Federal Tap: Booster coronavirus vaccinations authorized for 12- to 15-year-olds

Happy New Year! Our weekly summary of federal news highlights booster coronavirus vaccinations for 12- to 15-year-olds and Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R) resignation. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the Federal Tap.

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.

Forty-three members of Congress—six members of the U.S. Senate and 37 members of the U.S. House—have announced they will not seek re-election. Twenty-eight members—six senators and 22 representatives—have announced their retirement. Five retiring Senate members are Republicans and one is a Democrat, and of the retiring House members, 17 are Democrats and five are Republicans.

SCOTUS is in session

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in four cases next week. To learn about the 2021-2022 term, click here.

Where was the president last week?

On Monday, Biden traveled from his private residence in Wilmington, Delaware to Washington D.C.
Tuesday through Thursday, Biden remained in Washington D.C.

On Friday, Biden traveled to Colorado, where survey damage caused by recent wildfires and delivered remarks.

Federal Judiciary

  • 77 federal judicial vacancies
  • 25 pending nominations
  • 33 future federal judicial vacancies

Upcoming Article III Judicial Vacancies

According to the latest vacancy data from the U.S. Courts, there were 33 total announced upcoming vacancies for Article III judgeships. The earliest vacancy announcement was on Jan. 22, 2021, when U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland Judge Ellen Hollander announced she would assume senior status upon the confirmation of her successor. The most recent was on Jan. 4, 2022, when U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Alison J. Nathan and U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware Judge Leonard Stark announced their upcoming retirements due to their nominations to U.S. circuit courts. The vacancies will be filled on a date to be determined once their successors are confirmed. Twenty-two 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 Jan. 14, 2022, when U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas Judge Julie Robinson assumes senior status. 

For historical comparison, on Jan. 9, 2021, there were 49 federal judicial vacancies and five upcoming vacancies in the federal judiciary reported by the U.S. Courts.

U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes (R) resigns

Rep. Devin Nunes (R) resigned from the House of Representatives on Dec. 31 to become CEO of former President Donald Trump’s (R) media company, Trump Media & Technology Group. 

Nunes began serving in the U.S. House in 2003, representing California’s 21st Congressional District until 2013. He won election in 2012 to represent the 22nd Congressional District and held that seat until 2021. He most recently won re-election in 2020, defeating Democrat Phil Arballo, 54% to 46%. 

This week, Democratic Reps. Brenda Lawrence and Bobby Rush also announced they won’t seek re-election in 2022.

U.S. House vacancies are filled by special election. Seven special elections have been called during the 117th Congress as of Jan. 3. There is one special election scheduled in 2022 to complete a term in the House. Six special elections occurred in 2021: two in Louisiana, two in Ohio, one in New Mexico, and one in Texas. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will set the date of the special election to fill Nunes’ seat. The winner of the special election will serve out the remainder of Nunes’ term, which was set to expire on Jan. 3, 2023. 

As of Jan. 7, the partisan breakdown of the U.S. House is 221 Democrats and 212 Republicans, with two vacancies. 

Booster coronavirus vaccinations authorized for 12- to 15-year-olds

On Jan. 3, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted authorization to Pfizer’s booster vaccine for individuals aged 12 to 15. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) subsequently updated its booster recommendation on Jan. 5 to include that age group. Pfizer announced it was seeking the authorization on Dec. 17, 2021. The CDC said it recommended individuals in the expanded age range receive a booster five months after their initial vaccination.

In the CDC’s press release announcing the recommendation, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said: “This booster dose will provide optimized protection against COVID-19 and the Omicron variant. I encourage all parents to keep their children up to date with CDC’s COVID-19 vaccine recommendations.”

The CDC and FDA authorized the Pfizer booster for individuals ages 16 and 17 on Dec. 9, and for adults 18 and older on Nov. 19. At least 15 states approved the booster vaccine for all adults in the days leading up to the federal government’s authorization, beginning with California on Nov. 9.

Redistricting update: New York commission submits two sets of redistricting proposals to legislature, Kentucky delays candidate filing

The New York Independent Redistricting Commission voted 5-5 on two sets of congressional and legislative map proposals on Jan. 3 and submitted both sets of proposed district boundaries to the state legislature. The Democrats on the commission had proposed one set of maps and the Republicans on the commission proposed the other. New York law requires that the commission submit a redistricting plan to the legislature “on or before January 1, 2022, or as soon as practicable thereafter, but no later than January 15, 2022.”

New York voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2014 revising the state’s redistricting procedures and establishing a 10-member commission to approve congressional and legislative district boundaries. The majority and minority leaders of each chamber of the legislature appoint two members each and those eight commissioners appoint two additional members that are not enrolled in either of the top two major political parties in the state.

If the New York legislature does not approve the initial redistricting plan or the governor vetoes it, the commission has 15 days to submit a second plan for consideration. This second plan must be submitted to the legislature no later than Feb. 28.

Kentucky enacted legislation on Jan. 6 extending the deadline for congressional, legislative, judicial, and local candidates to file to run for election this year from Jan. 7 to Jan. 25. The state House passed the legislation on Jan. 5, and Gov. Steve Beshear (D) signed it after the state Senate passed it on Jan. 6.

The delay in the filing deadline was necessary as the state has not yet approved new district boundaries after the 2020 census. Joe Sonka of the Louisville Courier-Journal wrote that “Both chambers are scheduled to remain in session Saturday [Jan. 8] to give final passage to several redistricting bills crafted by the Republican supermajority, including ones making new maps for the state House and Senate, Kentucky’s U.S. House districts and the Kentucky Supreme Court.” After the 2020 census, Kentucky was apportioned six seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, the same number as it received after the 2010 census.