First Branch Forecast for May 8, 2023: Food and Housing


Lawmakers assumed that income tax revenue coming in during April would give them a few more months to posture before the debt default roiled the markets. The time to implement a solution to the debt limit, however, was back in the lame duck session of the last Congress. Unfortunately, Senator Joe Manchin, along with Senate Republicans, chose cheap political calories over a healthy economy. Now the nation’s finances are about to undergo an enormous stress test.

The discharge petition loop-de-loop is technically still alive, the political chances of it working are near zero. Meanwhile, talks that are not “negotiations” will occur on Tuesday even as the underlying issue is, or at least should be, non-negotiable. Our political structures have incentivized this myopic leap into the darkness while the necessary reforms remain largely ignored by the punditocracy and vetocracy alike. Sometimes it takes a crisis, but at what cost?

Meanwhile, the parallel universe of regular committee workin the 118th Congress continues this week and next. HASC will take up work on the NDAA Thursday while Senate Appropriations Committee hearings continue. Appropriators in both chambers are expected to start holding subcommittee markups on May 17th and 18th. SASC, however, is pumping the brakes on its NDAA markup until mid-June because of the change in the Treasury’s X-date for the debt ceiling.

It may be that the NDAA is the only major legislative vehicle that becomes law this Congress. This week both chambers are in session Tuesday through Friday during the first of consecutive overlapping working weeks. On Wednesday, the Senate Rules Committee holds a full oversight hearing of the Library of Congress with Librarian Carla Hayden. Given the strong criticism last week of CRS’s management at a House hearing, maybe members of the Senate Rules Committee will inquire with Librarian of Congress Hayden about the performance of her subordinate, Dr. Mazanec.

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First Branch Forecast for February 21, 2023: Help Wanted: AOC


The lights are off and no one is home as Congress takes an extended break for the Presidents’ Day holiday (which the newsletter also observed). When they return, the Senate committees have a clear path to staff up now that the Rules Committee has allocated budget allotments for each as it does at the start of each Congress.

Fortunately, committees can hire directly and not navigate the convoluted and interminably long process of installing a new Architect of the Capitol, which Congress now will have to do.

This week, both chambers are out of session. The Senate may hold votes on nominations. The House Judiciary Committee will hold a field hearing Thursday in Yuma, AZ about the US-Mexican border.


Senate committees will have significantly more money to hire staff and conduct oversight in the 118th Congress thanks to across-the-board increases. Last Monday, the Senate Rules Committee approved a resolution allocating an additional $53.2 million for committees for this Congress, excluding the Appropriations Committee (which sets its own funding in the Legislative branch appropriations bill.)

The total package for 18 standing and select committees is $291.4 million. (To put this in context, that’s ~41% of the funding level for the Capitol Police.)

All committees received increases of at least 15% over the 117th Congress in constant dollars, likely in response to inflation, unified party control, and the general underfunding of committees in Congress across the board.

The Agriculture Committee received the biggest bump, nearly a 25% increase to $14.4 million, perhaps because it has some responsibility for overseeing the cryptocurrency market. The Banking Committee, which may get a piece of that action as well, received a 20% increase.

Continue reading “First Branch Forecast for February 21, 2023: Help Wanted: AOC”