Senate Passes Revised Rescue Plan
The Senate voted on amendments to H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act. Senate Democrats agreed to a number of changes to the House Bill, including:
- an increase in emergency rental assistance for high-need grantees to $2.5 billion, from $1.2 billion in the House bill
- an increase in the minimum state allocation for the Homeowner Assistance fund to $50 million, from $40 million in the House bill
- an increase in the share of the $3 billion for the Economic Development Administration to be set aside for communities suffering economic injury from job losses in travel, tourism, or outdoor recreation, to 25% from 15% in the House bill
- phasing out the direct payments to individuals and households earning more than $75,000-$80,000 for individuals, $112,500-$120,000 for heads of household, and $150,000-$160,000 for joint filers
- a prohibition on states using CARES Act relief funding to cut taxes
- a new $10 billion Critical Infrastructure Projects program for states, territories, and tribal governments to carry out critical capital projects in response to COVID-19
- a provision to allow eligible applicants to seek funding from both the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant and the Paycheck Protection Program
The House will vote Tuesday on the bill to approve changes made in the Senate, and then it will go to President Biden to be signed into law.
Gensler, Chopra face Senate Banking
At what Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called “the longest committee meeting I remember” last Tuesday, Senators grilled former CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler and FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra about their plans if confirmed as Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, respectively. Both men are well-known to many Committee members, and the hearing was generally cordial. Gensler promised to focus on the SEC’s mission of protecting investors, maintaining fair and orderly markets, and facilitating capital formation. He also said that the legal framework needs to keep up with a changing market, and that financial technology can be a force for good only if it can be harnessed to serve investors, issuers, and the public at large. Chopra, who was CFPB’s first student loan ombudsman, got questions from ranking member Senator Pat Toomey about his “aggressive anti-business stances,” and said that he thought the student loan servicing industry suffers from many of the same problems mortgage servicers faced in 2008.
Senate Banking Committee names subcommittee chairs
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and ranking member Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) announced subcommittee membership last week, with chairs and ranking members. Subcommittee leaders for this Congress are:
- Securities, Insurance, and Investment: Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chair; Senator Tim Scott, ranking member
- National Security and International Trade: Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), chair; Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), ranking member
- Economic Policy: Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), chair; Senator John Kennedy (R-LA), ranking member
- Housing, Transportation, and Community Development: Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), chair; Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), ranking member
- Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection: Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA), chair; Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), ranking member
Treasury launches $9 billion investment program in CDFIs and MDIs
The Department of the Treasury has opened its Emergency Capital Investment Program (ECIP), as directed by last year’s appropriations bill, to provide up to $9 billion in capital to community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs). Of the $9 billion, $2 billion will be set aside for institutions with less than $500 million in assets, and $2 billion will be set aside for institutions with less than $2 billion in assets. Institutions seeking capital must apply through the Treasury portal before midnight on May 7.
SEC sets up enforcement task force on climate and ESG
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it is establishing a Climate and ESG Task Force within its Division of Enforcement that will “develop initiatives to proactively identify” misconduct related to environment, social, and governance issues. The 22-member task force will be drawn from SEC headquarters, regional offices, and specialized units. Its first task will be to identify material gaps and misstatements in issuers’ disclosures related to climate risk under existing rules. The task force will also review disclosure and compliance issues relating to investment advisers’ and funds’ ESG strategies, and will evaluate and pursue tips, referrals, and whistleblower complaints on ESG-related matters.
Confirmations, Nominations, Departures
- The Senate confirmed the nomination of Cecilia Rouse to serve as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, 95-4.
- The Senate voted 84-15 to confirm Gina Raimondo as Secretary of Commerce.
- The Senate confirmed Miguel Cardona’s nomination to be Secretary of Education, 64-33.
The Week Ahead in Washington
The nominations of William Burns to be Director of the CIA, Merrick Garland to be Attorney General, Deb Haaland to be Secretary of the Interior, Katherine Tai to be US Trade Representative, and Adewale Adeyamo to be Deputy Secretary of the Treasury are all on the Senate Executive Calendar, and may come up for votes this week.
March 9 at 10:00 a.m. Senate Banking Committee holds a hearing on “Who Wins on Wall Street? GameStop, Robinhood, and the State of Retail Investing.”
March 9 at 10:00 a.m. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions holds a hearing on “Examining our COVID-19 Response: An Update from the Frontlines.”
March 10 at 10:00 a.m. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works holds a hearing on “Building Back Better: Addressing Climate Change in the Electricity Sector and Fostering Economic Growth.”
March 10 at 10:00 a.m. House Committee on Small Business holds a hearing on “The Next Steps for the Paycheck Protection Program.”
March 10 at 10:00 a.m. House Financial Services Committee holds a hearing on “Justice for All: Achieving Racial Equity through Fair Access to Housing and Financial Services.”
March 10 at 1:30 p.m. House Foreign Affairs Committee hears testimony from Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on the Biden Administration’s priorities for US foreign policy.
March 10 at 2:00 p.m. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development holds a hearing on “Innovation and Investment in Water Resources Infrastructure.”
March 11 at 10:00 a.m. House Financial Services Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions holds a hearing on “Slipping Through the Cracks: Policy Options to Help America’s Consumers During the Pandemic.”
March 11 at 10:00 a.m. The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Investor Advisory Committee will hold a public meeting, with panel discussions on self-directed individual retirement accounts (IRA) and special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). The Committee will also consider recommendations on minority and underserved inclusion, and on credit rating agencies.
March 11 at 2:00 p.m. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government holds a hearing on “Oversight of the US Postal Service,” with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy as the only witness.
The Ellis Insight
Jim Ellis reports on political news
Alabama: In an open Senate race that so far has more people declaring they are not running as opposed to those who want to enter the race, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth (R) said that he will not run for the Senate, emphasizing his role in state politics. Previously, Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) and Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) also said they will not run for the Senate. Veteran Sen. Richard Shelby (R) has already announced that he will not seek a seventh term next year.
Iowa: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) has been guarded in answering questions about his political future and whether or not he will seek an eighth term in 2022. This week, the Senator, who will turn 89 years of age before the next election, filed a 2022 committee with the Federal Election Commission that will serve as an organizing structure to raise funds for the coming campaign. This, in and of itself, does not indicate the Senator has decided to seek re-election, but it is a significant move. He made a statement indicating that he would make up his mind about re-election sometime later this year.
Ohio: Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/Youngstown) has a history of considering statewide office and then retreating to his House seat, and his typical political decision-making process may be beginning again. Last month, he indicated that he would launch his impending US Senate campaign in March, but now we see equivocation. The Congressman told a Spectrum News reporter that, “we’ll make a decision here, I guess, in the coming weeks. I don’t think a March kickoff is going to happen.”
Wisconsin: Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) was first elected to the House in 1996, and many times has flirted with running for higher office but never pulled the trigger. He now confirms that he is considering entering the 2022 Senate race, but this political situation is murky. Sen. Ron Johnson (R) confirmed again that he has not yet made a decision about whether or not to seek re-election.
AZ-1: Redistricting is likely to significantly change the politically marginal and hugely expansive eastern Arizona 1st Congressional District, but that is not stopping at least two GOP political aspirants from already announcing their candidacies against three-term Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Sedona). Republican state Representative Walt Blackman (R-Sedona), an African American Republican decorated Army veteran, says he will run for Congress next year. Shortly after Rep. Blackman’s announcement, Williams Mayor John Moore (R) also said he will become a congressional candidate in the 2022 cycle.
MD-1: Dave Harden (D) is an international businessman and ex-foreign service officer who just threw his hat into the political ring. He says he will compete in the 2022 Democratic primary against at least three other individuals for the right to oppose veteran Rep. Andy Harris, the state’s lone Republican Congressman. Already announced are former state Delegate and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur and two previous congressional candidates, Iraq/Afghan War veteran Mia Mason and nurse Jennifer Pingley. We can expect the Eastern Shore district of Maryland to host an increased competitive political race next year.
NC-11: A day after Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (D) announced her intention to run for Congress next year, 2020 Democratic nominee and retired Air Force Colonel Moe Davis, who had already filed a 2022 campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission, is now saying he probably will not run.
Mr. Davis said, “I’m not going to risk getting myself killed if there’s no realistic shot at winning. If nothing changes, it’s still impossible to win here.” With the 11th District occupying the far western corner of the state, if anything, the seat is likely to become more Republican through the coming redistricting process.
TX-6: Including those who filed last Wednesday for the May 1st TX-6 special election to replace the late Congressman Ron Wright (R-Arlington), a total of 23 candidates have submitted the proper filing documents to their respective state political party. Of the 23, a total of eleven are Republicans, in addition to ten Democrats, a Libertarian, and an Independent. Of the entire group, however, just one, freshman state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie), is an elected official. Favored is Susan Wright, the Congressman’s widow, but with so many opponents, it is likely this contest will advance to a summer runoff election.
WA-4: Former local police chief Loren Culp (R), who qualified for the 2020 general election to oppose Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and recorded 43% of the vote, is reported to be testing the waters at a run against GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Sunnyside/Yakima), one of the ten Republicans to support then-President Donald Trump’s impeachment. Already in the race is state Rep. Brad Klippert (R-Kennewick), the Vice Chair of the Republican caucus in the Washington House of Representatives.
WY-AL: In what can be considered good news for incumbent at-large Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wilson/Jackson), another 2022 Republican primary opponent came forward. State Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper) announced his candidacy early last week, becoming the fourth significant Republican opponent to Ms. Cheney.
The large candidate field forming actually helps the incumbent because Wyoming is a plurality primary state. Therefore, Ms. Cheney can still win if she keeps her base intact while her opposition is spread among multiple candidates. Her other serious opponents are state Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Laramie), former Pavillion Mayor Marissa Joy Selvig, and energy consultant Bryan Miller.
California: California Democrats are beginning to rally around Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) as he looks to be soon facing a recall election. State Treasurer Fiona Ma (D) made her intention clear at the end of last week that she would not run in the recall substitution election and remains a part of “Team Gavin.”
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took a different approach with a Politico reporter, saying, “In the middle of the worst pandemic in 100 years, the last thing I’m thinking about is politics.” Such a response isn’t quite the same as ruling out a gubernatorial race, so he is certainly a person to watch as the recall qualification deadline draws near. All petition signatures are due on March 17th.
Michigan: Reports are coming from Michigan that defeated 2018 congressional candidate and businesswoman Lena Epstein (R) is considering declaring her gubernatorial candidacy in hopes of facing incumbent Gretchen Whitmer (D).
Ms. Epstein was state co-chair of the 2016 Trump for President campaign and lost an open Republican congressional district two years later to current Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills/ Livonia), 52-45%. In November, Republican Eric Esshaki held the Congresswoman to a tighter 50-48% victory margin. Only businessman Austin Chenge is a declared Republican gubernatorial candidate at this early point in the election cycle.
New York: With New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on the political ropes, two Republican US House members are beginning to make moves in relation to developing a gubernatorial campaign. Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) is going so far as beginning to hire a statewide campaign staff, saying he wants to be “100% committed” to the race if he makes a final decision to enter. Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) also confirms that he is “seriously considering” becoming a gubernatorial candidate. Much depends upon how the Cuomo situation is resolved, but it is clear the 2022 New York race will be much more competitive than in recent years past.
Quinnipiac University just released the results of their new Empire State poll (3/2-3; 935 NY self-identified registered voters; live interview) testing the damage done to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) pertaining to the nursing home and sexual harassment scandals that are breaking virtually simultaneously.
In all, the poll is mixed. He does poorly on trustworthiness (37:55%), whether he should seek re-election (36% yes; 59% no), and across the board among Republicans and Independents. The fact that he remains strong with his Democratic base is keeping him afloat with some positive numbers (55% of the respondents do not think he should resign, 40% do), so it appears possible he could avoid resignation.
Ohio: In a Fox News interview at the CPAC conference, Ohio Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Troy) confirmed that he is not only considering entering the open US Senate race next year but is contemplating a Republican nomination challenge to Gov. Mike DeWine (R).
Mr. Davidson, who won a crowded special election in 2016 to replace resigned House Speaker John Boehner (R), has recorded three more easy victories in his western Ohio congressional district. Rep. Davidson cited Gov. DeWine’s “overbearing” approach to the COVID-19 restrictions, saying that he should have adopted more open policies closer to that of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).
Rhode Island: With Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) winning confirmation as Secretary of Commerce in the Biden Administration, Lt. Gov. Dan McKee (D) assumes the Governorship.
Naturally, the development greatly changes the 2022 statewide campaign even though Ms. Raimondo was at the end of her term limit and the Governor’s race would have been open. Mr. McKee will have almost two years in office before the September 2022 Democratic primary, a contest that is virtually tantamount to winning the general election. Despite what will be his partial term as the incumbent, Gov. McKee is still expected to draw significant Democratic opposition.
Illinois: Five-term US Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Matteson/Chicago) will officially succeed state Rep. Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) as the Illinois Democratic Party chair with her special state party election victory. Mr. Madigan, until his retirement last month, held the position for the past 23 years. Rep. Kelly won the internal party election despite support for her opponent, Chicago Alderwoman Michelle Harris, coming from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, and Mr. Madigan. The state’s senior Senator and Majority Whip Dick Durbin supported Rep. Kelly.
South Dakota: South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R) is possibly headed for impeachment after striking and killing a pedestrian in a September traffic incident. Mr. Ravnsborg said he thought he hit a deer and not a person, but the State Police put a hole in his argument when testifying that the victim’s eyeglasses were found inside Mr. Ravnsborg’s car.
The legislature is pursuing impeachment action against the Attorney General after he has rebuked calls for his resignation even from Gov. Kristi Noem (R). Now, former Attorney General Marty Jackley (R), who lost to Gov. Noem in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary, 56-44%, says he is interested in returning to his former position and will run for the office in 2022.
Boston: Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced that he will not call a special election in Boston once Mayor Marty Walsh (D) is confirmed as US Labor Secretary. Citing the fact that an open regular election is already scheduled in September, the time frame of the eventual winner’s service would be too short to justify the expense of an additional primary and runoff election series. That being the case, City Council President Kim Janey (D) will serve as interim Mayor once Mr. Walsh leaves the post to assume his federal position.
Minneapolis: Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D), who came under criticism for the way he handled the summer protests and riots that led to extensive property damage in the city, has drawn Democratic opposition for re-election. Former state Representative Kate Knuth, who at 26 years of age, was one of the youngest people ever elected to the legislature, announced that she will enter this year’s Mayor’s campaign. Ms. Knuth, whose father also served in the state House, served three terms beginning in 2007. The Mayor’s race is expected to be competitive.