Initial Thoughts on the House’s Remote Deliberation Resolution

This morning, House Rules Committee Democrats introduced a resolution (H. Res 965) that would provide for some remote deliberations for House committees and on the floor. Accompanying that resolution was a Dear Colleague from the Rules Committee that explains how the resolution would work, a one-page explainer, and a statement from the Democratic members of the Virtual Task Force on the resolution.

In short, the resolution:

  • Provides for proxy voting on the House floor, which would be turned on, extended, and turned off at the direction of the House Speaker. Members would send a letter to the House Clerk to designate their proxy, and no such designee can cast more than 10 proxy votes. The Clerk would publish the proxy designation on its website. The proxy is revocable, and must provide specific direction as to how to vote. Members voting by proxy would count towards a quorum.
  • Provides a mechanism for the Chair of the House Administration Committee (in consultation with the RM) to advise on whether secure technology is available to allow for remote voting on the floor. The Chair of the House Rules Committee would then promulgate regulations to put it into effect (to be published in the Congressional Record), and the Speaker would notify the House that remote voting is now possible. Presumably, the Speaker would be able to choose whether to provide this notice.
  • Provides for remote deliberations for hearings and markups for committees. Many of the details of how this would work have been pushed to the Rules Committee, whose chair (in consultation with the RM) would issue regulations on remote deliberations that would be published in the Congressional Record. To conduct business meetings (which presumably means markups), a majority of Members of the Committee would have to certify they will follow the regulations and that the committee is ready for remote deliberations.
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Pay Study Data: Relationship of Cost of Living Adjustments & Staff Longevity

Last year the House released a valuable report on staff pay, benefits, and diversity. We took a look at the data to answer the question, are better pay and benefits really correlated with staff staying on board? The short answer is yes.

We’ll be releasing a series of short articles focusing on different variables and their impact on staff longevity. This article, the first in that series, focuses on the impact of cost of living adjustments (COLAs) on staff retention.

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New Data on House Staff Pay and Retention

Congressional staff are generally overworked and underpaid. Talented employees with vast institutional knowledge are eventually forced to choose between Congress and a sustainable lifestyle; the result is a Legislative Branch brain drain with employees leaving for better paying jobs in the Executive Branch or private sector. On top of that, Congress has a diversity problem: staff don’t reflect the constituency their bosses represent.

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What Leg. Branch Receives in the Third Supplemental

Last week Congress enacted its third Coronavirus supplemental bill in an effort to stabilize the country. The legislation limped out of Congress, requiring unusual voting procedures, a stifling of debate, and an almost unprecedented level of unanimity.

The Senate supplemental bill totals $2 trillion, the largest stimulus in our history. While the bill addresses somes issues critical to the preservation of life and functionality of the country —  while missing others — Congress failed to provide sufficient funding for the Legislative Branch to ensure it can continue to operate during the crisis. 

The appropriations division of the Senate’s bipartisan coronavirus aid and economic relief agreement contains $330 billion in new funding. Title IX of S. 3548 includes $93.1 million in funding for the Legislative Branch, a number that is far too low. It represents roughly 1/2000 of the expenditure.

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April Update: Legislative Branch Appropriations Items Due Dates

Back in December 2019 – which feels like ages ago – Congress passed the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill for FY 2020, starting the clock on dozens of Leg. Branch projects and reports. 

In January, our team reviewed requests from the Leg. Branch approps bill, broke them down by entity, and summarized the deadlines. For those interested in looking at the complete spreadsheet, you can access it here.

We will regularly post a list of items due from the Leg. Branch approps bill, broken down by entity. We also will include which items were due during the previous month at the end of the report. 

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What Items are Due in the Modernization Committee Resolution?

Last Tuesday, the House took a great step towards making the people’s chamber more efficient and responsive with the passage of a resolution (H.Res 756) adopting modernization recommendations of the Fix Congress Committee. 

The resolution contains five titles: (1) streamlining and reorganizing human resources; (2) improving orientation for members-elect and providing improved continuing education opportunities for members; (3) modernizing and revitalizing technology; (4) making the House accessible to all; and (5) improving access to documents and publications. Note, it includes a request that, whenever practical, the House Administration Committee will publish any report required under this resolution online. (Nicely done!)

The resolution calls on legislative support offices to start a number of projects and report back on how to implement others. We cataloged the projects and their due dates into a public spreadsheet, and broke down the items due by entity below.

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House Budget Committee: Protect Congress’ Power of the Purse & the Rule of Law

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.

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House Passes Modernization Committee Resolution

Yesterday, the House overwhelmingly passed H.Res 756, the bipartisan resolution voted unanimously out of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (SCOMC). The resolution includes 29 recommendations that aim to make Congress more effective, efficient and transparent. Some of these recommendations include taking critical steps to improve staff retention and diversity, updating House technology and security, and increasing public access to congressional offices and information.

SCOMC, by definition, does not have any legislative authority. The passage of this resolution marks the first time that legislative action has resulted from a select committee. SCOMC has held 16 hearings and numerous Member and staff-level briefings and listening sessions to solicit ideas and recommendations for reforming the legislative branch since March 2019.

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House Legislative Branch Appropriations: Member Day & Public Witness Testimony Recap

Members and outside experts testified before the House Leg. Branch Appropriations Subcommittee last week. Don’t have a few hours to watch Member testimony and Public Witness testimony or read all the testimony from Members and Public Witnesses? We’ve got the highlights below.

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