due in H.Res 756. We continue to catalogue the projects and their due dates into a public spreadsheet, and have them broken down by items. 

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Webinar: Senate Rules and the Supreme Court Nomination

Senate rules and procedure are in the news with the ongoing confirmation proceedings for Judge Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is why we hosted a webinar with three Senate rules and procedure experts on October 8, 2020, focused on the nomination and Judiciary and floor procedure. The panelists were:

  • Sarah Binder, senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and professor of political science at GW
  • Matt Glassman, senior fellow at the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown
  • Molly Reynolds, senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution
  • Daniel Schumanmoderator, policy director at Demand Progress

Didn’t catch the event live? Watch it online below or click here.

A Brief Recent History of Unionization in Congress

Working conditions for Congressional staff have recently been prominent in the news. News stories recount staff shamed by their offices for wanting to wear masks in the face of COVID-19 or being unnecessarily forced into their offices. Congressional staff are also significantly underpaid compared to their Executive branch (or historical) counterparts; their health insurance has been used as a political football; and they have less recourse when they’re subject to harassment or other mistreatment in the workplace.

The traditional response by staff to difficult working conditions is to unionize. But can Congressional staff unionize like their Executive branch counterparts? Continue reading “A Brief Recent History of Unionization in Congress”