House committees speed through budget work
With a deadline of February 16, twelve House committees marked up legislation last week to apportion the $1.9 trillion in COVID relief approved by the House and Senate. The individual bills would implement President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, delivering direct payments, grants, and access to credit to individuals, families, small businesses, and state and local government entities. Some highlights:
- The House Education & Labor Committee approved $130 billion to help K-12 schools reopen safely. (Separately, the Centers for Disease Control issued new guidance for reopening schools safely.)
- The House Energy & Commerce Committee approved $7.6 billion for the Federal Communications Commission to support broadband internet access for schools and libraries.
- The House Financial Services Committee approved $25 billion in emergency rental assistance and $10 billion in homeownership assistance, most of which will be distributed by states, counties, and cities. They also voted to reestablish the State Small Business Credit Initiative originally created in 2008, which would distribute $10 billion to the states in order to support up to $100 billion in small business financing.
- The House Oversight and Reform Committee approved $195.3 billion in payments to states and the District of Columbia and $130.2 billion in payments to cities, towns, and counties.
- The House Ways & Means Committee approved $593 billion in direct payments and tax credits to individuals and households. Individuals with income under $75,000/year and couples with income under $150,000 will get payments of $1,400 apiece; this amount will decrease as income increases, up to $100,000 per individual or $200,000 per couple; anyone earning more than that will not be eligible for payments.
- The House Education & Labor Committee also approved a new federal minimum wage of $15/hour as part of its spending bill. This provision was not part of S.Con.Res.5, the budget reconciliation agreement, and some have argued that it cannot be included in the reconciliation process since it is not explicitly a spending measure.
All these bills go next to the House Budget Committee, which will consolidate them for action on the House floor. House and Senate Democratic leadership want to get a final bill to the President by March 14, when many unemployment benefits are scheduled to expire.
Yellen calls for “responsible innovation” in financial technology
The Treasury Department hosted a two-day Financial Sector Innovation Policy Roundtable last week, bringing policymakers, regulators, and industry leaders together to discuss how new technologies can deliver added value to financial services companies and their customers. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen opened the roundtable by saying she’d like to “out-innovate many of the country’s big challenges.” She added, however, that “we’re living amidst an explosion of risk related to fraud, money laundering, terrorist financing, and data privacy,” and said that she’s concerned about the misuse of cryptocurrencies and virtual assets. She noted that the same technological advances used to abuse the system can also be used to protect it and deliver new services, and said, “My message to you is: Our department is here to help scale and leverage . . . responsible innovation.”
Confirmations, Nominations, Departures
- Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) announced that he will not run for reelection in 2022. He is serving his sixth term in the Senate, and has chaired four committees: Appropriations, Rules, Banking, and Intelligence. He is currently Vice Chairman and ranking member of the Appropriations Committee.
- Denis McDonough was confirmed and sworn in as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
The Week Ahead in Washington
This week is officially a District Work Period for Congress, but some House and Senate committees have scheduled remote hearings. Monday, February 15 is a federal holiday in observance of Washington’s Birthday, and GrayRobinson’s offices will be closed.
February 17 at 11:00 a.m. House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology holds a hearing on “Connecting America: Broadband Solutions to Pandemic Problems.”
February 18 at 11:00 a.m. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs hold a hearing on “The Coronavirus Crisis: Paving the Way to an Equitable Recovery.”
February 18 at 12:00 noon House Financial Services Committee holds a hearing on “Game Stopped? Who Wins and Loses When Short Sellers, Social Media, and Retail Investors Collide.”
The Ellis Insight
Jim Ellis reports on political news
Alabama: Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) announced last week that he will not seek a seventh US Senate term next year. Sen. Shelby, who was first elected to his statewide position in 1986 began his career as a City Prosecutor in Tuscaloosa. He was elected to the state Senate in 1970 and the US House in 1978, both as a Democrat and served in the party through the latter part of 1994 before switching to the Republicans after that year’s election.
Sen. Shelby will turn 88 years of age before the 2022 general election. He becomes the fourth Senate Republican to announce his retirement. Of the four GOP opens, the Alabama seat is the safest. The average Republican statewide vote percentage is 61.6% from five major elections since 2016.
Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville), serving his 13th term in the House and the third ranking Republican member on the House Appropriations Committee, is the first to make a statement about the open Senate race and said he will not run, instead continuing to build upon his seniority in the House.
Missouri: Former state Senator Scott Sifton (D-Affton/St. Louis County), who was briefly in the 2020 Governor’s race before yielding the Democratic nomination to State Auditor Nicole Galloway, announced that he will challenge Sen. Roy Blunt (R) next year. Reportedly looking at a Republican primary challenge is former Gov. Eric Greitens, who was forced to resign from office due to a sex scandal. Much of the legal proceedings against Mr. Greitens were later dismissed, but the controversy about his behavior certainly still lingers.
Ohio: Former Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who lost 51-45% in the 2012 Senate race to incumbent Sherrod Brown (D), announced last week that he will enter the state’s open statewide contest next year. Mr. Mandel, who for a short time was also a Senate candidate in 2018 until withdrawing for family reasons, begins his 2022 effort with well over $4.3 million in his federal campaign account. In 2012, he raised over $18 million for his effort. We can expect a crowded GOP primary.
For the Democrats, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/Youngstown) said that he will announce his own Senate bid in March. Republicans will be favored to hold retiring Sen. Rob Portman’s (R) seat, but another competitive Buckeye State general election campaign is forthcoming.
South Carolina: In what is expected to be a relatively easy re-election path for South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (R) as he seeks a second six-year term, his first general election opponent came forward this week. Spartanburg County chair Angela Geter, who ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in a 2017 special election, announced that she will enter the Democratic US Senate primary next year. Sen. Scott remains a prohibitive favorite for re-election.
AZ-6: Fresh from his 52% re-election victory in a race that many had predicted he would lose, Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills/ Scottsdale) has drawn his first announced 2022 challenger. Democrat Eric Ulis, who is still investigating the 1971 disappearance of hijacker D.B. Cooper, says he will oppose the Congressman in the next election.
The serious candidates will be coming forward once they see how the new district lines will be drawn. With a new congressional seat headed for the Phoenix Metropolitan area, all of the regional districts will see very different boundaries for the next five elections.
CA-25: California GOP Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Santa Clarita) won his seat in a May 2020 special election and then captured a full term in November, both times defeating then-state Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall). It doesn’t appear there will be a third race between the two despite only a 333-vote difference separating them in the general election, however.
Last week, Ms. Smith filed papers to run for her former seat in the state Assembly. Republican Suzette Martinez Valladares (R-Santa Clarita) converted the open seat in November for the GOP, and it appears that Ms. Smith will challenge her for re-election. Redistricting, however, could play havoc with this region so the 2022 political situation may prove uncertain come candidate filing time.
GA-7 & 11: Physician and retired Navy officer Rich McCormick (R), who finished within 2 1/2 points of freshman Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Suwanee/ Lawrenceville) in the November election despite being outspent 2:1, is indicating he will return for another attempt in 2022. The Democrats’ GA-7 victory is the only non-redistricting related conversion seat the party recorded nationally in 2020.
In another Atlanta metro district, biotech company executive Heather Kilpatrick (D) announced that she will challenge four-term Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville) in a suburban 11th District that has not turned toward the Democrats as have the immediate adjacent seats. Rep. Loudermilk was re-elected 60-40% in November in a race that never developed since neither side even spent $1 million.
IL-16: Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Channahon) has been one of the most high-profile Republican critics of former President Donald Trump and as a result has now drawn his fourth 2022 Republican primary challenger. Earlier last week, management consultant Jim Marter announced that he will run, thus already expanding the field of challengers to almost a half-dozen.
With Illinois assuredly losing one seat in reapportionment, the district lines will greatly change so it is difficult to assess any political situation at this point. Since Illinois is a plurality state, the more opponents for Rep. Kinzinger the easier time he will have winning re-nomination with a smaller vote share. The Congressman could find himself in a serious race if all of the opponents would unify behind one challenger, but, at least at this point, such appears unlikely to happen.
NY-22: In a surprising move, and despite filing appeals of State Supreme Court of Oswego County Justice Scott DelConte’s various ballot acceptance and rejection rulings, former Congressman Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) conceded the outstanding 2020 congressional election to ex-Rep. Claudia Tenney (R). The final count is a scant victory margin of 109 votes from a pool of 318,867 tallies recorded for a major party candidate.
NC-11: Retired Air Force Colonel Moe Davis (D), who spent more than $2 million in his race against North Carolina freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-Hendersonville), is beginning a fundraising drive in preparation for a re-match with his 2020 opponent.
Redistricting will change the district to a degree, but the western NC district is bordered on three sides by other states; therefore, the core configuration will remain intact. Rep. Cawthorn, at 25 years of age, is the House’s youngest member. He defeated Mr. Davis 55-42% in November, which proved a surprisingly strong result based upon pre-election predictions.
TX-6: Two-term Texas Rep. Ron Wright (R-Arlington) passed away last week after a long fight with cancer and COVID. Mr. Wright won re-election in November with a 53-44% victory margin. The 6th District, which former Congressman Joe Barton (R) represented for the preceding 34 years, is another of the DFW area Republican districts that is moving closer to the political center.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) will schedule a special election to replace Mr. Wright after the memorial services conclude. The first uniform election day in Texas during 2021 is May 1st, which will likely be his choice for this special election. If no candidate receives majority support in the first vote, a runoff will occur and likely be scheduled at some point in late June. We can expect a competitive special election cycle.
TX-22: Two-time Democratic congressional nominee Sri Preston Kulkarni (D), who lost last November to freshman Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Richmond/Sugar Land), is unlikely to return for a third congressional run in 2022. Mr. Kulkarni just accepted a position in the Biden Administration as the AmeriCorps chief of external relations. In his two congressional runs, Mr. Kulkarni recorded 46 and 45% of the vote in 2018 and 2020, respectively, despite having a better than 5:1 spending advantage in the latter campaign.
TX-34: Texas’ 34th District is anchored in the city of Brownsville and Cameron County near the Mexican border before it stretches northward to the outer San Antonio region. This past November, the district ran closer than in past elections with Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville) winning a 55-42% victory against an opponent who spent less than $35,000. Former President Trump pulled to within just four points of President Joe Biden in a 17-point improvement from his 2016 performance.
Last week, Republican Mayra Flores stepped forward to announce that she will challenge the five-term Congressman. Redistricting will change the district because the 34th is one of just four Texas districts that apparently need a population influx. Additionally, the region itself may be changing, suggesting that this seat could get more Republican. The adjoining district, TX-15, which must shed population, saw its Congressman, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen), win with only 50.5% of the vote and President Biden eke out just a two-point win over former President Trump.
Arkansas: Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin (R), who previously served two terms in the US House of Representatives, had earlier declared his intention to enter the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) but now has changed course.
Now that former White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, daughter of former Arkansas Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, joined the gubernatorial race Mr. Griffin opted to run for the open Attorney General’s position. The office’s current incumbent, Republican Leslie Rutledge, remains as a gubernatorial candidate.
Illinois: Businessman Gary Rabine (R), who operates a paving construction company and is a strong Trump supporter and donor, announced that he will challenge first-term Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) next year. This will be a longshot challenge since Republicans have little chance of winning statewide races and particularly so for candidates closely aligned with the former President. Gov. Pritzker looks to be in strong shape for re-election and is regarded as a prohibitive favorite to win a second term.
Massachusetts: Former state Senator and renewable energy company executive Ben Downing (D) announced that he is entering the Massachusetts Democratic gubernatorial primary to compete for the right to challenge popular Gov. Charlie Baker (R) next year. Already in the race are financial advisor Scott Khourie and college professor Danielle Allen, but Mr. Downing is the first entry with any electoral experience.
There had been some speculation that Gov. Baker, who consistently enjoys among the best job approval ratings in the country, would not seek a third term but such conjecture has seemingly been quelled.
Michigan: Software company executive Austin Chenge is the first individual to announce his 2022 gubernatorial candidacy. Mr. Chenge will compete for the Republican nomination for the right to challenge Wolverine State Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) in the 2022 general election.
Virginia: Businessman Peter Doran is the latest to announce his entry into the Republican gubernatorial campaign becoming the third serious private sector candidate. Already in the race are venture capitalist Pete Snyder and investment executive Glenn Youngkin, who are both running television ads in preparation for the closed nomination convention process.
Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), who was Speaker of the House when Republicans were in the majority, is the top elected official in the field of candidates. The eventual nominee will be a decided underdog to likely Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, the former Governor. Incumbent Ralph Northam (D) is ineligible to seek a second term from the only state that limits its chief executives from running in consecutive elections.