Looking back at year one of the Biden Administration

Welcome to the Thursday, January 20, Brew. 

By: David Luchs

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Looking back at one year of the Biden Administration
  2. Twenty-eight U.S. Senators running for re-election, six retiring
  3. School board members retained, state legislator elected Tuesday

Looking back at one year of the Biden Administration

One year ago today, Joe Biden (D) assumed office as the 46th president of the United States. We assume every political newsletter in your inbox this morning will have something for you on this point. So, here are five numbers you might not see elsewhere. 

  • 77: Number of executive orders issued
    During the first year of his presidency, Biden issued 77 executive orders, 47 presidential memoranda, 195 proclamations, and 26 notices. Biden’s 77 executive orders in his first year is higher than the average number of executive orders issued each year by other recent presidents. Donald Trump (R) issued 55 on average each year, Barack Obama (D) issued 35, and George W. Bush (R) issued 36.
    Click here for more on President Biden’s executive orders and actions
  • 15: Number of tie-breaking votes in the Senate
    Under Article I, Section 3, Clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution, the vice president of the United States also serves as the president of the Senate. In this capacity, he or she may cast the deciding vote when there is a tie in the Senate. In the first year of the Biden Administration, Vice President Kamala Harris (D) cast 15 tie-breaking votes in the Senate. Twelve of those votes were related to nominations and confirmations, and three were related to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. In her first year, Harris surpassed the total number of tie-breaking votes Mike Pence (R) cast (13) during his vice presidency.
    Click here for more on tie-breaking votes cast by vice presidents
  • 40: Number of federal judges confirmed
    Since taking office, President Joe Biden (D) has nominated 73 individuals to federal judgeships on Article III courts. As of January 1, 2022, 40 of the nominees have been confirmed. The monthly federal vacancy count report from January 1 said 11 of Biden’s confirmed judges were for the U.S. Court of Appeals, while 29 were for the U.S. District Courts. At the same point during previous presidential administrations, Trump had appointed 19 federal judges, Obama had appointed 13, and W. Bush had appointed 28.
    Click here for more on President Biden’s federal judicial nominations
  • 1: Number of Cabinet-rank nominees not yet confirmed
    During the first year of his presidency, 22 of Biden’s Cabinet-rank nominees were confirmed. The only nomination left outstanding was for the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Biden initially nominated Neera Tanden to the position, but she withdrew her nomination on March 2, 2021. Biden nominated Shalanda Young on November 24, 2021. For the 15 main Cabinet secretary positions, six of Biden’s nominees were confirmed within the first month of his presidency, and the other nine were confirmed by the end of the second month. Compared to Trump, the Biden Administration completed six main Cabinet secretary nominations sooner during the first year of the presidency.
    Click here for more on President Biden’s Cabinet
  • 0: Number of presidential pardons issued
    Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states, “The President … shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” It describes the presidency’s powers of executive clemency, which give the president the authority to pardon individuals convicted of having committed a federal crime. During Biden’s first year, he issued no presidential pardons or commutations. During fiscal year 2017, Trump issued one pardon and no commutations. Obama and W. Bush issued no pardons or commutations during the first fiscal year of their presidencies.
    Click here for more details on executive clemency and presidential pardons

Twenty-eight U.S. Senators running for re-election, six retiring

With Sens. Ron Johnson’s (R-Wis.) and John Thune’s (R-S.D.) recent announcements that they will seek re-election, all incumbent senators up for re-election in 2022 have made their decisions. Twenty-eight senators are seeking re-election—15 Republicans and 13 Democrats. Six senators are retiring—five Republicans and one Democrat. This is the highest number of Republicans not seeking re-election since at least 2012. 

In every election cycle within that time through 2020, either two or three Republican senators did not seek re-election. The number of retiring Democrats has ranged from zero to six. Between 2018 and 2022, two Democratic senators and 11 Republicans decided to not run for re-election. The six open seats in 2022 are in Alabama, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Republicans hold the Senate seat in each except Vermont. Three of the open Senate races—in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio—have at least one competitive rating (Toss-up, Tilt Republican, or Lean Republican) from three election forecasters.

Our battleground Senate races list currently consists of eight states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Democrats and Republicans each hold four of the battleground seats going into the elections.

Democrats have an effective majority in the Senate, with each party holding 50 seats and Vice President Kamala Harris (D) serving as the tie-breaking vote.

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Looking back on Tuesday’s elections

Three elections took place within Ballotpedia’s coverage scope Tuesday. Voters in Manhattan elected Eddie Gibbs (D) to the state Assembly. Meanwhile, voters in Newberg, Oregon, appeared to reject recalls of two school board members.

The special election in New York was called after Robert Rodriguez (D) resigned his seat representing District 68 in the state Assembly to serve as secretary of state. Eddie Gibbs (D) defeated Daby Carreras (R) 80% to 10% to win election to the seat. For comparison, Rodriguez’s narrowest margin was his 89% to 8% defeat of John Ruiz (WFP) to win election in 2010. District 68, representing East Harlem, is one of Manhattan’s 11 state assembly districts.

As of Jan. 19, the recalls of Newberg, Ore., school board members Dave Brown and Brian Shannon appeared headed to defeat, with “no” leading on both recalls 52% to 48% out of 14,000 votes cast. Oregon law allows for mail-in ballots to be counted as long as they are postmarked on election day and for voters to contest signature issues for 21 days after the election. Because of this, final results will not be available until Feb. 9.

The recall effort against Shannon started after the board voted in August 2021 to ban Black Lives Matter and LGBT pride flags from the district. This policy was replaced the following month with a ban on all political symbols and images. The recall effort against Brown started after the board voted in favor of a motion he submitted to fire the district superintendent without cause.

Ballotpedia tracked 91 school board recall efforts against 235 board members in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.

In 2021, Ballotpedia covered a total of 346 recall efforts against 535 elected officials. This was the highest number of recall efforts and officials targeted since we started compiling data on recalls in 2012.

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About the author

David Luchs

David Luchs is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.