Our weekly summary of federal news looks at the resignation of U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers and the latest on the nomination of Eric Lander as OSTP director. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the Federal Tap.
Melanie Ann Stansbury wins special election in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District
Melanie Ann Stansbury (D) defeated Mark Moores (R) and four other candidates in the special election in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District on June 1. According to The New York Times, Stansbury received 60.3% of the vote to Moores’ 35.7%.
The election took place after the U.S. Senate confirmed Debra Haaland (D) as Secretary of the Interior on March 15. In the 2020 general election, Haaland defeated Michelle Garcia Holmes (R), 58% to 42%.
Stansbury has served in the New Mexico House of Representatives since 2019. She received endorsements from Haaland, President Joe Biden (D), EMILY’s List, and the Sierra Club.
Stansbury led in fundraising and spending. According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, as of May 12 she had $1,348,453 in receipts and $874,861 in disbursements. Moores had raised $595,423 and spent $469,868.
The outcome of this race affected partisan control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 117th Congress. Leading up to the election, Democrats had a 219 to 211 majority over Republicans. When Stansbury is sworn in, Democrats will expand their majority to 220-211.
As of June 1, seven special elections have been called during the 117th Congress. This year, voters have decided two such elections—in Louisiana’s Second and Fifth Districts—with the special election in Texas’ Sixth District to be decided in a July 27 runoff. From the 113th Congress to the 116th Congress, 50 special elections were held.
Eric Lander sworn in to Biden’s Cabinet as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy
Eric Lander was sworn in as the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy on June 2. The Senate confirmed him on May 28 by a voice vote. President Biden (D) elevated the office to a Cabinet-level position for the first time in U.S. history.
Lander, a geneticist, molecular biologist, and mathematician, served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2017.
One position within Biden’s Cabinet remains unfilled: director of the Office of Management and Budget. Neera Tanden, Biden’s original nominee for the position, withdrew from consideration on March 2 following bipartisan opposition to her nomination. Biden has not yet named a replacement nominee. Shalanda Young is the acting director of the agency.
Where was the president last week?
- On Monday, Biden gave a Memorial Day Address at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.
- On Tuesday, Biden delivered remarks to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
- On Wednesday, Biden began the day in Washington, D.C., and traveled to his beach home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
- On Thursday, Biden remained in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
- On Friday, Biden returned to Washington, D.C.
- 85 federal judicial vacancies
- 17 pending nominations
- 28 future federal judicial vacancies
Supreme Court issues rulings in three cases
The U.S. Supreme Court issued rulings in three cases last week. The court released its opinion in Garland v. Dai (consolidated with Garland v. Alcaraz-Enriquez) and United States v. Cooley on June 1 and Van Buren v. United States on June 3. As of June 3, the court had issued opinions in 42 cases this term. Seven cases were decided without argument.
Garland v. Dai concerned the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), specifically relating to the credibility of an immigrant’s testimony before an immigration judge, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal. In a unanimous opinion, the court vacated the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the 9th Circuit’s deemed-true-or-credible rule in immigration disputes cannot be reconciled with the INA’s terms. Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the majority opinion of the court.
United States v. Cooley concerned the scope of tribal law enforcement officers’ search-and-seizure authority. In a unanimous opinion, the court vacated the 9th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that an Indian tribe’s police officer does have authority to search and temporarily detain a non-Indian traveling on a public right-of-way that runs through Indian territory. Justice Stephen Breyer delivered the opinion of the court.
Van Buren v. United States concerned the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). In a 6-3 opinion, the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that an individual “exceeds authorized access” under the CFAA when they access a computer with authorization but then obtain information located in computer files, folders, or databases that are off-limits to them. Justice Amy Coney Barrett authored the majority opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.
Supreme Court to hear case regarding copyright infringement next term
The U.S. Supreme Court released orders on June 1, granting one new case for argument during the upcoming 2021-2022 term.
Unicolors, Inc. v. H&M Hennes & Mauritz, LP originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and concerns copyright infringement claims involving fabric designs and copyright registration validity.
In 2011, fabric design corporation Unicolors, Inc. (“Unicolors”) registered copyrights for a group of 31 designs, nine of which were “confined” designs, reserved for specific customers’ exclusive use. In 2015, clothing retailer and designer H&M sold apparel using a design that Unicolors later alleged in U.S. district court was an infringement on Unicolors’ copyrighted designs. A jury found H&M liable for willful infringement. H&M appealed to the 9th Circuit, claiming that Unicolors’ copyright registration included false information. The 9th Circuit concluded that Unicolors’ copyright application had known inaccuracies, reversed the district court’s judgment, and remanded the case for further proceedings.
When SCOTUS accepted the case, it limited review to the first question presented to the court: Whether the 9th Circuit erred in holding that 17 U.S.C. §411 required referral to the Copyright Office where there is no indication of fraud or material error related to the work at issue in the copyright registration?
To date, the court has agreed to hear 18 cases during the October 2021 term. One case was dismissed after it was granted.
Congress is in session
Both the House and Senate are in session next week. Click here to see the full calendar for the first session of the 117th Congress.
SCOTUS is out of session
The Supreme Court will not hear oral arguments next week. To learn about the 2020-2021 term, click here.
Ballotpedia’s polling index shows presidential approval at 52%, congressional approval at 25%
Ballotpedia’s polling index showed President Joe Biden (D) at 52% approval and 43% disapproval as of June 3. At this time last month, his approval rating was also at 52%.
Biden’s highest approval rating during his tenure is 55%, last seen on May 26. The lowest approval rating is 51%, last seen on March 29.
Congressional approval is at 25% and disapproval is at 59%, according to our index. At this time last month, congressional approval was at 27%.
The 117th Congress’ highest approval rating is 30%, last seen on May 11. The lowest approval rating is 20%, last seen on March 3.
At this time during former President Donald Trump’s (R) tenure, presidential approval was at 40% and congressional approval was at 17%. To see more comparisons between Biden and Trump administration polling, click here.