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.Continue reading “Barrett, Graham, Feinstein, and de Tocqueville”
The 116th Congress is coming to a close, with Members getting ready to depart to campaign full-time and then return in late-November/December for a lame duck session. Time is running out before bills turn into pumpkins and have to be re-introduced at the start of the next Congress. According to GovTrack, 151 bills have become law so far. By comparison, 12,874 bills have been introduced, or 1.1%, although some of these bills are duplicates of ones that have become law.
We and our friends in civil society have compiled a non-exhaustive list of pending good government bills that lawmakers should consider pushing across the finish line before time runs out. As legislation that’s further along in the process is more likely to become law, we’ve sorted our list by their status. We’ve further subdivided the list regarding the part of government they would affect.Continue reading “Pending Good Government Bills: 116th Congress”
Someone on the Hill once told me that Congress was “constitutionally reactive.” That is, Congress and the law would always lag behind society, and the system was intentionally designed that way. The current rapid pace of change — in our culture and particularly with technology — only makes the gap between policy and our lives more glaring.Continue reading “Foresight: A Tool for a Proactive Government”
In “Strategic Foresight in the Federal Government: A Survey of Methods, Resources and Institutional Arrangements,” authors Joseph Greenblott, Thomas O’Farrell, Robert Olson, and Beth Burchard analyzed foresight activities in 19 federal agencies (18 in the Executive Branch and 1 in the Legislative Branch). This article summarizes the findings (all numbers and quotes are from that article).
While approaches varied by agency, some common themes emerged. Overall, Defense and Intelligence agencies seemed to have the strongest (and best funded) foresight practices. Foresight in the Executive Branch is much further developed than in the Legislative Branch.Continue reading “Foresight in the Federal Government”
by Jason Briefel and Maggi Molina
A president will appoint more than 4,000 individuals to serve in an administration, yet “there is no single source of data on political appointees serving in the executive branch that is publicly available, comprehensive, and timely,” according to the Government Accountability Office in a March 2019 report.
Instead, these positions are compiled and published exactly once every four years in a congressional document known as the Plum Book (officially the United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions). This book is published only in December after a presidential election (before the president even gets sworn in) and includes important data for each position, including title, salary and location.Continue reading “The PLUM Act: Transparency for Political Appointees”
Chair Yarmuth of the House Budget Committee partnered with House and Senate chairs (Chair Lowey of House Appropriations, Chair Maloney of House Oversight and Reform and Senate Appropriations Vice Chair Leahy) to introduce the bicameral (but not bipartisan) Congressional Power of the Purse Act (H.R.6628).Continue reading “New Bill Reclaiming the Congressional Power of the Purse”
(Update, 04/24/20): On April 3, we provided a summary of all the congressional actions related to signing statements. Here is an analysis of the common themes in the legislation:
- Requires the Executive to give Congress notice and reasoning for all statements.
- Bars government entities (including state and federal courts) from using signing statements in interpreting the law.
- Gives Congress standing to seek declaratory relief, allows Congress to intervene in cases or allows Congress to issue “clarifying” statement.
- Requires AG, Deputy AG, White House Counsel to testify before Judiciary at the behest of any single member to explain; can’t invoke executive privilege.
- Limits funds made available to the Executive to produce, publish, or disseminate any signing statement.
- Cuts off funding authorized or expended to implement any law accompanied by a signing statement if Executive doesn’t comply with congressional restrictions on signing statements.
(Original Article) Following up on our discussion of Signing Statements (triggered by the President’s signing statement on the coronavirus relief legislation), here are the hearings and legislation we found on the subject. If we missed something, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.Continue reading “Presidential Signing Statements: Congressional Actions”
After the 2008 financial collapse and subsequent stimulus, the RAT Board — Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board — was established to track itemized spending of $840 Billion disbursed by 29 federal agencies. Funding was tracked by zip code, agency, recipient, and funding category.Continue reading “The RAT Board: How to Monitor Coronavirus Relief”
The Article I Renaissance continued at the House Budget Committee’s hearing on Protecting Congress’ Power of the Purse. Ranking Member Womack noted budgeting is fundamental to government and that the process doesn’t work. (He noted the recommendations of the recent Joint Committee on Budget Reform failed to pass). Members and witnesses engaged in a multi-hour discussion that featured serious discussion and concrete proposals for reform.
House Rules did its part to encourage the Article I Renaissance with a nearly four hour hearing and thoughtful expert testimony examining how Congress’ role has been diminished over decades, as well as how to reassert congressional authority.Continue reading “House Rules Committee: Congress Needs to Take Back Its Power”