Forecast for January 7, 2019. All that’s old is new again.

THE TOP LINE

The House adopted the most transparent and open rules in my lifetime and by a huge bipartisan majority created a Select Committee on Modernizing Congress. There was a little kerfuffle over Pay-Go and a few surprise votes. More below.

The shutdown continues even as the House passed two approps bills that Sen. McConnell refused to bring to the floor. (It’s notable that the bills were available online for 72 hours!) Eight Repubs in the House voted for it and two Senate Repubs said that they would if given the chance. Dems will try again this week with stand alone bills, and accuse McConnell of being complicit in the Trump shutdown. McConnell is trying to prevent his conference from splitting, but he is creating a crisis by doing so. Senate Dems might slow things down in the Senate to increase the pressure.

House Dems introduced HR 1, a major ethics, voting rights, and campaign finance reform bill. It’s not up on Congress.gov, but you can read it here. The Dems had a major press event that you can watch here, and Vox has a decent summary. Continue reading “Forecast for January 7, 2019. All that’s old is new again.”

Forecast for December 31, 2018. Party like it’s 2019.

TOP LINE

And we’re (almost) back. The 116th Congress starts on Thursday.

It’s common for members to introduce legislation on the first day (237 bills were introduced in the House on day one in the 115th). But — and this is unusual timing — it looks like the House will pass an appropriations bill to end the partial government shutdown on day one. Sen. McConnell said he won’t hold a vote on a plan Trump won’t sign, which presumably includes an identical version of the bill the Senate recently passed. In light of this, House Dems might as well pass a bill that reflects their values and splits the Republicans. 

— Whose fault? The New York Times wrote about how the shutdown suggests a congressional abdication of its responsibility. Oddly, they didn’t mention Sen. McConnell, who is a key player and has the power to end this charade. Matt Glassman has a smart analysis of the politics of the situation

Speaker-designee Pelosi released a letter Saturday night lauding the Rules package, which will include a select committee on the modernization of Congress, something many advocates have worked to advance. More on the rules package below.

It would not be surprising if House Dems highlighted H.R. 1, their omnibus Democracy Reform legislation that contains major voting, ethics, and money-in-politics reforms, although the sequencing will be tricky to get media coverage.

CRS has a guide to House and Senate proceedings on day one. The House will begin with a quorum call, election of the Speaker, member swearing in, notifications of party leadership appointments, election of House officers (H. Res. 1), debate and vote on the House rules package (H. Res. 5), and announcement of committee leadership.

More detail? Here’s a transcript of what happened in the House on day one of the 115th Congress — it’s worth a skim. (The Senate, as a continuing body, doesn’t need to adopt rules.) Continue reading “Forecast for December 31, 2018. Party like it’s 2019.”

Forecast for December 24, 2018. Naughty or Nice.

THE TOP LINE

Naughty or nice. Congress is still in session, so here’s a little something to read if you’re still hanging around.

Shutdown. For the first time in years, the House and Senate got their approps work done on time and five bills enacted into law. But instead of pushing for the remaining seven, they delayed and kicked the can down the road. And now, instead of protecting the legislative branch’s prerogatives, leadership in the House and Senate caved to Pres. Trump’s politically untenable demands, aimed at keeping his base happy, shifting blame, and distracting from his administration’s scandals. How does this end? Stay tuned.

In the last days of the 115th Congress, a few good bills made it over the finish line. The amended Open Government Data Act (HR 4174) requires the government to inventory its data sets; automatically publish its public data sets online, in a machine-readable format, in a catalog; and have each CFO agency establish a Chief Data Officer. (More) The GAO-IG Act (S 2276) requires each agency to identify, in its congressional budget justification, every GAO recommendation to that agency and whether it’s been closed. As mentioned last week, a watered-down Congressional Accountability Act (link) was enacted. As was the IDEA Act (HR 5759), which would require agencies to provide better digital services.

What’s next? Hold your horses, Jeb. Besides whatever is happening with approps — and I hope Congress passes the bills it worked so hard to draft — House Dems will release their draft House rules in the next week or two, with a vote set on Jan. 3. We’ll also see appointments to many of the committees. I’d also expect introduction in both chambers of an ethics, campaign finance, and elections reform bill, known colloquially as H.R. 1.

What else? The leg branch appropriations bill requires publication of new member bio guides, a joint congressional committee calendar, the promulgation of automated witness disclosure forms, and all non-confidential CRS reports online, plus studies of staff pay and retention in the House and Senate, a study of whistleblowing resources in the House, and an analysis of Congress’s Technology Assessment function. Oh, by the end of the year the Supreme Court will release its annual report on the judiciary. And the U.S. Capitol police finally agreed to start publishing limited arrest info online.

Wait, hold on! I know you’re getting ready to move on to your post holiday shopping list, but the holidays came early with the Lincoln Network’s phenomenal guide to IT acquisitions in the legislative branch.
Continue reading “Forecast for December 24, 2018. Naughty or Nice.”

Capitol Police to Publish Some Arrest Information

The US Capitol Police announced yesterday they will publish their weekly arrest summaries online each Wednesday that they had previously had distributed via email to the press. This practice will start on January 2, 2019. The summaries will include “the Capitol File Number (CFN); crime classification with any additional charges; offense date and time, and crime summary. ”

The USCP did not give a reason for the change in their blogpost, but we had made multiple (unsuccessful) requests for information from the Capitol Police and had organized a civil society letter on this topic, and it also seemed likely that incoming House Democrats may push them to take this step. Continue reading “Capitol Police to Publish Some Arrest Information”

Forecast for December 17, 2018. #MeToo Legislation Sent to the President, Sen. Kyl resigning, and Nancy Pelosi Secures Support for Speaker.

TOP LINE

A government shutdown is looming on Friday and it’s all Trump’s fault, just ask him. With 7 approps bills outstanding, and Congress having done it’s homework, will Congress enact 6 bills as written and turn the 7th into a long term CR, kick the can to the next Congress, or something else? Here’s what happens in a shutdown. If the CR goes down, it’s going to take a lot of riders with it.

Nancy Pelosi will be Speaker, obtaining that position in return for term limits for leadership positions — and undermining Hoyer and Clyburn as a bonus.More below.

Compromise harassment legislation was sent to the president after congressional negotiators reached a compromise that watered down the House bill. The House Administration Committee, for example, said they would continue to push for a future bill that “holds Members personally liable for discrimination, reauthoriz[es] the Employee Advocate, and strengthen[s] our workplace rights and responsibilities education program,” and Dems may include stopgap fixes in the House rules package. Rep. Speier said her work on this isn’t done. Here’s where we think the House bill should have gone further.

Get familiar with HR 1 and H. Res 5HR 1 is House Democrats lead legislative proposal for the 116th Congress, containing reform packages on ethics, voting rights, and money in politics. H. Res 5 is the House’s rules package, which will be enacted on Jan. 3 and will contain significant House reforms. (I have no idea when we get to see the legislative text, but probably the day before it’s voted on.) Also watch for the Democratic caucus rules, likely to be adopted on Jan. 2. What else are House Dems planning?

Sen. Jon Kyl is resigning, so Arizona’s governor will have to appoint a replacement. During his time back in the Senate, Kyl was a great advocate for the companies that had previously paid him as a lobbyist, with some speculating that “Kyl was in the Senate mostly to benefit his lobbying career.”

What’s this week’s schedule? That’s a good question.

Who and what. Senate Dems released their committee member lists and leadership list, and Roll Call published the combined congressional calendar for 2019. The House Clerk published the bioguide data for members of the 116 Congress — this is the Rosetta stone that provides a unique identifier (akin to a social security number) for every member of Congress. The Clerk published phone and room numbers for House members, too. Continue reading “Forecast for December 17, 2018. #MeToo Legislation Sent to the President, Sen. Kyl resigning, and Nancy Pelosi Secures Support for Speaker.”

Forecast for December 10, 2018. Term limits for committee chairs, paying interns, and a look at the House IG.

Welcome to an abbreviated First Branch Forecast.

Today we release a new report on the House Inspector General — yes, the House has an IG. Among our findings: the House IG used to publish its reports online, but nearly all reports were taken down and there’s little public accounting for the IG’s work. What’s in them? Continue reading “Forecast for December 10, 2018. Term limits for committee chairs, paying interns, and a look at the House IG.”

Forecast for December 3, 2018. Shutdown Potentially Postponed, Plus Leadership and Caucus Election Results.

THE TOP LINE

George H.W. Bush will lie in state at the Capitol from Monday at 5 p.m. until Wednesday at 7 a.m. with a bicameral arrival ceremony Monday morning.

 The executive branch will be closed on Wednesday and Bush’s funeral service will take place at the National Cathedral at 11; no official word on when the House or Senate will be in session, but expect schedule changes.

 A 2 week CR is on the table; approps will run out this Friday, Dec. 7, be extended presumably to Dec. 21, which would postpone a partial government shutdown.

What happened in leadership elections, caucus elections, and committee chairmanships this past week? More than we can possibly say, but we sum it up below.

Can’t wait for the 116th Congress to start? Check out the 2019 House schedule here (of note: 4 session days per week with votes only between 1-7 p.m.) and learn the faces of new members with the (free) Memrec App.

What’s wrong with Congress? CQ/Roll Call does a deep dive into Congress’s decline, highlighting many of the causes. Continue reading “Forecast for December 3, 2018. Shutdown Potentially Postponed, Plus Leadership and Caucus Election Results.”