From the summary of Congressional Subpoenas: Enforcing Executive Branch Compliance (R45653, Mar. 27, 2019):
Congress currently employs an ad hoc combination of methods to combat non-compliance with subpoenas. The two predominant methods rely on the authority and participation of another branch of government. First, the criminal contempt statute permits a single house of Congress to certify a contempt citation to the executive branch for the criminal prosecution of an individual who has willfully refused to comply with a committee subpoena. Once the contempt citation is received, any prosecution lies within the control of the executive branch. Second, Congress may try to enforce a subpoena by seeking a civil judgment declaring that the recipient is legally obligated to comply. This process of civil enforcement relies on the help of the courts to enforce congressional demands.
From the summary of Free Speech and the Regulation of Social Media Content (R45650, Mar. 27,2019):
Some have argued that Congress should step in to regulate social media sites. Government action regulating internet content would constitute state action that may implicate the First Amendment. In particular, social media providers may argue that government regulations impermissibly infringe on the providers’ own constitutional free speech rights. Legal commentators have argued that when social media platforms decide whether and how to post users’ content, these publication decisions are themselves protected under the First Amendment. There are few court decisions evaluating whether a social media site, by virtue of publishing, organizing, or even editing protected speech, is itself exercising free speech rights. Consequently, commentators have largely analyzed the question of whether the First Amendment protects a social media site’s publication decisions by analogy to other types of First Amendment cases.
From the summary of Congressional Participation in Litigation: Article III and Legislative Standing (R45636, Mar. 26, 2019):
Houses, committees, and Members of Congress periodically seek to initiate or participate in litigation to, among other purposes, advance their legislative objectives, argue that the Executive is violating their legislative prerogatives, or defend core institutional interests. However, the constitutionally based doctrine of “standing” — which requires a litigant seeking federal judicial relief to demonstrate (1) a concrete and particularized and actual or imminent injury in fact, (2) that is traceable to the allegedly unlawful actions of the opposing party and (3) that is redressable by a favorable judicial decision — may prevent legislators from pursuing litigation in federal court. The U.S. Supreme Court and the lower federal courts have issued several important opinions analyzing whether — and under what circumstances — a legislative entity has standing to seek relief.
In an Executive Order Thursday, President Trump sought to promote free inquiry and regulate student loans in higher education. Read the Executive Order on Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities.
From the summary of Arms Control and Nonproliferation: A Catalog of Treaties and Agreements (RL33865, Mar. 18, 2019):
Arms control and nonproliferation efforts are two of the tools that have occasionally been used to implement U.S. national security strategy. Although some believe these tools do little to restrain the behavior of U.S. adversaries, while doing too much to restrain U.S. military forces and operations, many other analysts see them as an effective means to promote transparency, ease military planning, limit forces, and protect against uncertainty and surprise. Arms control and nonproliferation efforts have produced formal treaties and agreements, informal arrangements, and cooperative threat reduction and monitoring mechanisms.
From the Federal Register:
The U.S. Copyright Office is announcing the release of a public draft of an update to its administrative manual, the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition. The update has been released in draft form to give the public an opportunity to review and provide comments on the revisions. … The public draft of the update to the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition is available on the Office’s website at https://www.copyright.gov/comp3/draft.html
From the summary of Special Counsel Investigations: History, Authority, Appointment and Removal (R44857, Mar. 13, 2019):
The Constitution vests Congress with the legislative power, which includes authority to establish federal agencies and conduct oversight of those entities. Criminal investigations and prosecutions, however, are generally regarded as core executive
functions assigned to the executive branch. Because of the potential conflicts of interest that may arise when the executive branch investigates itself, there have often been calls for criminal investigations by prosecutors with independence from the executive branch.
In response, Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have used both statutory and regulatory mechanisms to establish a process for such inquiries. These frameworks have aimed to balance the competing goals of independence and accountability with respect to inquiries of executive branch officials.
From Strategic Competition and Foreign Policy: What is “Political Warfare”? (IF 11127, Mar. 8, 2019): “Political Warfare” is a term that has recently been reinvigorated by scholars of strategy; it describes the synchronized use of any aspect of national power short of overt conventional warfare — such as intelligence assets, alliance building, financial tools, diplomatic relations, to name a few — to achieve state objectives.
See related CRS Report, Information Warfare: Issues for Congress (R45142, Mar. 5, 2018)
H/T to beSpacific for calling attention to Gov404: The Sunlight Foundation Web Integrity Project’s Censorship Tracker. Gov404 aggregates and verifies examples of the most significant cases of online information censorship on the federal Web since November 2016. The cases come from reporting by the Web Integrity Project team, the news media, and other accountability organizations.
The president’s proposed budget for the 2020 fiscal year was delivered to Congress on Monday. Text and official fact sheets here.
Yesterday’s reporting from the New York Times, Washington Post and Politico.
From the summary of Constitutional Authority Statements and the Powers of Congress: An Overview (R44729, Mar. 11, 2019):
On January 5, 2011, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment to House Rule XII to require that Members state the constitutional basis for Congress’s power to enact the proposed legislation when introducing a bill or joint resolution. (The amendment does not pertain to concurrent or simple resolutions). This Constitutional Authority Statement (CAS) rule, found at House Rule XII, clause 7(c), was subsequently adopted by every subsequent Congress.
A CAS is fundamentally a congressional interpretation of the Constitution, in that House Rule XII requires each Member introducing a piece of legislation to attach a statement that cites the power(s) that allows Congress to enact the legislation.
From the summary of The Congressional Review Act: Determining Which “Rules” Must Be Submitted to Congress (R45248, Mar. 6, 2019):
The Congressional Review Act (CRA) allows Congress to review certain types of federal agency actions that fall under the statutory category of “rules.” The CRA requires that agencies report their rules to Congress and provides special procedures under which Congress can consider legislation to overturn those rules. A joint resolution of disapproval will become effective once both houses of Congress pass a joint resolution and it is signed by the President, or if Congress overrides the President’s veto.
From the summary of The February 2019 Trump-Kim Hanoi Summit (IN11067, Mar. 6, 2019):
The United States and North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK) each attributed the summit’s breakdown to their inability to resolve differences over the scope and sequencing of concessions, specifically DPRK denuclearization measures in exchange for sanctions relief.
From the introduction to The Emoluments Clauses of the U.S. Constitution (IF11086, Jan. 30, 2019):
Recent litigation involving President Trump has raised a number of legal issues concerning formerly obscure constitutional provisions that prohibit the acceptance or receipt of “emoluments” in certain circumstances. This In Focus provides an overview of these constitutional provisions, highlighting several unsettled legal areas concerning their meaning and scope, and reviewing the status of ongoing litigation against President Trump based on alleged violations of the Emoluments Clauses.
From the summary of Congress’s Authority to Influence and Control Executive Branch Agencies (R45442, Dec. 19, 2018):
The most potent tools of congressional control over agencies, including those addressing the structuring, empowering, regulating, and funding of agencies, typically require enactment of legislation. Such legislation must comport with constitutional requirements related to bicameralism (i.e., it must be approved by both houses of Congress) and presentment (i.e., it must be presented to the President for signature). The constitutional process to enact effective legislation requires the support of the House, Senate, and the President, unless the support in both houses is sufficient to override the President’s veto.
From the introduction to The First Step Act of 2018: An Overview (R45558, Mar. 4, 2019): “On December 21, 2018, President Trump signed into law the First Step Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-391). The act was the culmination of several years of congressional debate about what Congress might do to reduce the size of the federal prison population while also creating mechanisms to maintain public safety. This report provides an overview of the provisions of the act.”
From the introduction to NAFTA Renegotiation and the Proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) (R44981, Feb. 26, 2019):
The 116th Congress faces policy issues related to the Trump Administration’s renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). On May 18, 2017, the Trump Administration sent a 90-day notification to Congress of its intent to begin talks with Canada and Mexico to renegotiate and modernize NAFTA, as required by the 2015 Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Talks officially began on August 16, 2017. Negotiations were concluded on September 30, 2018. The proposed USMCA was signed on November 30, 2018. The agreement must be approved by Congress and ratified by the governments of Mexico and Canada before it can enter into force.
From the introduction to The Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” Immigration Enforcement Policy (R45266, Feb. 26, 2019):
This report briefly reviews the statutory authority for prosecuting persons who enter the United States illegally between U.S. ports of entry, and the policies and procedures for processing apprehended illegal border entrants and any accompanying children. It explains enforcement policies under past Administrations and then discusses the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy on illegal border crossers and the attendant family separations. The report concludes by presenting varied policy perspectives on the zero tolerance policy and briefly reviews recent related congressional activity. An Appendix examines recent trends in the apprehension of family units at the U.S. Southwest border.
From the introduction to National Emergency Powers (98-505, Feb. 27, 2019):
The National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. §§1601-1651) eliminated or modified some statutory grants of emergency authority, required the President to formally declare the existence of a national emergency and to specify what statutory authority activated by the declaration would be used, and provided Congress a means to countermand the President’s declaration and the activated authority being sought. The development of this regulatory statute and subsequent declarations of national emergency are reviewed in this report.
From the introduction for U.S. Constitutional Limits on State Money-Bail Practices for Criminal Defendants (R45533, Feb. 26, 2019):
Courts have heard legal challenges regarding whether state or local money-bail systems comport with the Constitution’s Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. The Supreme Court has established that the Constitution provides certain protections to indigents during sentencing and postconviction, including ensuring that an indigent’s failure to pay a fine cannot result in an automatic revocation of probation or imprisonment beyond the statutory maximum term. The Court, however, has not addressed these rights in the bail context. Applying the rational basis standard, some courts have found money-bail systems that reasonably ensure a defendant’s subsequent court appearance to be constitutional. Other courts have indicated that bail systems that detain indigent criminal defendants pretrial, without considering their ability to pay, may be unconstitutional.