First Branch Forecast for January 18, 2022

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THE TOP LINE

It’s Tuesday, Lemon. The House is back today after the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday with an apparently light floor schedule; the Senate canceled recess to try again to move voting rights legislation with debate on Tuesday and a cloture vote on Wednesday, hopefully all members will be healthy, present, and prepared to take a stand for democracy. This week’s committee schedule looks quiet, but we’ve got our eyes on Wednesday’s intriguing House Rules hearing on using budget principles to prepare for future pandemics and disasters and Thursday’s ModCom hearing on the status of the committee’s recommendations for making Congress work better for the American people (witnesses have not been officially announced).

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First Branch Forecast for January 10, 2022

First Branch Forecast Logo

Welcome‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌First‌ ‌Branch‌ ‌Forecast,‌ ‌your‌ ‌regular‌ ‌look‌ ‌into‌ ‌the‌ ‌Legislative‌ ‌branch‌ ‌and‌ government ‌transparency.‌ ‌Tell ‌your‌ ‌friends‌ ‌to‌ subscribe.

THE TOP LINE

This week. The House is back Monday evening with a quorum call to start the second session of the 117th Congress; the Senate is back on Monday as well. The floor and committees look fairly quiet, but watch out for Tuesday’s Leg Branch Approps hearing with 3/4s of the Capitol Police Board and a Senate Judiciary hearing on domestic terrorism; a Wednesday House Defense Approps subcommitte hearing on the negative consequences of the CR on defense readiness and a SSCI hearing on a DHS intel nominee. Senator Reid will lie in state on Wednesday — the Nevada Independent summarized his life and linked to video from this weekend’s services

Trump insurrection. Last week was the one year anniversary of the Trump insurrection. Many of those criminally responsible are at large and uncharged; those who are politically responsible continue to downplay, deny, or shift responsibility — or counterprogram with misinformation. We will not pass over those who remain silent with the purpose of evading responsibility and encouraging the media to move its attention elsewhere. You can tell a lot by those who skipped out on the commemoration. The denial and downplaying of these terrible events have particular relevance for those on the hill. If you are a staffer and have not yet done so, please respond to the Congressional Progressive Staff Association’s survey on your attitudes toward the congressional workplace one year after January 6th. 

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Make U.S. Capitol Police IG Reports Publicly Available Online

Federal inspectors general routinely publish their findings online. This helps hold federal agencies to account by creating public and internal pressure to address the concerns raised by the IG and creating a record should they fail to fix problems. However, the Capitol Police Inspector General is one of a handful of IGs that withholds their reports from the public. On Monday, Demand Progress wrote to the committees that oversee the Capitol Police to request they direct the Capitol Police Inspector General to publish its final reports online.

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All Non-Confidential CRS Reports Should be Available Online

The public does not have access to a comprehensive database of non-confidential Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports. Recently, Demand Progress, American Enterprise Institute, and Free Government Information, and a coalition of 39 other organizations and 21 experts on Congress, including many CRS analysts, wrote to Representative Zoe Lofgren and Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Chair and Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on the Library, requesting they direct the Library of Congress to publish all non-confidential CRS reports online.

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Senate Personal Offices Now Allowed a Staffer With TS/SCI Clearance

Every senator will now be able to designate one aide as eligible to apply for a TS/SCI clearance according to an announcement made by Sen. Schumer and reported by Politico. Clearances give staffers the ability to review matters deemed classified by the Executive branch. Senator Murphy is a long-time champion of this change, which had broad, bipartisan support.

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Recommendations for the FY 2022 Security Supplemental (including on the U.S. Capitol Police)

Congress is expected to enact a “security supplemental” appropriations bill to address the aftermath of the Trump insurrection on January 6. In advance of that legislation, we compiled recommendations for items to include in the supplemental. They are informed by our experiences studying Legislative branch operations over the last decade, including several years of research into the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP). 

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Forecast for December 28, 2020

You shouldn’t be at work and neither should I. But since we’re here, this is the latest on the decline and fall of the American republic. Happy holidays!

THE TOP LINE
The COVID/Omnibus bill has been hung up by Pres. Trump and the circumstances could mean a government shutdown lasting two weeks or more… and there’s little Congress can do. Update: As of 8pm Sunday, Pres. Trump has now signed the bill, apparently flipping his position, albeit with the result of undermining a week’s work of unemployment benefits for millions of people.

New Congress? The House of Representatives will convene on Sunday, January 3rd, when it will adopt rules and vote on the Speaker. The Senate will also meet, but absent the results of the Georgia elections — set for January 5th, although it may take time to certify the results — it will likely do little.

Who is going to object to the electoral college vote? The counting of that vote is set for January 6th. Here’s a letter from 18 House Republicans suggesting they will object. CRS has a report on counting electoral votes by Congress.

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Forecast for November 23, 2020.

TOP LINE

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Congress left town as negotiations continue (we hope) on a plethora of should-pass bills. Meanwhile, Pres. Trump is working to undermine the election certification process, thereby increasing the likelihood of a fight in Congress over recognizing President-elect Biden’s victory and further de-legitimizing our political system. Pres.-elect Biden’s unpragmatic genuflection at the altar of bipartisanship and unity in the face of an astonishing unwillingness by leading congressional Republicans to acknowledge his victory for fear of Trump’s wrath suggests the ex-Veep will be unable to avert the further slide into an illiberal democracy.

The next four years will be short on legislation, long on executive actions, and marked by tribalistic strife aimed at tagging Biden with culpability for accomplishing little. The only open question (besides the Georgia elections) is whether Biden chooses the senior governmental staff he wants, which will highlight Congress’s anti-majoritarian dysfunction, or grants his political opponents a veto, which undermines any possibility of reform.

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Barrett, Graham, Feinstein, and de Tocqueville

I watched a little of this past week’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings and can’t say I enjoyed — or was enlightened — by it very much. Alexis de Tocqueville observed 185 year ago that “there is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.” While members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a certain Supreme Court nominee might publicly contend otherwise, there’s hardly a question about the fitness of a judicial nominee that isn’t actually a political question. That is what judicial confirmation hearings are all about: the judgment of the person nominated to become a Justice. 

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