The Constitutional Accountability Center’s issue brief, The Historical and Legal Basis for the Exercise of Congressional Oversight Authority, details the history of legislative investigations, case law approving Congress’s vast power to investigate, and the ways in which Congress can enforce subpoenas to make its investigations effective and to hold the Executive Branch accountable.
On Lawfare, Margaret Taylor presents an overview of congressional requests for executive branch information and executive privilege assertions in response here.
From the introduction to Congressional Member Organizations (CMOs) and Informal Member Groups: Their Purpose and Activities, History, and Formation (R40683, Jan. 23, 2019):
This report examines the historical development and contemporary role of Congressional Member Organizations (CMOs) in the House, as well as informal Member groups in the House, Senate, and across the chambers. Commonly, these groups are referred to as caucuses, but they will be referred to collectively as informal Member organizations in this report to avoid confusion with official party caucuses. Some examples of groups that modern observers would consider informal Member organizations date back as far as the early 1800s, but the number of groups has grown substantially since the 1990s.
On Wednesday, President Trump informed Speaker Pelosi that he was accepting the Speaker’s Jan. 3 invitation to address the nation on January 29th as to the State of the Union. [Trump letter here]. Soon thereafter Speaker Pelosi responded in writing. The Speaker wrote “I am writing to inform you that the House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President’s State of the Union address in the House Chamber until government has opened.” [Pelosi letter here]
Bob Bauer, who served as White House Counsel to President Obama, writes in Can the Senate Decline to Try an Impeachment Case? Lawfare, Jan. 21, 2019:
The Constitution does not by its express terms direct the Senate to try an impeachment. In fact, it confers on the Senate “the sole power to try,” which is a conferral of exclusive constitutional authority and not a procedural command. The Constitution couches the power to impeach in the same terms: it is the House’s “sole power.” The House may choose to impeach or not, and one can imagine an argument that the Senate is just as free, in the exercise of its own “sole power,” to decline try any impeachment that the House elects to vote.
The Senate has options for scuttling the impeachment process beyond a simple refusal to heed the House vote. The Constitution does not specify what constitutes a “trial,” and in a 1993 case involving a judicial impeachment, the Supreme Court affirmed that the Senate’s “sole power” to “try” means that it is not subject to any limitations on how it could conduct a proceeding.
In Barr memo suggests: To understand the Trump administration, read Hobbes, The Hill suggests that the Barr memo should be read in conjunction with the 2009 Minnesota Law Review article in which then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh argued that, because of the extreme demands of their position, presidents “should be excused from some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office.” Read the June 8th Barr memo here.
Attorney General nominee William Barr said that, if confirmed, he would let special counsel Robert Mueller finish his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and believes the results should be made public. Read his prepared Senate testimony here.
Constitutional Law Prof Blog reports that Congressman Bobby Rush of Illinois District 1 has introduced a Resolution in the House of Representatives to censure Congressman Steve King of Iowa, listing specific incidents beginning in 2006 and ending with the January 10 remark by Steve King to the New York Times: “White nationalist, White supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?”
Federal Grand Jury Secrecy: Legal Principles and Implications for Congressional Oversight (R45456, Jan. 10, 2019) “begins with an overview of the standards governing—and exceptions applicable to—grand jury secrecy under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e). The report also addresses whether and how the rule of grand jury secrecy and its exceptions apply to Congress, including the circumstances under which Congress may obtain grand jury information and what restrictions apply to further disclosures. Concluding this report is a discussion of past legislative efforts to amend Rule 6(e) in order to provide congressional committees with access to grand jury materials.”
H/T to Sabrina Pacifici for calling attention to the rules package for the House of Representatives during the 116th Congress:
The Constitution mandates that Congress convene at noon on January 3, unless the preceding Congress by law designated a different day. P.L. 113-201 set January 6, 2015, as the convening date of the 114 the Congress. The 115th Congress convened on January 3, 2017. Congressional leaders announced the 116th Congress would convene January 3, 2019.
Both chambers have well-established routines for the opening of Congress. See:
- The First Day of a New Congress: A Guide to Proceedings on the Senate Floor (RS20722, Dec. 19, 2018)
- The First Day of a New Congress: A Guide to Proceedings on the House Floor (RL30725, Dec. 19, 2018)
From the summary of Congress’s Authority to Influence and Control Executive Branch Agencies (R45442, Dec. 19, 2018):
The Constitution neither establishes administrative agencies nor explicitly prescribes the manner by which they may be created. Even so, the Supreme Court has generally recognized that Congress has broad constitutional authority to establish and shape the federal bureaucracy. Congress may use its Article I lawmaking powers to create federal agencies and individual offices within those agencies, design agencies’ basic structures and operations, and prescribe, subject to certain constitutional limitations, how those holding agency offices are appointed and removed. Congress also may enumerate the powers, duties, and functions to be exercised by agencies, as well as directly counteract, through later legislation, certain agency actions implementing delegated authority.
From the summary of The Committee Markup Process in the House of Representatives (RL30244, Dec. 10, 2018):
Committees do not actually change the texts of the bills they mark up. Instead, committees vote on amendments that their members want to recommend that the House adopt when it considers the bill on the floor. The committee concludes a markup not by voting on the bill as a whole, but by voting on a motion to order the bill reported to the House with whatever amendments the committee has approved. A majority of the committee must be present when this final vote occurs. For all other stages of markups, committees may set their own quorum requirements, so long as that quorum is at least one-third of the committee’s membership.
From the summary of The Legislative Process on the House Floor: An Introduction (95-563, Dec. 13, 2018):
The standing rules of the House include several different parliamentary mechanisms that the body may use to act on bills and resolutions. Which of these will be employed in a given instance usually depends on the extent to which Members want to debate and amend the legislation. In general, all of the procedures of the House permit a majority of Members to work their will without excessive delay.
See also Points of Order, Rulings, and Appeals in the House of Representatives (98-307, Dec. 12, 2018).
According to this Pew study, when the 116th Congress convenes in January, at least 26 House members will be Millennials (i.e., born between 1981 and 1996), up from only five at the start of the current Congress in January 2017 and six just before the Nov. 6 midterms. More than a fifth (20) of the 91 freshmen members-elect are Millennials, and 14 of those 20 are Democrats – including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, at 29 the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
Electing the Speaker of the House of Representatives: Frequently Asked Questions (R44243, Nov. 26, 2018) briefly poses and answers several “frequently asked questions” in relation to the floor proceedings used to elect a Speaker of the House. Current practice for electing a Speaker, either at the start of a Congress or in the event of a vacancy (e.g., death or resignation), is by roll-call vote, during which Members state aloud the name of their preferred candidate. Members may vote for any individual. If no candidate receives a majority of votes cast, balloting continues; in subsequent ballots, Members may still vote for any individual. See also Speakers of the House: Elections, 1913-2017 (RL 30857, Nov. 26, 2018).
Meet the Freshmen: A Guide to the New House Members of the 116th Congress provides a broad overview of the positions that incoming members of the US House of Representatives have taken on campaign finance and ethics reform, infrastructure, healthcare, immigration, taxes, trade, and party leadership. This guide uses publicly available sources –- including statements from each candidate’s campaign websites, candidate questionnaires, social media reports, debates, interviews, and news reports -– to provide a broad overview of where the freshmen representatives stand on these issues.
H/T to beSpacific.
From the Summary of Introduction to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress (R42843, Nov. 15, 2018):
This report introduces the main steps through which a bill (or other item of business) may travel in the legislative process -— from introduction to committee and floor consideration to possible presidential consideration. However, the process by which a bill can become law is rarely predictable and can vary significantly from bill to bill. In fact, for many bills, the process will not follow the sequence of congressional stages that are often understood to make up the legislative process. This report presents a look at each of the common stages through which a bill may move, but complications and variations abound in practice.
From the introduction to Lame Duck Sessions of Congress Following a Majority-Changing Election: In Brief (R45402, Nov. 13, 2018):
“Lame duck” sessions of Congress take place whenever one Congress meets after its successor is elected but before the term of the current Congress ends. Their primary purpose is to complete action on legislation. They have also been used to prevent recess appointments and pocket vetoes, to consider motions of censure or impeachment, to keep Congress assembled on a standby basis, or to approve nominations (Senate only). In recent years, most lame duck sessions have focused on program authorizations, trade-related measures, appropriations, and the budget.
Party Leaders in the House: Election, Duties, and Responsibilities (RS20881, Nov. 5, 2018): “Each major party in the House has a leadership hierarchy. This report summarizes the election, duties, and responsibilities of the Speaker of the House, the majority and minority leaders, and the whips and whip system.”