House passes America COMPETES Act
The House of Representatives voted along party lines (222-210, with Rep. Adam Kinzinger the only Republican voting aye) to pass HR 4521, which House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) described as “a generational commitment to America’s technological edge, to our research and development, and to our economic competitiveness.” The America COMPETES Act addresses the same issues as S. 1260, the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), which the Senate passed on a bipartisan vote last summer. Both bills seek to make the US a stronger competitor with China through funding for research, incentives to bring chip manufacturing back to the United States, and measures to support US trade allies in Asia and elsewhere. The House and Senate will appoint a conference committee to resolve their differences, and the White House has said the President wants to sign a bill before he delivers the State of the Union Address on March 1.
Bloom Raskin says Fed independence is “sacrosanct”
Sarah Bloom Raskin, President Biden’s nominee to be Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve Board for Supervision, reiterated the need to preserve the Fed’s independence at a Senate Banking Committee hearing. The Committee’s ranking member, Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA), said that Bloom Raskin’s public statements about financial regulators’ potential role in addressing climate change threatened an unacceptable expansion of the Federal Reserve’s statutory mandate. Bloom Raskin, a banking policy veteran who was Chief Counsel to the Senate Banking Committee before being appointed Maryland Commissioner of Financial Regulation (which was before she was appointed to the Federal Reserve Board, which was before she was appointed Deputy Secretary of the Treasury), said repeatedly that it would be inappropriate for the Fed to intervene in banks’ credit decisions. Federal Reserve Board nominees Dr. Lisa DeNell Cook and Dr. Philip Jefferson also testified at last weeks hearing. Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said that he wants the Committee to vote on all pending nominations to the Federal Reserve Board, including those of Chairman Jerome Powell and Vice Chair-designate Lael Brainard, on February 15.
Raimondo lays out plans for broadband funding
Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo testified before a Senate Commerce subcommittee last Tuesdayabout her department’s plans for distributing the $65 billion provided by the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act to deliver broadband services in currently unserved or underserved areas. Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will administer $48.2 billion of this money, most of it through the Broadband Equity, Access & Deployment (BEAD) program, which will award grants to states and territories. Allocation of these grants will depend heavily on updated FCC mapping, which Raimondo said should be complete this summer, but BEAD will begin by allocating $100 million to each state, with additional grants based on need. The NTIA is working toward publishing a Notice of Funding Opportunity the week of May 15.
White House publishes IIJA guidebook for state, and local governments
As implementation of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) begins, the White House has published a 465-page guidebook to help state, local, tribal, and territorial governments and other stakeholders apply for funds to build or rebuild transportation, water, energy, environmental resilience and remediation, and broadband projects. The website Build.gov will be the portal for updated information about the dozens of programs authorized by the IIJA.
House panel discusses federal legal framework for autonomous vehicles
Eight witnesses representing a full range of perspectives on the transition to automated vehicles testified at a marathon hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transitlast week. All the witnesses agreed on the need for the federal government to take a greater role in establishing a framework for the manufacture and operation of autonomous vehicles, even as they differed on which issues needed the most attention. The nation’s state departments of transportation are preparing for a future of connected and automated vehicles, said Scott Marler, Director of the Iowa Department of Transportation, but “connected” is as important to this future as “automated” is. That connectivity raises questions of privacy and control; as Rep. Tim Burchett (D-TN) asked, could autonomous vehicles be equipped with master switches that could be controlled remotely, by law enforcement or others? Nat Beuse, Director of Safety for Aurora, an autonomous driving technology firm, said that policy discussions shouldn’t pit safety against innovation; US roadways are currently at “crisis levels” of fatalities, and autonomous vehicles should be part of the solution.
Federal regulators remind appraisers that they must comply with nondiscrimination standards
Representatives of eight federal regulatory and enforcement agencies sent a letter to the Appraisal Standards Board to emphasize that the nondiscrimination standards set by the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) apply to real estate appraisals. The Appraisal Standards Board is considering changes for the 2023 edition of its Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). Patrice Alexander Ficklin, Fair Lending Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, led a group that included officials of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Reserve Board, the Department of Justice, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the FDIC, the National Credit Union Administration, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency in warning that “an appraiser’s use of or reliance on conclusions based on protected characteristics, regardless of whether the appraiser believes the conclusions are supportable, constitutes illegal discrimination.” They wrote that “neutral policies or practices that disproportionately harm a protected group except when justified by business necessity” were illegal as well.
Confirmations, Nominations, Departures
FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams leaves the office, after announcing her resignation late last year. Her departure leaves the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation with only one confirmed member on its five-member board, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Rohit Chopra. Director Martin J. Gruenberg, who first chaired the FDIC in an acting capacity in 2011 before his confirmation to that office in 2012, will again become the agency’s acting Chairman.
The Week Ahead in Washington
The House is likely to vote on HR 3076, the Postal Service Reform Act of 2022, this week.
February 8 at 10:00 a.m. House Committee on Financial Services holds a hearing on “Digital Assets and the Future of Finance: The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets’ Report on Stablecoins.”
February 8 at 11:00 a.m. House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment holds a hearing on “Proposals for a Water Resources Development Act of 2022: Stakeholder Priorities.”
February 8 at 3:00 p.m. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action, and Federal Rights holds a hearing on “Abusing Chapter 11: Corporate Efforts to Side-Step Accountability through Bankruptcy.”
February 9 at 10:00 a.m. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry holds a hearing on “Examining Digital Assets: Risks, Regulation, and Innovation.”
February 9 at 10:00 a.m. Securities and Exchange Committee holds an open meeting to consider rules and amendments for private fund advisers; new rules to address cybersecurity risk management for registered investment advisers and investment companies; rules and amendments that would shorten the standard settlement cycle; and amendments to the SEC’s whistleblower rules.
February 9 at 2:30 p.m. Senate Banking Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection holds a hearing on “The Role that Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions Serve in Supporting Communities.”
February 10 at 10:00 a.m. Securities and Exchange Commission holds a day-long meeting of its Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee.
The Ellis Insight
Jim Ellis reports on political news
Alabama: WPA Intelligence, polling for the Club for Growth organization (1/25-27; 513 AL likely Republican primary voters; live interview) again finds US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) leading the open GOP US Senate nomination field, but with a decreased margin.
The bigger surprise, however, is engineering firm owner Mike Durant, who has been heavily advertising his candidacy, moving past former Business Council of Alabama and ex-Sen. Richard Shelby chief of staff Katie Britt into second place. The ballot test breaks 35-30-25% in favor of Brooks over Durant and Britt, respectively. The Alabama primary is scheduled for May 24th with a June 21st runoff, if necessary.
Arizona: OH Predictive Insights released their new data results on the Arizona Republican primary, and again found Attorney General Mark Brnovich maintaining the advantage. According to the survey (1/11-13; 855 AZ registered voters; 302 AZ likely Republican primary voters; online), Mr. Brnovich has a 25-11-7-6% lead over retired Air Force Major General Mick McGuire, solar energy company executive Jim Lamon, and venture capitalist Blake Masters, respectively.
The Arizona primary is not until August 2nd, so expect this race to obviously intensify in the coming months.
Florida: Suffolk University tested the Florida electorate (1/26-29; 500 FL likely general election voters; live interview) and finds Sen. Marco Rubio (R) running well beyond the polling margin of error against consensus Democratic candidate, US Rep. Val Demings (D-Orlando). The ballot test numbers gave the Senator a 49-41% lead over Rep. Demings in a race that is expected to become highly competitive.
Missouri: Remington Research is out with their latest Missouri survey (1/26-27; 902 MO likely Republican primary voters; interactive voice response system) and sees former Gov. Eric Greitens still leading the GOP field, but with Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville/Columbia) moving into position to make the contest a three-way affair. According to the ballot test results, Mr. Greitens leads Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Rep. Hartzler, 28-23-19%, respectively. Rep. Billy Long (R-Springfield) and St. Louis attorney Mark McCloskey consecutively trail with 7 and 5% support.
Nevada: OH Predictive Insights also released their recent Nevada poll (1/19-26; 755 NV likely registered voters; online) and find Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) pulling back ahead of former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) in a general election ballot test. The most recent previously published poll came from the Trafalgar Group (11/24-29; 1,034 NV likely general election voters) and gave Mr. Laxalt a 44-41% edge.
In the current OH study, Sen. Cortez Masto is staked to a 44-35% advantage. While the margin difference is strongly in the Senator’s favor, this poll’s conclusion is not as bright for her as a first glance might suggest. Only posting a 44% support number is low for any incumbent.
Ohio: A new Cygnal polling firm survey (1/28-30; 929 OH likely Republican primary voters; interactive voice response system; text & email), for the first time, sees a new Republican leader in the Buckeye State’s open US Senate race. The Cygnal data suggests that businessman and 2018 Senate candidate Mike Gibbons, after spending heavily on a statewide media buy, has usurped former state Treasurer Josh Mandel.
The new ballot test finds Mr. Gibbons leading the field, but with just 16% preference, followed by Mr. Mandel at 13%, author J.D. Vance pulling 10% support, and former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken now lagging behind the pack with 8%. The huge 44% undecided factor suggests that any of these candidates are viable to prevail in the May 3rd primary.
Pennsylvania: The Data for Progress polling organization tested the Pennsylvania Democratic US Senate primary, and again finds Lt. Gov. John Fetterman holding a big lead. In fact, the numbers haven’t changed much from the GQR polling firm’s released mid-December survey.
The new DfP poll (1/26-31; 730 PA likely Democratic primary voters; SMS text) sees Mr. Fetterman actually holding a slightly stronger 46-16-12% lead over US Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia). In the December GQR survey (12/14-16; 600 PA likely Democratic primary voters), found the Fetterman margin over Kenyatta and Lamb to be 44-20-15%, respectively.
West Virginia: Triton Polling & Research, conducting a statewide survey for WMOV radio in Ravenswood, WV (1/17-20; 783 WV likely voters; automated), tested the West Virginia electorate in regard to Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D) standing in light of the recent publicity he’s been receiving. The poll finds his favorability rating at 51:40% positive to negative, which measures a bit under Gov. Jim Justice’s (R) 56:29% ratio.
In an early hypothetical 2024 Senate race pairing between the two, however, Sen. Manchin would lead Gov. Justice, 41-37%. The Senator then polls substantially ahead of Attorney General and 2018 Senate nominee Patrick Morrisey (R), 50-29%, however, and he also runs strongly opposite Rep. Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town), 49-28%.
Senate: The Federal Election Commission has finally released the year-end financial totals for the federal candidates. The top Senate fundraisers for the 2022 election cycle are: Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), $54.1 million, though some of this total includes his statewide runoff election that he was forced to conduct after the general election; Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), $38.0 million; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), $35.2 million; Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), $27.5 million; Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), $24.4 million; and Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), $20.7 million, the lone Senate challenger among the top fundraisers.
CA-5: Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig (R) announced that he is ending his special election candidacy in the vacant 22nd District and will instead enter the regular election contest for the new 5th District. The 22nd is former Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R-Tulare) seat from which he resigned in December, but the special election winner will serve only a six-month term because redistricting divides that district into several parts.
Therefore, Supervisor Magsig, who was a major special election contender, now switches districts to the place Mr. Nunes would have chosen to run had he remained in Congress. This means a challenge to GOP incumbent Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) in a seat that stretches from the Sacramento suburbs to the Fresno suburbs. The new 5th is rated as a R+17 under the FiveThirtyEight statistical organization’s projections, so two Republicans advancing to the general election from this district is a possibility.
GA-7: A super PAC supporting US Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta) in her Democratic primary battle against fellow US Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Suwanee) conducted a district-wide primary poll that finds her leading the latter member even with fewer carryover constituents.
According to the Data for Progress survey for the Protect our Future PAC (Released 2/1; 1/13-16; 419 GA-7 likely Democratic primary voters; online & text), Rep. McBath holds a 40-31-6% lead over Rep. Bourdeaux and state Rep. Donna McLeod (D-Lawrenceville). This, despite Rep. Bourdeaux seeing 53% of her constituents landing in the new 7th versus only 12% of Rep. McBath’s current 6th District voters.
MI-10: Former Michigan US Senate candidate John James (R), who held incumbent Sen. Gary Peters (D) to a 50-48% victory in 2020 after coming within six points of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) in 2018, announced that he will run for the new open 10th District that was created in the new Michigan redistricting plan. Mr. James will certainly be the Republican nomination favorite, but the general election is designed to be close.
While former President Trump would have carried this new 10th CD 50-49% according to the Daily Kos Elections site statistics, Mr. James would have fallen short of Sen. Peters here by just over half a percentage point. The new MI-10 will be one of the most politically marginal districts in the entire country.
NY-11: Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) is seriously considering running for the US House, according to reports from the Big Apple. Already in the Democratic primary, however, is former Congressman Max Rose, who is no ally of de Blasio as the two repeatedly came to verbal blows when both held office. The Republican incumbent is Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island), who unsuccessfully challenged de Blasio when he won re-election to a second mayoral term and unseated then-Rep. Rose in 2020.
Redistricting: Two states moved forward with their congressional redistricting plans. The Hawaii Reapportionment Commission easily drew the new two-district US House map and adopted the plan. Only 2,195 people had to move from Rep. Ed Case’s (D) Honolulu dominated 1st CD to Rep. Kai Kahele’s (D-Hijo) 2nd District that contains part of Oahu and all the remaining islands of the Hawaiian chain.
The Michigan state Supreme Court, on a 4-3 vote, rejected the redistricting challenge of a group of current and past Detroit area African American state legislators late Thursday. The plaintiffs were arguing that the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission members illegally divided many of the minority Voting Rights districts, but a majority of the justices disagreed. Therefore, the Commission-adopted congressional and legislative maps will stand pending further litigation in federal court should the plaintiffs, or others, launch additional legal action.
In New York, the legislative leaders unveiled a map that will likely allow the Democrats to gain four seats in the delegation, as the plan’s design would relegate the Republicans to just four of the new 26 districts awarded the state. New York lost one seat in reapportionment. The plan has now advanced through the legislature and is sent to Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) for approval.
Florida: As reported above in the Senate section, Suffolk University surveyed the Florida electorate (1/26-29; 500 FL likely general election voters; live interview) and also tested Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) as he prepares for re-election. Here, the Suffolk pollsters see the Governor leading US Representative and former Governor Charlie Crist (D), by a 49-43% margin, and extends to double digits over state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D), 51-40%. With polling almost always underestimating Republican strength in Florida, it is probable that we can add at least two percentage points to the Governor’s total.
Nevada: In addition to their poll covered in the Senate section, OH Predictive Insights also conducted a survey of the Nevada Governor’s race (1/19-26; 755 NV likely registered voters) and found Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) in prospective tight races against both Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo (R) and former US Senator Dean Heller (R). In a poll extrapolated to include no undecideds, Gov. Sisolak led Sheriff Lombardo 52-48%, and Mr. Heller, 54-46%. The results are consistent with other released previous polling data.
Texas: The University of Texas at Tyler published their most recent survey for the Dallas Morning News (1/18-25; 1,082 TX registered voters; 514 likely Republican primary voters; 459 likely Democratic primary voters; live interview & online) and found Gov. Greg Abbott (R) again holding a relatively small lead opposite likely Democratic nominee Beto O’Rourke, the former El Paso Congressman and 2018 US Senate candidate. The general election ballot test finds Gov. Abbott holding a 48-43% early edge, which is typical for Texas polls that almost always project closer races than the actual results.