First Branch Forecast for March 20, 2023: Keep the MRA Funded


The contrast of fast and slow continues to stand out to us in this new Congress. The House is prepping its appropriations work with breakneck speed, while the Senate will stretch its process out at a more leisurely pace.

With only themselves to respond to the baking crisis that emerged suddenly, Senators chose to respond with no response at all.

The failure of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank were historically large, and indicate some broader structural issues within the financial sector. Default on the federal debt would blow through the sector and the economy like a volcanic eruption. Nevertheless, the House majority continues its phoney war with the White House on the issue despite the apparent systemic weaknesses. At some point, governance is going to have to start.

This week both chambers are in session Wednesday through Friday. The Senate also is in session Tuesday.

The House Administration Committee will hold a rare hearing on the Office of the Attending Physician on Thursday at 3 PM, and hold an organizational meeting on House Communication Standards on Friday at 9:30 AM.


Four significant House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee hearings are set for this week. Thursday, GAO will present its budget request at 9:30 AM, the Capitol Police will present at 11 AM, and the Library of Congress at 1 PM. Friday, the panel will hold its members day at 9 AM.

Members can submit Legislative branch language until 6 PM on Friday (I apologize for combining the public testimony deadline with this deadline, which was the 17th – I was working off the majority’s website, but this dear colleague has the deadline as the 24th.)

The Senate Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee will hear budget requests of the Architect of the Capitol and Library of Congress Wednesday, March 22 at 3 PM.

Approps resources: We’ve posted a tracker for the appropriations process with testimony and hearing deadlines at this link. (n.b. six of them are Friday.) We’ve also compiled a spreadsheet of Appropriations Committee members by their subcommittee to make life a little easier. There are tabs for both the House and Senate but that may be hard to see on smaller screens.

We provided this exhaustive summary of last year’s bill, and we maintain a repository of reports and testimony over the last half-decade at this github site. Consult this guide for tracking House approps markups.

Demand Progress’ Legislative branch-related requests are available at this link.

Senate appropriators have released a hearings schedule for the rest of the FY24 hearings on the committee website with the caveat they are tentative until officially posted a week in advance. This schedule stretches into June.

Retaining MRA levels: Demand Progress and a coalition of other government reform groups and individuals are urging the House Appropriations Committee to retain funding for the MRA at its current FY2023 levels, warning that cuts would force staff from their positions and weaken institutional capacity. Before MRA increases in the last two fiscal years, staff turnover had reached its highest rate in over 20 years.

“Cutting MRAs is a horrible return on investment for the Legislative branch. For decades, Congress underpaid its own staff, self-inflicting a wound of diminished capacity, which undercut its ability to oversee and rein in the federal government’s sprawling administrative bureaucracy,” said Taylor J. Swift, senior policy advisor at Demand Progress.

Last year, the House raised staff pay closer to parity with the Executive branch and set a salary floor. According to a LegiStorm analysis, junior staffer pay rose the most, crossing a median salary of $50,000. Cuts would return these positions to unsustainable compensation rates for young people without deep-pocketed parents or additional employment. Senior staff, meanwhile, once again would fall well below parity with positions off the Hill, restarting a brain drain that impacts legislative and oversight capacity.

As the letter points out, most House committee chairs this month requested budget increases of between 5% and 10% for FY2024 specifically for staff pay in order to attract and retain talented people. Turning around and cutting personal staff pay would be counterproductive to committee function, not to mention the effectiveness of member offices.

Demand Progress-Led Coalition: Keep Funding for Staff Pay

Read the letter we sent today to the House Appropriations Committee to retain funding for the MRA at its current FY2023 levels.

Continue reading “First Branch Forecast for March 20, 2023: Keep the MRA Funded”

Don’t Slash Hill Staff Pay Says Left-Right Coalition

There’s a growing effort this appropriations season to decrease Member Representational Allowance (MRA) funds, which would inevitably result in lower pay for congressional staff, something a new coalition led by Demand Progress is fighting.

Today, Demand Progress sent a bipartisan letter to leadership on the House Committee on Appropriations, urging them to retain MRA funding levels to the FY23 amount.

Why? Low staffer pay fuels the revolving door and drives a high turnover rate on Capitol Hill —  a staff exodus hit a 20-year high in 2021. When Congress loses institutional knowledge like that, it’s less able to govern and conduct oversight. It’s more likely to let lobbyists sway policy.

“Cutting MRAs is a horrible return on investment for the Legislative branch. For decades, Congress underpaid its own staff, self-inflicting a wound of diminished capacity, which undercut its ability to oversee and rein in the federal government’s sprawling administrative bureaucracy,” said Taylor J. Swift, senior policy advisor at Demand Progress. “To retain expert staff and promote a strong workforce, it’s essential Congress pays its staff at least as much as their counterparts in the Executive branch and private sector.” 

Read the full letter here and below:

Continue reading “Don’t Slash Hill Staff Pay Says Left-Right Coalition”

Demand Progress Education Fund Affirms Right to Unionize by Congressional Staff in New Analysis of House Rules that Sought to End Unionization

Unions in the House of Representatives in the 118th Congress,” a new report released today by the Demand Progress Education Fund, analyzes how the new House Rules aimed at rolling back the rights of House staff to unionize fall short of achieving that purpose. Its analysis shows House staff can assert their rights to organize unions in the 118th Congress. The report was written by Kevin Mulshine, former Senior Advisor and Counsel on the first staff of the Office of Compliance/Office of Congressional Workplace Rights.

The report explains in detail the employee protections under the Congressional Accountability Act — a Gingrich-era congressional workplace law that allowed Legislative branch staff to unionize — and how that law applies today. House political and non-political staff earned the right to unionize last year with the passage of H.Res.1096

“House staff can assert their rights to organize unions in the 118th Congress,” said Kevin Mulshine, special advisor to Demand Progress Education Fund and author of the report. “Contrary to what the House Rules may have intended to proscribe, staffers who want to exercise their rights to collectively organize should have little fear of a loss of legal protections for their actions.”

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Demand Progress Education Fund, Freedom of Press Foundation Lead 43 Organizations Calling on House to Let C-SPAN Control Cameras on the House Floor

Demand Progress Education Fund and Freedom of the Press Foundation led a broad coalition of press freedom organizations, government accountability and civil liberties organizations, and media outlets in urging House leadership to let C-SPAN have independent control of cameras that broadcast and stream House floor proceedings. 

The group sent a letter today to Speaker McCarthy and Democratic Leader Jeffries endorsed by organizations spanning the ideological spectrum.

“When C-SPAN is able to call its own shots, the American public benefits by getting an authentic and transparent view of how Congress functions and the mood of the chamber,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress Education Fund. “We can see what really happens on the House floor, such as unexpected bipartisan negotiations like when Reps. Ocasio-Cortez and Gosar had a one-on-one conversation during the Speaker vote-a-rama.”

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Legislative Branch Funding Breakdown in the FY 2023 Omnibus Bill

The FY 2023 appropriations omnibus was passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Biden. The FY 2023 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill was rolled into the package, and it is packed with good government initiatives and significant investments in Congress’s capacity to legislate, conduct oversight, serve constituents, and more.

We and our civil society colleagues recommended dozens of items to include as part of the bill text and committee report — see our FY 2023 Appropriations requests, FY 2023 appropriations testimony, and 2022 report on updating House Rules — many of which appropriators graciously considered and included.

As Congress turns to the FY 2024 appropriations process, this blogpost highlights some of the notable funding changes reflected in the FY 2023 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill. You can find the complete FY 2023 Legislative Branch portion of the bill here and the Joint Explanatory Statement here. The Senate summary can be found here and the House summary can be found here. For resources on prior Legislative Branch Appropriations bills, go here. In a future blogpost, we will look at the report language.

You can compare final line item funding for FY 2021 versus FY 2022 versus FY 2023 by looking at our spreadsheet.

The FY 2023 Legislative Branch bill appropriates $6.9 billion towards the Legislative Branch, a $975.0 million increase over FY 2022, representing 16.5% increase.

Continue reading “Legislative Branch Funding Breakdown in the FY 2023 Omnibus Bill”

Legislative Branch Appropriations Line Items: FY 2021 to FY 2023

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.

House Staff Overtime Pay Approved

Within a week of our action with allies Congressional Progressive Staff Association (CPSA) and the Congressional Workers Union, the House approved overtime pay regulations for House staff to go into effect next year.

Outgoing CHA Chair Rep. Zoe Lofgren introduced a resolution Monday to implement the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights (OCWR) regulations to update Fair Labor Standards Act overtime provisions for congressional staff with a “nifty procedural move” according to CQ Roll Call’s Jim Saksa.

This is one of many reforms the House has passed this year to improve congressional staff pay and benefits that we have championed.

“This is an incredible investment in the congressional workforce and affirms the House’s commitment to improve workplace conditions, benefits, and pay for congressional staff” said Taylor J. Swift, senior policy advisor at Demand Progress. “This has been a paramount year for improving staffers’ rights in the House, and now it’s time for the Senate to take action to ensure their staff have the same overtime pay rights. We applaud congressional leadership for approving this overtime pay provision, and we laud outgoing CHA Chair Lofgren for her swift action to include it in the Continuing Resolution.”

We will continue to work with our coalition partners on the Hill to ensure Senate staff can enjoy the same rights.

Proposals for Modernizing House Rules — Summary of Committee Members’ Day Recs for 118th Congress

Written by Taylor J. Swift

At the start of the 118th Congress, the House of Representatives will adopt new procedural rules that govern nearly every aspect of how it conducts business. In preparation, the House Rules Committee held its Member Day hearing (announcement, video) on Tuesday, November 28, 2022, to provide members of the House an opportunity to propose new Rules changes for the 118th Congress. 

Members made several laudable recommendations during the proceeding:

  • Rep. Davidson’s proposal to grant one staffer from each House office the ability to apply for TS/SCI clearance.
  • Rep. Timmon’s recommendation to fix committee scheduling by creating an online portal for committee chairs to pick and choose hearing and markup times to help reduce scheduling conflicts.
  • Rep. Griffith’s idea to have proportional representation on committees.
  • Rep. Joyce’s proposal to establish a bipartisan ethics task force to study ethics rules and regulations.
  • Del. Radewagen’s support for keeping the rule to allow delegates and resident commissioners to vote in the committee as a whole

At the end of the Member Day hearing, multiple members, including Chair McGovern, urged the 118th House Rules to retain the ability for remote committee proceedings, a proposal we support. Reps. Jackson Lee and Grijalva submitted statements for the record supporting remote committee proceedings while Chair McGovern said he has heard from many members that remote committee proceedings have been helpful in obtaining witness testimony without the worry of travel or cost of the taxpayer. 

Demand Progress and the Lincoln Network issued our own bipartisan recommendations package on what Rules should be updated in the 118th Congress in anticipation of this hearing. 

The following is a high-level summary of each member’s requests and their justifications (with corresponding timestamps from the video). Please note that at the time of this writing, any submissions in writing by the members were not publicly available.

Continue reading “Proposals for Modernizing House Rules — Summary of Committee Members’ Day Recs for 118th Congress”

Demand Progress and Lincoln Network Issue Bipartisan House Rules Recommendations Calling for Rebalancing Power in the 118th Congress

The progressive grassroots policy advocacy organization Demand Progress and the right-leaning technology nonprofit Lincoln Network have joined forces to urge the House of Representatives to adopt modern rules that improve congressional transparency, oversight, technology, and more. The bipartisan recommendations issued today by the two groups emphasize changes to House Rules that give more power to the rank-and-file members to shape legislation. 

The recommendations are timely, as the House Rules Committee hears today from members concerning the Rules they want adopted at the start of the 118th Congress in January. 

“There’s too much concentrated power in congressional leadership, which distorts the legislative process and stifles collaboration by members who share common interests,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress. “These common-sense recommendations restore balance in the House so that all members can meaningfully engage in policymaking.”

“The Rules the House enacts will shape how Congress will function and who will have power,” said Zach Graves, executive director of Lincoln Network. “It’s important to democratize the House so more rank-and-file members have a say in the legislation that gets considered and so that committees don’t have their roles usurped by leadership. All members are elected to Congress and each one has a duty and obligation to represent their constituents.”

The package of bipartisan Rules recommendations identifies improvements the House should adopt to improve transparency of legislative information, internal operations and scheduling, congressional efficiency and oversight, congressional security, congressional capacity and staff, and ethics, as well as which Rules to retain from the previous two Congresses. 

Continue reading “Demand Progress and Lincoln Network Issue Bipartisan House Rules Recommendations Calling for Rebalancing Power in the 118th Congress”

The 118th House Rules Package Should Retain Fixes From the 116th and 117th Congresses

Written by Taylor J. Swift

The conservative House Freedom Caucus issued a 52-page guide to new GOP candidates last month on what they’ll face as freshman members, with recommendations for updating the rules for the chamber and for the party, and the conservative Lincoln Network just published their own recommendations for the rules and procedures the House should adopt at the start of the 118th Congress.

The Freedom Caucus’ guide is an excellent outline of what new members will expect and accurately summarizes the chamber’s power dynamics. It contains thoughtful recommendations for rule modernization, which is an opportunity for the incoming majority to control its flow of operations and distribute power. The Lincoln Network’s recommendations highlight a number of reforms to strengthen the people’s chamber. However, one Freedom Caucus proposal, to wipe clean the rules enacted by Democrats over the last four years, is misguided. 

The following is a partial list of the House rules and standing orders, enacted over the last four years, that we believe a Republican majority should retain should they gain power. These nonpartisan rules improve the House’s operations and support a more transparent, efficient, ethical, and accountable legislative body. For a summary of the rules adopted over the last four years, see these resources for the 116th and 117th Congresses. 

Committee Operations

Member Hearing Days: Each standing committee is required to hold a Member Day Hearing during the first session of Congress to hear testimony from any Member of the House on proposed legislation within its jurisdiction. The House Rules Committee was empowered to hold its Member day in the second session to receive testimony on proposed standing rules changes.

Amendment Availability: The 117th House Rules made amendments adopted by their committees publicly available within 24 hours by requiring all other amendments – which includes failed or withdrawn amendments – to be posted within 48 hours of their disposition or withdrawal. This requirement does not apply to amendments not offered.

Electronic Vote Availability: The 117th House Rules modernized the requirement for committees to make the results of record votes publicly available by removing the requirement that they be made available to the public for in-person inspection in committee offices. Committees will still be required to make the results of record votes publicly available electronically within 48 hours of the vote.

Electronic Filing of Reports and Electronic Signatures: 117th House Rules Subsection (l) authorizes electronic filing of committee reports, which was temporarily allowed by House Resolution 965 of the 116th, and allows electronic signatures to be used for signed views in committee reports and for select forms received by the Committee on Ethics. Reports received electronically will be processed as otherwise provided in rule XIII, and committees filing electronic reports should continue to consult with the Clerk regarding proper format and other administrative requirements.

Truth-In-Testimony Reform: The 117th House Rules amended the disclosure requirements for witnesses appearing in nongovernmental capacities by: (1) adding grants to the reporting requirement for foreign payments; (2) expanding the lookback period for reporting to 36 months; (3) requiring witnesses to disclose whether they are the fiduciary of any organization or entity with an interest in the subject matter of the hearing; and (4) requiring, to the extent practicable, the disclosures be made publicly available 24-hours prior to the witness’s appearance at a hearing. The subsection also updates the text of clause 2(g)(5) of rule XI for clarity. The House is also working to modernize its Truth-in-Testimony documents and to make the information they contain available online in a central database.

Remote Deliberations for Committees: House Committees are allowed to hold hearings and markups where some or all members participate remotely by videoconference. This allows for witnesses from all around the world to testify and for members who are not physically present to participate in the proceedings. This allows for the scheduling of proceedings when the House otherwise would not be in session; expands the times when less popular committees can hold their meetings so that members are more able to attend; and creates significantly more flexibility should an emergency arise.

Continue reading “The 118th House Rules Package Should Retain Fixes From the 116th and 117th Congresses”