Previewing the FL-20 special Democratic primary

Our weekly summary of federal news previews Tuesday’s special Democratic primary in FL-20 and highlights SCOTUS’ acceptance of two cases related to Texas’ abortion law. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the Federal Tap.

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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 in session

The Supreme Court will hear five hours and 10 minutes of oral arguments in five cases next week. To learn about the 2021-2022 term, click here.

Where was the president last week?

On Monday, Biden delivered remarks on the Build Back Better agenda and infrastructure deal in North Plainfield and Kearny, New Jersey.

On Tuesday, Biden campaigned for Terry McAuliffe in Arlington, Virginia. 

On Wednesday, Biden remained in Washington, D.C.

On Thursday, Biden departed Washington, D.C., for Rome, Italy. 

On Friday, Biden had an audience with Pope Francis and held bilateral meetings with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and President Emmanuel Macron in Rome, Italy. 

Opinion polling comparison during the Trump and Biden administrations

President Biden’s overall approval average at this point in his term is 51.2%, 10.1 percentage points higher than President Trump’s average of 41.1% at this point in his term.

Federal Judiciary

  • 79 federal judicial vacancies
  • 25 pending nominations
  • 31 future federal judicial vacancies

Upcoming Article III Judicial Vacancies

According to the latest vacancy data from the U.S. Courts, there were 31 total announced upcoming vacancies for Article III judgeships. The earliest vacancy announcement was on Dec. 1, 2020, when U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas Judge Paul K. Holmes announced that he would assume senior status on Nov. 10, 2021. The most recent was on Oct. 13, 2021, when U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi Judge Michael Mills announced that he would assume senior status on Nov. 1, 2021. Thirteen vacancy effective dates have not been determined because the judge has not announced the date they will leave the bench. The next upcoming vacancy will occur on Nov. 1, when Mills and U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Judge John Gibney assume senior status.

For historical comparison, the week of Oct. 25-31, 2020, there were 66 federal judicial vacancies and two upcoming vacancies in the federal judiciary reported by the U.S. Courts.

Seven nominees confirmed to Article III judgeships

This week, the U.S. Senate confirmed seven of President Joe Biden’s (D) federal judicial nominees to lifetime Article III judgeships:

To date, 26 of Biden’s appointees have been confirmed. For historical comparison since 1981, the following list shows the date by which the past six presidents had 26 Article III judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate:

As of this writing, six Article III nominees are awaiting a confirmation vote from the U.S Senate, six nominees are awaiting a Senate Judiciary Committee vote to advance their nominations to the full Senate, and 13 nominees are awaiting a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

FL-20 special Democratic primary preview

Eleven candidates are running in the Nov. 2 special Democratic primary for Florida’s 20th Congressional District. The special election on Jan. 11, 2022, will fill the vacancy left by Alcee Hastings (D), who died in April. Hastings had been in office since 1993. As of September, Inside Elections rated the special election Solid Democratic

The primary field includes five current elected officials: state Rep. Bobby DuBose, state Rep. Omari Hardy, Broward County Commissioners Dale Holness and Barbara Sharief, and state Sen. Perry Thurston. A sixth candidate, Priscilla Taylor, previously held office as a Palm Beach County commissioner.

The five current officeholders were among the top six fundraisers as of Oct. 13. The fundraising leader was Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick with $3.8 million, $3.7 million of which she loaned her campaign. Cherfilus-McCormick ran against Hastings in the 2020 and 2018 Democratic primaries, receiving between 26% and 31% of the vote. Sharief was second in fundraising with $895,000, including $756,000 she loaned her campaign.

All five elected officials had endorsements from state legislators. DuBose also had an endorsement from U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.). The Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida endorsed Hardy. SEIU Florida endorsed Holness, and the Florida AFL-CIO backed Thurston. Sharief received endorsements from U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) and the group Elect Democratic Women. The local chapter of the Communications Workers of America along with Brand New Congress endorsed Cherfilus-McCormick.

Satellite groups have gotten involved in the week ahead of the primary. The Florida Democratic Action PAC spent $102,000 on a cable ad supporting Hardy. The Democratic Majority for Israel PAC ran a newspaper ad criticizing Hardy. 314 Action Fund, a group that aims to get more scientists elected, aired an ad supporting Sharief. Expenditure amounts weren’t available for the latter two ads.

Florida’s 20th Congressional District includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Two states enact congressional, legislative redistricting proposals

Two states—Texas and West Virginia—enacted congressional and legislative redistricting plans this week.


Texas enacted new congressional districts on Oct. 25 when Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed a proposal approved by the Texas House and Senate into law. This map will take effect for Texas’ 2022 congressional elections. The legislature approved a final version of the map on Oct. 18 with the Senate approving, 18-13, and the House approving the plan, 84-59. Texas was apportioned 38 seats after the 2020 census, a net gain of two seats as compared to apportionment after the 2010 census.

The Texas House and Senate approved maps for each other’s districts on Oct. 15. The House approved the Senate plan by an 81-60 vote, and the Senate approved the House map by an 18-13 vote.

West Virginia

West Virginia enacted new congressional districts on Oct. 22 when Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed a proposal approved by the House of Delegates and Senate into law. On Sept. 30, the House and Senate Redistricting Committees released 18 congressional district map proposals. The West Virginia Senate passed a plan on Oct. 13 by a 30-2 vote that Sen. Charles S. Trump IV proposed. The House voted 84-12 to approve the proposal on Oct. 14. West Virginia was apportioned two seats after the 2020 census, a net loss of one seat as compared to apportionment after the 2010 census.

West Virginia also enacted new state legislative districts on Oct. 22 when Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed map proposals approved by both legislative chambers. The Senate Redistricting Committee approved its map by a 31-2 vote on Oct. 19, and the House approved that map, 72-19. A single-member district map proposal for the West Virginia House of Delegates passed that chamber on Oct. 13, 79-20, and that proposal passed the state Senate on Oct. 18 by a 28-5 vote.

Six states have adopted congressional maps, one state’s congressional map is awaiting approval by the state supreme court, six states were apportioned one congressional district (so no congressional redistricting is required), and 37 states have not yet adopted congressional maps after the 2020 census. Congressional redistricting has been completed for 66 of the 435 seats (15.2%) in the U.S. House of Representatives. At this point in the 2010 redistricting cycle, 24 states had enacted new congressional maps.

Eight states have adopted legislative maps, one state’s legislative map is awaiting approval by the state supreme court, one state enacted its legislative boundaries based on Census estimates which will be revised in an upcoming special session, and 40 states have not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans after the 2020 census. Nationwide, legislative redistricting has been completed for 304 of 1,972 state Senate seats (15.4%) and 758 of 5,411 state House seats (14%). At this point in the 2010 redistricting cycle, 26 states had enacted state legislative maps.

FDA panel recommends emergency use authorization of Pfizer vaccine for 5-11 year-olds

On Oct. 26, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee recommended emergency use authorization of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine in children ages 5-11. The committee voted to recommend the authorization in a 17-0 vote, with one member abstaining.

In order for the emergency use authorization to be fully approved for that age group, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must formally authorize the vaccines for children. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is expected to decide whether to recommend emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for children under 12 during a meeting set for Nov. 2, meaning vaccinations for that age group could begin as soon as Nov. 3.

SCOTUS accepts two cases related to Texas’ S.B. 8; schedules argument for Nov. 1

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) accepted two new cases on Oct. 22 for review during its 2021-2022 term. Both cases relate to Texas’ abortion law S.B. 8 and have been scheduled for oral argument on Nov. 1.

  1. Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson concerns a state’s ability to avoid federal judicial review of state law by creating a private enforcement mechanism. The question before the court is: “[W]hether a State can insulate from federal-court review a law that prohibits the exercise of a constitutional right by delegating to the general public the authority to enforce that prohibition through civil actions.” Whole Woman’s Health originated from the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
  2. United States v. Texas concerns the federal government’s right to challenge Texas law S.B. 8 in federal court. The question presented to the court asks: “May the United States bring suit in federal court and obtain injunctive or declaratory relief against the state, state court judges, state court clerks, other state officials, or all private parties to prohibit S.B. 8 from being enforced.” The case originated from the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

Both cases came to the Supreme Court on a writ of certiorari before judgment, which means the Supreme Court will consider the cases before the lower appellate court reaches a final judgment. In contrast, a typical grant of certiorari involves the Supreme Court hearing a case only after the lower appellate court has issued its judgment. According to Supreme Court Rule 11, a writ of certiorari before judgment “will be granted only upon a showing that the case is of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this Court.”

The Supreme Court began hearing cases for its 2021-2022 term on Oct. 4. It heard arguments in nine cases during its October sitting and is scheduled to hear arguments in 10 cases during its November sitting, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 1. The court has agreed to hear 43 cases this term. Three cases were dismissed, and one case was removed from the argument calendar. Ten cases have not yet been scheduled for argument.