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.

According to multiple reports, President Trump may be contemplating declaring a national emergency in order to fund the construction of a physic al barrier along the southern border with Mexico. Can the Department of Defense Build the Border Wall? (LSB10242, Jan. 10, 2019) provides an overview of the NEA [National Emergencies Act]; the military construction authorities available in the event of a declared emergency that the Administration may rely upon to deploy border fencing; and other statutory authorities that may provide the DOD with the authority to engage in certain construction operations.

H/T beSpacific.

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.”

From the summary of Broadband Internet Access and the Digital Divide: Federal Assistance Programs (RL30719, Jan. 9, 2019):

Broadband technologies are currently being deployed primarily by the private sector throughout the United States. While the numbers of new broadband subscribers continue to grow , studies and data suggest that the rate of broadband deployment in urban/suburban and high-income areas is outpacing deployment in rural and low-income areas. Some policymakers, believing that disparities in broadband access across American society could have adverse economic and social consequences on those left behind, assert that the federal government should play a more active role to address the “digital divide” in broadband access.

To the extent that the 116th Congress may consider various options for further encouraging broadband deployment and adoption, a key issue is how to strike a balance between providing federal assistance for unserved and underserved areas where the private sector may not be providing acceptable levels of broadband service, while at the same time minimizing any deleterious effects that government intervention in the marketplace may have on competition and private sector investment.

From the introduction of The Special Counsel Investigation After the Attorney General’s Resignation (LSB10237, Jan. 2, 2019):

Recent Department of Justice (DOJ) leadership changes have raised questions about their impact on the special counsel investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election and related matters. Who will oversee the investigation? How do personnel changes affect the investigation? What are Congress’s possible roles in this matter? Before his resignation, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from the inquiry with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein serving as Acting Attorney General for the investigation With President Trump’s designation of Matthew G. Whitaker as Acting Attorney General pending Senate consideration of his nominee for Attorney General, supervision of the special counsel investigation may change in the coming months, possibly impacting ongoing litigation regarding the special counsel’s authority. This Sidebar examines how DOJ leadership changes may interplay with the special counsel investigation.

From the introduction to Statutory Inspectors General in the Federal Government: A Primer (R45450, Jan. 3, 2019):

Statutory IGs—established by law rather than administrative directive—are intended to be independent, nonpartisan officials who aim to prevent and detect waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government. To execute their missions, IGs lead offices of inspector general (OIGs) that conduct various reviews of agency programs and operations—including audits, investigations, inspections, and evaluations—and provide findings and recommendations to improve them. IGs possess several authorities to carry out their respective missions, such as the ability to independently hire staff, access relevant agency records and information, and report findings and recommendations directly to 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:

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).

From the summary of Abortion: Judicial History and Legislative Response (RL33467, Dec. 7, 2018):

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded in Roe v. Wade that the U.S. Constitution protects a woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy. In a companion decision, Doe v. Bolton, the Court found that a state may not unduly burden the exercise of that fundamental right with regulations that prohibit or substantially limit access to the procedure. Rather than settle the issue, the Court’s rulings since Roe and Doe have continued to generated debate and have precipitated a variety of governmental actions at the national, state, and local levels designed either to nullify the rulings or limit their effect. These governmental regulations have, in turn, spawned further litigation in which resulting judicial refinements in the law have been no more successful in dampening the controversy.

From the summary for Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects (RL34680, Dec. 10, 2018):

When federal agencies and programs lack funding after the expiration of full-year or interim appropriations, the agencies and programs experience a funding gap. If funding does not resume in time to continue government operations, then, under the Antideficiency Act, an agency must cease operations, except in certain situations when law authorizes continued activity. Funding gaps are distinct from shutdowns, and the criteria that flow from the Antideficiency Act for determining which activities are affected by a shutdown are complex.

From the introduction to US Sanctions on Russia (R45415, Nov. 28, 2018):

Sanctions are considered by many to be a central element of U.S. policy to counter Russian malign behavior. Most Russia-related sanctions have been in response to Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine. In addition, the United States has imposed sanctions on Russia in response to human rights abuses, election interference and cyberattacks, weapons proliferation, illicit trade with North Korea, support to Syria, and use of a chemical weapon. The United States also employs sanctions to deter further objectionable activities. Most Members of Congress support a robust use of sanctions amid concerns about Russia’s international behavior and geostrategic intentions.

From the press release:

The Government Publishing Office (GPO) makes available a subset of enrolled bills, public and private laws, and the Statutes at Large in Beta United States Legislative Markup (USLM) XML, a format that makes documents easier to download and repurpose.

The documents available in the Beta USLM XML format include enrolled bills and public laws beginning with the 113th Congress (2013) and the Statutes at Large beginning with the 108th Congress (2003). They are available on govinfo, GPO’s one-stop site to authentic, published Government information. www.govinfo.gov/bulkdata

H/T Gary Price, InfoDocket

govinfo is a redesign of the FDsys public website, with a focus on implementing feedback from users and improving overall search and access to electronic Federal Government information. The redesigned, mobile-friendly website incorporates innovative technologies and includes several new features for an overall enhanced user experience. GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) website will be retired and replaced with govinfo on Dec. 14, 2018. Here’s answers to frequently ask questions about the transition.

From the summary of Post-Heller Second Amendment Jurisprudence (R44618, Nov. 28, 2018):

Because Heller neither purported to define the full scope of the Second Amendment, nor suggested a standard of review for evaluating Second Amendment claims, the lower federal courts have been tasked with doing so in the Second Amendment challenges brought before them. These challenges include allegations that provisions of the Gun Control Act of 1968, as amended, as well as various state and local firearm laws (e.g., “assault weapon” bans, concealed carry regulations, firearm licensing schemes) are unconstitutional. The analyses in these cases may provide useful guideposts for Congress should it seek to enact further firearm regulations.

Who Can Serve as Acting Attorney General (LSB10217, Nov. 15, 2018) discusses the two primary arguments raised to challenge the President’s decision to name Whitaker as Acting AG: first, that the Vacancies Act does not apply because another statute, 28 U.S.C. §508, provides that the Deputy Attorney General (DAG) serves as Acting AG in the event of a vacancy and second, that the Appointments Clause prohibits Whitaker, a non-Senate-confirmed official, from serving as the head of the DOJ.

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).