The Daily Brew: Less than one month until Seattle’s City Council elections

Today’s Brew highlights Seattle’s upcoming races for seven city council seats + Trump appoints a seventh judge to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals  
The Daily Brew

Welcome to the Thursday, July 11, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Seattle to elect 7 of 9 council members one year after repealing housing tax proposal
  2. Senate confirms third appeals court judge this year without support from both home-state senators
  3. Federal judge blocks Trump administration rule requiring drug price disclosure in television ads

Seattle to elect 7 of 9 council members one year after repealing housing tax proposal

Seattle voters will elect seven of nine city council members later this year in races which have attracted $1.2 million in public financing and $308,000 in satellite spending. All of the outside spending has been by the political action committee of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which has raised over $900,000. Amazon—which has its headquarters in Seattle—has contributed $200,000 of that amount. 

In 2018, the city council unanimously passed a law that would have required businesses grossing at least $20 million to pay $275 per employee to fund affordable housing programs for the homeless. The proposal faced criticism from Amazon and the Chamber of Commerce. One month after its passage, seven of nine council members voted to repeal the tax.

Three incumbents are running for re-election in their districts and there are four open seats. The Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee has spent $308,000 in support of nine candidates across the seven districts, including challengers to two incumbents. Across all seven elections, 55 candidates are running. In 2015, 37 candidates filed to run for the same seven seats.

This is the second city council election in which candidates can participate in a public campaign financing program involving voter vouchers. Eligible Seattle residents received four $25 vouchers each, which they could distribute among council candidates of their choosing. As of last week, 42 candidates were participating in the program, and $1.2 million had been distributed among 32 candidates.

This is also the second election in which voters will elect district representatives to the city council. Seattle passed a charter amendment in 2013 that changed the city council from nine at-large positions to seven positions elected according to districts and two at-large members. The nonpartisan primary elections are on August 6 and the top two finishers in each district will advance to general elections November 5.

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New Beyond the Headlines Video

Vice President Mike Pence has cast 13 tie-breaking votes in the Senate as of June 25, 2019. Find out how that compares to previous vice presidents and learn which bills Pence has broken the tie on. Watch now→


Senate confirms third appeals court judge this year without support from both home-state senators 

The U.S. Senate confirmed Daniel Bress along party lines to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit Tuesday. President Donald Trump (R) nominated Bress in February to succeed Judge Alex Kozinski, who was appointed to the court by Ronald Reagan in 1985.

After Bress assumes his seat, the 9th Circuit will have 28 active judges. Of those 28, 16 judges were appointed by Democratic presidents and 12 were appointed by Republicans:

  • 9 by President Bill Clinton

  • 5 by President George W. Bush

  • 7 by President Barack Obama

  • 7 by President Trump

The Ninth Circuit is the largest federal appeals court, with 29 judicial positions. The second largest—the Fifth Circuit—has 17 judgeships.

Neither Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) nor Sen. Kamala Harris (D) of California returned blue slips for Bress’ nomination. A blue slip is the name for a piece of paper a home-state senator returns to the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee to show his or her approval of a federal judicial nominee and are considered a senatorial courtesy. The Judiciary Committee chairman determines the policy he or she applies to how blue slips impact the confirmation process. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)—who became chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January 2019—said he would follow the blue slip tradition for district court nominees but not for appeals court nominees. There are 179 federal appeals court judgeships and 677 district court judgeships. Graham has also stated that the lack of a blue slip should not prevent a judicial nominee from moving forward in the confirmation process. Bress is the third appeals court judge confirmed by the Senate in 2019 without support from both home-state senators.


Federal judge blocks Trump administration rule requiring drug price disclosure in television ads

In May, I brought you the story about a new federal rule requiring pharmaceutical companies to include the list price of certain prescription drugs in television advertisements. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)—an agency within the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)—intended to make Medicare and Medicaid administration more efficient by giving beneficiaries of the programs more information about the costs of drugs. 

The rule—which was set to take effect Tuesday—was blocked by a federal judge’s ruling in a lawsuit brought by three pharmaceutical companies and the Association of National Advertisers. The plaintiffs argued that Congress did not grant the HHS authority to regulate drug advertising and that the rule amounted to compelled speech in violation of the First Amendment.  

Federal judge Amit Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia—who was appointed by President Obama in 2014—prevented the measure from taking effect, ruling Monday that the HHS exceeded its authority under the Social Security Act to adopt it. Mehta’s opinion stated, in part, “The plain statutory text simply does not support the notion—at least not in a way that is textually self-evident—that Congress intended for the Secretary to possess the far-reaching power to regulate the marketing of prescription drugs.”

After the decision, a White House spokesperson released a statement which said, “It is outrageous that an Obama appointed judge sided with big PhRMA to keep high drug prices secret from the American people, leaving patients and families as the real victims.”