Each year, Congress allocates funding for the Legislative Branch entities through the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee. The Legislative Branch Appropriations bills direct congressional spending, line item by line item — but the instructions are not published as data and can run for dozens of pages, making it very difficult to see how appropriations spending has changed over the decades.
We have gone through all of the Legislative Branch spending bills for the last thirty years and lined up the spending items in a downloadable spreadsheet. The line item spreadsheet has sections for the House, Senate, and agencies, as well as tabs that adjust funding for inflation, allowing readers to see how spending on each line item has changed since 1994 in both constant and real dollars.
The House proposes to appropriate $6.746 billion towards the Legislative branch, a 2.2% reduction from FY 23, according to a statement released by Appropriations Committee Republicans. Excluding the Senate amount, the remaining $5.313 billion in discretionary appropriations reflects a $252 million or 4.5% cut from the FY 23 enacted, according to the Committee. By comparison, the inflation rate for the 12 months ending in April was 4.9%, so this represents a cut in real terms in funding for the Legislative branch.
We reviewed the draft bill text released on Tuesday by the subcommittee and compared each line item against historical norms. Our findings on that line by line review are below. In a future blogpost, we will review the policy requests included in the accompanying committee report, which will not be released to the public until just before the full committee markup.
In summary, with the ongoing fight over the debt ceiling and calls by Republican leadership to decimate discretionary non-defense funding, this austere bill is likely as favorable to rebuilding a strong Congress as one could hope. Even with these cuts, Congress will retain much of its current capabilities to legislate, conduct oversight, and serve constituents, even as it refrains from providing itself additional needed strength.
At the end of last week, the House Appropriations Committee published all earmark requests for FY 2024 on the committee’s website, including publishing them as a spreadsheet. This is great and welcome news. For the first time, the appropriations spreadsheet separated member names into different columns and included state, district, party, and recipient address. This makes the information significantly more usable. Thank you.
In fact, it’s so usable, we spent a little time over the weekend making it even more robust. We enhanced their spreadsheet by adding bioguide IDs for each member, appropriations subcommittee codes, a standardized recipient address (with help from ChatGPT), and extracted the recipient state and zip code. We have been playing around with using the AI to categorize whether the recipient entity is a non-profit or a governmental entity. We can imagine a lot of use cases for this cleaned-up data.
Unfortunately, the Appropriators’ spreadsheet does not include the request summaries published on the committees website nor a direct link to the request letter. We would also love to see the EINs for the non-profit requesting entities, because then we could tie that request to their 990 tax form and maybe to their lobbying disclosure records as well.
Regardless, all in all, this is a significant step forward in improving the transparency of the requests and we hope it will continue to improve.
The earmarks dataset was also a great opportunity for us to play with marrying the new ChatGPT technology with Google Sheets. I think this technology has the possibility of fundamentally transforming how appropriators gather requests from the public — which is the subject of a current Senate request for comments — and how the committee gathers requests from members. The ability to clean up requests (i.e. moving information from unstructured to structured formats), categorize them, summarize them, and do due diligence on the requesters should be a game changer.
Congress finally introduced its FY 2023 omnibus bill. In the spreadsheet here and below, we broke down the Legislative Branch line items contained in the FY 2023 omnibus bill and compared them to FY 2021 and FY 2022. The spreadsheet also contains the requests published in the president budget, the appropriations levels supported by the subcommittee and full committee as they come out, and a comparison of how those levels have changed over time.
On Thursday, July 28, 2022, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patrick Leahy published 12 appropriations bills and accompanying explanatory statements, including the FY 2023 Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations bill and explanatory statement.
To help keep track of all explanatory statement items requested by the Senate Legislative Branch Subcommittee, we built a public spreadsheet that maintains a catalog of items, broken down by title, the entity responsible, the timeline for completion, and the due date. See the spreadsheet here and below:
This week. Happy Memorial Day recess—bothchambers are out this week, giving us (and hopefully you, too) a chance to take a break, or at least slow down.
Approps. We were expecting Senate Leg branch approps hearing with the USCP, GAO, and Library of Congress last week, but it was postponed. Stay tuned.
• Approps timeline. Here is our list of deadlines to submit appropriations requests and testimony. According to Bloomberg government ($): in the House expect June markups teeing up July floor votes; in the Senate expect markups in July and early August. The Senate timeline will depend heavily on whether senior Appropriators reach an agreement on the top line spending numbers for defense (wartime) and non-defense (peacetime) spending. Summer recess is currently scheduled to start July 29 (House) and August 5 (Senate).
• More appropriations. It’s possible there will be more supplemental appropriations bills, and of course there’s the upcoming markup of the (authorizing) National Defense Authorization Act, which means the calendar could go sideways.
Congress regularly requests reports on strengthening Congress but there’s no central place to keep track of what they’ve requested.
To help keep track of things, we built a public spreadsheet that maintains a catalog of projects, broken down by item due, entity responsible, and due date.
The catalog covers reforms and requests ordered by the House and Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittees, the Committee on House Rules, and the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. At the moment, the catalog includes major resolutions and measures: H. Res. 8, the House Rules for the 117th Congress, Legislative Branch Appropriations FY 2021, and H.Res. 756 from the 116th Congress.
Complaints about U.S. Capitol Police operations, including accounts of racist misconduct within the department and managerial abuses of power, have recently been elevated in the wake of the January 6th attack on Congress. Hard information is hard to come by as it is nearly impossible to get any official data on employee misconduct from the department. There is, however, one small exception: the USCP Annual Statistical Summary Report on Office of Professional Responsibility Investigations.
The Annual Statistical Summary Report provides top line numbers on complaints made against US Capitol Police employees. The report indicates how many misconduct investigations occurred in a given year and how many total charges or allegations of misconduct were filed. Its data is broken out by the status of the individual filing the complaint: citizen, outside law enforcement, internal, or anonymous. Starting in 2019, USCP began including figures of how many individual charges/allegations of misconduct were sustained in Office of Professional Responsibility investigations.
Today we are publishing the newly obtained 2020 Annual Statistical Summary Report. (It is generous to call this a report: it is a one-page fact sheet.) We previously published reports dating back to 2009, which is when the first report of this type was published online. We asked for data from prior years, but our request was denied.