Senate, House approve $1.9 trillion relief plan through reconciliation
You’d think something called “vote-a-rama” would be more fun. The Senate voted to proceed on S.Con.Res. 5, a resolution that lays out the budget framework for President Biden’s $1.9 billion COVID relief package, last Tuesday, and took its final vote on the resolution after 5:00 Friday morning. The 41 roll-call votes covered a wide range of issues, from expanding health savings accounts (passed, 53-47) to prohibiting new employment visas until the economy stabilizes (failed, 40-60). Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote on final passage. The House approved the revised resolution this afternoon, 219-209. House and Senate Committees now have until February 16 to write and approve implementing legislation.
Schumer becomes Majority Leader as Senate organizes
The Senate approved its power-sharing agreement last Wednesday, installing Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as Majority Leader and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as Minority Leader. Since the Senate is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, committee membership will be evenly divided as well, with Democrats serving as committee chairs. The Senate did not agree to abandon the filibuster. Vice President Kamala Harris will cast tie-breaking votes when necessary.
Committee chairs and ranking members for this Congress are:
- Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry — Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chair; Senator John Boozman(R-AR), ranking member
- Appropriations — Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chair; Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), ranking member
- Armed Services — Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), chair; Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member
- Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs — Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), chair; Senator Patrick Toomey(R-PA), ranking member
- Budget — Senator Bernie Sanders, chair (I-VT); Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), ranking member
- Commerce, Science & Transportation — Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chair; Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), ranking member
- Energy & Natural Resources — Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), chair; Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member
- Environment & Public Works — Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), chair; Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), ranking member
- Finance — Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), chair; Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), ranking member
- Foreign Relations — Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chair; Senator James E. Risch (R-ID), ranking member
- Health, Education, Labor & Pension — Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), chair; Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), ranking member
- Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs — Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), chair; Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), ranking member
- Intelligence — Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), chair; Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), ranking member
- Judiciary — Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), chair; Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member
- Rules & Administration — Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), chair; Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), ranking member
- Small Business & Entrepreneurship — Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), chair; Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), ranking member
- Veterans’ Affairs — Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), chair; Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), ranking member
- Aging — Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), chair; Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), ranking member
- Ethics — Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), chair; Senator James Lankford (R-OK), ranking member
- Indian Affairs — Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), chair; Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), ranking member
- Joint Economic — Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), vice chair; Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), senior Republican
McHenry names Republican Financial Services Subcommittee members
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), ranking member of the House Committee on Financial Services, has made subcommittee assignments for the 117th Congress. The ranking members of these subcommittees are:
- Diversity and Inclusion: Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), who is also Vice Ranking Member of the full committee
- Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship and Capital Markets: Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI)
- Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions: Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO)
- Housing, Community Development and Insurance: Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH)
- National Security, International Development and Monetary Policy: Rep. French Hill (R-AR)
- Oversight & Investigations: Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY)
Education, Labor confirmation hearings highlight community colleges, vocational training
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) held cordial confirmation hearings last week on the nominations of Dr. Miguel Cardona to serve as Secretary of Education and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to serve as Secretary of Labor. In both hearings, Committee members and the nominees recommended expanding the role of community colleges in job skills training and urged a return to secondary-level career and technical education (CTE). Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), a co-chair of the Senate CTE Caucus, pointed to the critical role community colleges played in helping Americans gain new skills during the last economic downturn, and has introduced legislation that would make eligible two-year post-secondary programs tuition-free. Dr. Cardona agreed on the value of community colleges, and described a Connecticut program that makes community college classes available to public high school and even middle school students. At his confirmation hearing, Mayor Walsh described the program Boston created in 2015 to make community college free for public school graduates. Businesses have been active participants in this program, partnering with community colleges for workforce training. The HELP Committee is scheduled to vote on the Cardona and Walsh nominations next Thursday.
Regan says EPA decisions will be his, not Kerry’s or McCarthy’s
At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) last week, Environmental Protection Agency nominee Michael Regan said that he was not concerned about Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry or National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy overruling or interfering with his decisions, if Regan is confirmed as EPA Administrator. “President Biden’s in charge,” Regan said, but Congress has bestowed both authority and accountability on the EPA Administrator, and he pledged to restore “science and transparency” to the agency. As North Carolina Secretary of Environmental Quality, Regan said, he learned that regulation was not the solution to every problem, and that the best results came from open dialogue among all stakeholders. He said that many problems with compliance come not from willful neglect, but from a need for technical assistance and other support.
Confirmations, Nominations, Departures
- Alejandro Mayorkas was sworn in as Secretary of Homeland Security after the Senate confirmed his nomination, 56-43.
- Pete Buttigieg was sworn in as Secretary of Transportation after the Senate confirmed his nomination, 86-13.
- Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was removed from her House Committee assignments by a vote of 230-199.
The Week Ahead in Washington
- The Senate is scheduled to begin its impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday, February 9.
- February 9 at 9:15 a.m. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs holds a hearing on the nomination of Neera Tanden to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
- February 9 at 11:00 a.m. House Transportation Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation holds a hearing on the “State of the U.S. Maritime Industry: Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
- February 9 at 12:00 noon House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change holds a hearing on “Back in Action: Restoring Federal Climate Leadership.”
- February 10 at 10:00 a.m. Senate Budget Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Neera Tanden to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
- February 11 at 10:00 a.m. House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on “Justice Restored: Ending Forced Arbitration and Protecting Fundamental Rights.”
The Ellis Insight
Jim Ellis reports on political news
Nomination Rules: Former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid may not be in Congress anymore, but he is still very politically active. Now, he is leading an internal lobbying effort to move his state of Nevada into the first primary position for the 2024 presidential election. The move would usurp Iowa and New Hampshire as the first caucus and primary states.
New Hampshire, however, is still in the driver’s seat. By law, the Secretary of State has the power to move the primary date at will in front of any state attempting to jump ahead of them on the voting schedule, so this could be the beginning of a long and interesting political fight.
Colorado: US Rep. Ken Buck (R-Windsor) announced that he would not challenge Sen. Michael Bennet (D) next year and will instead seek re-election to a fifth term in the House. Mr. Buck resigned his position as chairman of the Colorado Republican Party earlier in the year, fueling speculation that he was preparing to run statewide. At this point, Sen. Bennet’s only announced opposition is from former Democratic state Rep. Joe Salazar, who plans to attack the incumbent from his ideological left.
Georgia: Fox News is reporting that former Rep. Doug Collins (R), who placed third in the statewide special 2020 election that Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) won, looks to be preparing another run for the statewide federal office. Since the 2020 vote was a special election to fill the balance of resigned Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R) last term, Sen. Warnock now has to stand for a full six-year term in 2022.
North Carolina: Former North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley (D), who lost her seat on the bench this past November by just 413 votes statewide, is expected to soon enter the open US Senate race. Former Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who was defeated for re-election in 2016, is also reportedly making moves to form a US Senate campaign committee. Already in the race are former US Rep. Mark Walker (R) and ex-state Senator and 2020 Senate candidate Erica Smith (D) along with sitting state Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte). Sen. Richard Burr (R) has announced he will not seek a fourth term in 2022.
Ohio: US Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/Youngstown) is reportedly set to announce a 2022 run for retiring Sen. Rob Portman’s open seat in March. Mr. Ryan participated in the Democratic presidential campaign but dropped his bid even before the Iowa Caucus vote. He was first elected to the House in 2002 and has averaged 66.3% of the vote in his ten congressional elections, though his win percentage has lessened in recent election cycles as eastern Ohio turned more Republican during his two decades in the House.
One more Republican who will not be in the Senate race is Attorney General David Yost. He announced last week that he will seek re-election to his current position next year. Previously declining a Senate bid were Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana). Reportedly considering the Senate race are Reps. Steve Stivers (R-Columbus), Bill Johnson (R-Marietta), David Joyce (R-Russell Township), ex-Rep. and 2018 US Senate nominee Jim Renacci, and several wealthy business owners.
CA-28: According to the Axios news site, California Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) is lobbying Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to appoint him to the soon-to-be-vacant Attorney General’s position in his home state. Incumbent Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) was appointed as President Biden’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. Upon Mr. Becerra’s confirmation, the California AG’s position will be vacant, and Gov. Newsom is empowered to appoint a replacement.
California is projected to lose a seat in reapportionment, and the Congressman’s 28th District, which sits in the middle of the San Fernando Valley, is the most under-populated of all the state’s current 53 US House districts. Therefore, the chance that the California Citizens Redistricting Commission eventually collapses this seat and forces him into a race against another Democratic incumbent is a plausible possibility.
CO-3: With controversy surrounding Colorado freshman Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Silt) about her carrying a weapon on the House floor and being a conservative firebrand, it is clear that she will be a top Democratic 2022 target. Last week, a major Colorado pol, state Senate President Pro Tempore Kerry Donovan (D-Gunnison), announced that she will challenge Ms. Boebert next year.
We can expect a crowded Democratic primary and redistricting to change this seat only on its eastern border since the seat is surrounded in the other three directions by Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico. Colorado is expected to gain a seat in reapportionment, so the final 2022 congressional map will be much different than the one presently in effect.
MI-6: One by one, the Republican House members who voted to impeach President Trump are already attracting GOP primary opponents. The latest to be challenged is veteran Michigan Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph). Two 2022 GOP opponents came forward this week as Berrien County Commissioner Ezra Scott and local pastor Jerry Solis both announced they will attempt next year to deny Mr. Upton re-nomination for a 19th term.
In 2020, Mr. Upton defeated challenger Elena Oelke in the GOP primary, 62-38%. Ms. Oelke, however, literally spent no money on her campaign. This suggests more serious challengers could make a different primary battle quite interesting.
NJ-5: Sussex-Wantage School Board President Nicholas D’Agostino (R) announced last week that he will challenge northern New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wycoff) next year. Mr. D’Agostino is disabled and says that paraplegic Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s (R-NC) successful congressional run inspired him.
Rep. Gottheimer is one of the top Democratic fundraisers, so any challenger will be tasked with raising millions of dollars to adequately compete. In the 2020 campaign, the Congressman spent over $8 million on his re-election effort.
NJ-7: Pharmaceutical executive Rik Mehta, who was the Republican nominee in November against Sen. Cory Booker (D) and scored 41% of the statewide vote, announced that he will challenge two-term Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) next year.
The move could set up a Republican primary. State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield), who just announced a week ago that he would not seek re-election this year in a move that many believe better prepares him to make another run against Rep. Malinowski – the 2020 campaign ended in a close 50.6 – 49.3% Democratic victory – is also a serious potential congressional candidate.
NY-22: Last week, presiding judge Scott DelConte issued a 23-page ruling pertaining to more than 1,100 contested ballots in the NY-22 campaign that is now virtually decided but still a long way from being over. With the contested rulings now public, former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) has increased her lead over 116th Congress incumbent Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) to 122 votes.
Justice DelConte ordered the counties to appear in court to finish their canvass procedure but then changed his mind. He once again suspended the race results because Mr. Brindisi is already appealing some of Justice DelConte’s rulings and he could win in the higher courts. Therefore, we can expect this contest to continue lingering in political limbo.
SC-7: The prediction that South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice (R-Myrtle Beach) would draw a serious 2022 primary challenge after voting to impeach former President Trump is already coming true. In addition to state Rep. William Bailey (R-Horry County) announcing his intention to run, Horry County School Board chairman Ken Richardson (R) said that he will also make the race, while state Rep. Russell Fry (R-Surfside Beach) confirms that he, too, is seriously considering running.
South Carolina is a runoff state, so a crowded field suggests that a secondary Republican nomination election would be forthcoming if no candidate receives majority support in the original June 2022 primary.
TX-32: Businesswoman Genevieve Collins (R), who spent over $6 million on a campaign against Rep. Colin Allred (D-Dallas) but lost 52-46%, says she will return for a re-match in 2022. The district, however, may not be the same, which could help or hinder her new political effort. The Dallas area, with its large population growth, is expected to gain one of the three new projected seats Texas is likely to earn in reapportionment. This will undoubtedly substantially change the 32nd District. Therefore, since the electoral situation could change Ms. Collins’ outlook about where, or whether, she runs means Dallas County politics will remain in flux.
California: Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R), who left his position in January due to term limits, announced a challenge to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) last week. With the recall petition against Mr. Newsom gaining more support and appearing on the cusp of qualifying for a removal election, potential candidates are beginning to make preparatory moves for such an eventuality.
To force a recall election the Secretary of State must record 1,495,708 valid signatures (12% of the total vote in the last gubernatorial election). The organizers have until March 17th to finish petition gathering, and their current validity rate is running at approximately 85% according to news sources.
One potentially strong candidate, tech billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya (R), who at one time suggested he would run is now backing off conducting any such campaign saying, “…I’m not ready to do any of that.”
Florida: US Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg), who served one term as Governor when a member of the Republican Party before losing a US Senate race as an Independent, and then another bid for Governor after switching to the Democrats, again confirmed that he is weighing his chances in yet another gubernatorial campaign. Now, he is looking at challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) who is expected to seek a second term in 2022.
Nebraska: The Omaha World-Herald newspaper ran a recent article detailing the many Nebraska politicos who could run for the open Governor’s position in 2022. Current incumbent Pete Ricketts (R) is ineligible to run for a third term.
Among the people covered was the state’s entire congressional delegation. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the report that two-term Sen. Deb Fischer (R) is seriously considering running for Governor. With her Senate seat not in-cycle until 2024, after her 58-39% re-election win in 2018, Ms. Fischer would not have to risk her position in order to run.
Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillion/Omaha), fresh from his third close victory in the swing 2nd Congressional District, a seat that gave President Biden an extra electoral vote in the general election, is also characterized as considering a Governor’s bid. Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Lincoln) and Adrian Smith (R-Gering) are unlikely gubernatorial candidates.
Texas: In another indication that former US Representative and presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke (D) is beginning to unite the Texas Democratic Party around his budding gubernatorial candidacy, former Housing & Urban Development Secretary and ex-presidential candidate Julian Castro, the former San Antonio Mayor and Councilman, said on Friday that it is “very unlikely he will run for any office in 2022.” At one point, Mr. Castro was not closing the door on a run for Governor. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is expected to run for a third term.
Atlanta: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has drawn her first major re-election opponent in the person of City Council President Felicia Moore. The race is non-partisan in that party labels do not appear on the ballot, but both of these women are Democrats. Ms. Moore was quoted as saying that the city needs a change in leadership to address the rising crime rate and income inequality.