First Branch Forecast

First Branch Forecast for February 28, 2022


Calendar. The Senate is back today; the House is back tonight. We’re watching Wednesday’s House Admin hearing on unionization, the State of the Union is on Tuesday, and Demand Progress is co-hosting a panel discussion on presidential emergency powers on Wednesday (RSVP here) — ICYMI, lawmakers wrote this letter calling for an AUMF before any action by the president to introduce U.S. Armed Forces into hostilities or decline to remove any U.S. military personnel currently deployed inside Ukraine from unauthorized hostilities or imminent hostilities.

Congressional unionization is the focus of a House Administration Committee hearing this Wednesday. At the hearing, the committee is likely to consider H.Res.915, which would allow for House staff to unionize. This past week, the OCWR Board endorsed unionization in a letter that said: “The Board has conducted a thorough review and now unanimously endorses the regulations adopted by the 1996 Board and urges Congress to approve these regulations.” Per our spreadsheet, there are 152 co-sponsors of the measure and another 9 Democrats who issued a statement in support of unionization. The Congressional Workers Union has called for swift passage of the measure. For more, see our resources on unionization, Roll Call’s latest on why backers view the resolution as necessary, and LatinoRebels on the Dems who support unions, just (apparently) not in their own offices.

Curious about your rights under the CAA? The OCWR just launched quarterly training webinars to inform staff of their “rights and responsibilities” under the CAA, “including the protections against harassment, discrimination, intimidation, and reprisal.” 

Capitol Security (1). A Republican-led coalition of Members of the House called for the House to be “reopened” to tourists in a letter to House SAA Walker last month, which seems unwise to us especially as the letter doesn’t address whether they would support a mask requirement. Meanwhile, BGov is suggesting some industry lobbyists are ramping-up fly-in days and are finding alternatives to meetings in the Capitol complex. 

Capitol Security (2). Last week we covered GAO’s report on the Capitol Police, entitled “The Capitol Police Need Clearer Emergency Procedures and a Comprehensive Security Risk Assessment Process,” which should be raising alarms everywhere. With the upcoming SOTU and the arrival of a convoy of truckers protesting Covid restrictions, the National Guard authorized up to 700 members to assist local law enforcement if necessary. 

Save the date: if you’re interested in public access to legislative information (and who isn’t?), the next Bulk Data Task Force meeting has been set for March 10th. The meeting is open to the public and to congressional stakeholders. RSVP here; agenda will be posted here


FY 2022 approps. Senate appropriators are still negotiating on the FY 2022 spending omnibus, which could include emergency aid for Ukraine, BGov reports. The Project on Government Oversight also released a list of five cost-saving transparency and accountability measures that could be included in the finalized spending package. 

Freedom of FOIA? A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers wrote this letter pointing out that the Justice Department still has not issued a memorandum concerning implementing the FOIA in a manner that emphasizes openness and transparency, which AG Garland promised he would do during his confirmation hearings. The letter noted agencies’ abysmal FOIA implementation in recent years and requested AG Garland’s response by March 6. (Last month, a coalition of 23 civil society groups led by Open the Government called for the same thing — for a second time.) 

Undermining Congress. The Supreme Court’s Mazars decision is being used to undermine Congressional oversight. The problems with Mazars creep is discussed at length by Quinta Jurecic and Molly E. Reynolds, who write: “In establishing greater judicial scrutiny of legislative purpose when an investigation concerns a sitting president, it also signaled a broader invitation for the judiciary to audit the legislature’s work, even beyond cases that directly concern current or former presidents.”

Pilot training program for Members. CAO launched its “Congressional Excellence” program this month to provide on-the-job training for 40 Members, with the expectation of future expansion. The program comes after Members voiced repeated requests to ModCom for better training resources for legislators and staffers alike, which recommended the fix.

CBO’S FY 2023 budget request is out and available here. We’ll be keeping an eye out for the other Legislative branch agencies’ requests in the weeks to come. (Why aren’t they all available online in a central location?) A reminder that Executive branch budget justifications are all supposed to be published here and a new law recently went into effect, the Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act, to make sure they are posted and do not disappear.

House Digital Service. The Office of the CAO, which recently launched a House Digital Service, is hiring a UX designer, product manager, and software engineer. ICYMI, see the report from Tech Congress’s Digital Service pilot program, which we note also recommended establishing two task forces: an All-hazards Technical taskforce to study and improve Congress’ preparedness for future crises and a Conflict Resolution Best Practices taskforce.

Farewell address. Per Senate tradition, Sen. Leahy will deliver Washington’s farewell address today. 

Senator Inhofe plans to resign in January and endorsed his chief of staff as a replacement.

The Hon. Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated by Pres. Biden to serve on the Supreme Court.

A judicial innovation fellowship was urged to be created by a handful of technologists as part of the Day One Project.


SOTU. President Biden will deliver his State of the Union address tomorrow, March 1. Rep. Rashida Tlaib is expected to deliver a response on behalf of the Working Families Party. 

Reforming presidential emergency powers is the topic of a panel discussion hosted by Demand Progress this Wednesday, March 2, at 11 AM. RSVP here

LegisTech: Women in Leadership is the name of a conference set for March 8 and 9, hosted by Bussola Tech, focused on the institutional modernization and the digital transformation in national, devolved and sub-national legislatures that will highlight the work of women colleagues in leading that transformation. 

RSVP for Bulk Data Task Force quarterly meetings. The next BDTF meeting will be held over Zoom on Thursday, March 10, at 2 PM. RSVP here. The agenda and registration instructions will be posted here. Also, mark your calendars: the task force has scheduled its second quarter meeting for Thursday, June 9 at 2PM. You can read our recap of the last quarterly meeting here

Transparency talks for Sunshine Week. Transparency experts will discuss FOIA, whistleblowers, press freedom, and more at the Advisory Committee on Transparency’s upcoming virtual conference on March 16 at 12PM. RSVP here

The National Archives will host a conversation between AOTUS David Ferriero and Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden on Monday, March 14, 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. More details TBA (including how to RSVP).

Sunshine Week kicks off on March 14th. You can find a list of the upcoming events here.

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