CategoryFederal

Federal Register weekly update: 1,366 pages added

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The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From April 12 through April 16, the Federal Register grew by 1,366 pages for a year-to-date total of 20,248 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 525 documents:

• 441 notices

• six presidential documents

• 49 proposed rules

• 29 final rules

One proposed rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration aiming to modify the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) was deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Biden administration has issued 12 significant proposed rules and seven significant final rules as of April 16.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2019, 2018, and 2017: https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_to_the_Federal_Register 

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Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2018



Reviewing SCOTUS’ 2020-2021 term so far

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020-2021 oral argument calendar is nearing its end, with 12 hours of oral arguments remaining to be heard during its April sitting and one hour of oral argument scheduled for its May sitting. 

From October through March, the court heard a total of 45 hours of oral arguments in 56 cases. Consolidated cases were allotted one hour total for oral arguments. The court’s argument schedule through March included:

  • October sitting
    • Time period: Oct. 5 through Oct. 14
    • Oral arguments heard: 10 hours in 12 cases
  • November sitting
    • Time period: Nov. 2 through Nov. 10
    • Oral arguments heard: 8 hours in 9 cases
  • December sitting
    • Time period: Nov. 30 through Dec. 9
    • Oral arguments heard: 10 hours in 12 cases
  • January sitting:
    • Time period: Jan. 11 through Jan. 19
    • Oral arguments heard: 5 hours in 6 cases
  • February sitting:
    • Time period: Feb. 22 through March 3
    • Oral arguments heard: 6 hours in 10 cases
  • March sitting:
    • Time period: March 22 through March 31
    • Oral arguments heard: 6 hours in 7 cases

During that time, all oral arguments were made remotely via teleconference with live audio streams provided during the argument sessions. The court instituted this practice in accordance with public health guidance in response to COVID-19, and it has announced the practice will continue through its April sitting. 

As of the end of March, the court had issued opinions in 25 cases this term. Five of those cases were decided without argument. The court generally announces the majority of its decisions in mid-June.

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Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 16, 2021 #Edition #227

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • New Hampshire’s expiring mask mandate
  • Changes in vaccine eligibility in Massachusetts
  • COVID-19 policy changes from this time last year 

We are committed to keeping you updated on everything from mask requirements to curfews to vaccine-related policies. We will keep you abreast of major developments—especially those affecting your daily life. Want to know what we covered yesterday? Click here.

The next 72 hours

What is changing in the next 72 hours?

  • New Hampshire (Republican trifecta): 
    • Everyone 16 and older, including residents of other states, will be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine starting April 19.
    • All K-12 public schools must offer full-time, in-person instruction by April 19. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said parents will still have the option of requesting remote learning.
    • On Thursday, April 15, Sununu announced he would end the statewide mask mandate Friday, April 16. 
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): 
    • All residents 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting April 19.
    • Oregon public schools have to open for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction for grades 6-12 by April 19. Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued the requirement on March 12. Previously, elementary schools had to reopen no later than March 29 for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Public schools have to offer all K-12 students at least 30% in-person instruction every week by April 19. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed the proclamation March 15. Previously, elementary schools had to provide students at least two partial days of in-person instruction by April 5.

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, April 15, the Indiana Senate voted 36-8 to override Gov. Eric Holcomb’s (R) veto of House Bill 1123, hours after the House voted 59-26 to do the same. The bill now becomes law. House Bill 1123 allows the legislature to call a special session during an emergency. Holcomb said he vetoed the bill because the Indiana Constitution gives the governor the sole authority to convene special sessions of the legislature.  

This time last year: Friday, April 17, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Each week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses of the early coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Friday, April 17, 2020:

  • School closures:
    • The Hawaii Department of Education closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
    • Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
    • Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
    • Maryland Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon extended the statewide school closure from April 24 through May 15.
    • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 4.
  • Election changes:
    • The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued an order extending the candidate filing deadlines for district and county races to May 5, 2020, and June 2, 2020, respectively. The high court reduced candidate petition signature requirements to 50 percent of their statutory level. The court also authorized candidates to collect petition signatures electronically.
    • Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) postponed the state’s presidential preference primary from June 2 to Aug. 11, 2020.


SCOTUS back in session, to hear arguments next week

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is scheduled to begin its April argument sitting the week of April 19. The court will hear arguments via teleconference and will provide audio live streams to the public. The court has not heard arguments in person during the 2020 term. 

SCOTUS will hear arguments in seven cases for a total of six hours of oral argument: 

Yellen v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation (consolidated with Alaska Native Village Corporation Association v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation) originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The consolidated cases concern Alaska Native corporations and whether they qualify for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act payments.

Sanchez v. Mayorkasconcerns grants of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to non-citizens. The case emanated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

Greer v. United States concerns Title 18 of the United States Code, prohibiting a convicted felon from possessing a firearm and ammunition, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Rehaif v. United States. Greer originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

United States v. Gary concerns plain-error review of a court’s decision and the Supreme Court’s decision in Rehaif v. United States. This case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

City of San Antonio, Texas v. Hotels.com, L.P. originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit and concerns Rule 39 of the Federal Rules for Appellate Procedure and a class-action lawsuit between a class of 173 Texas municipalities and several online travel companies. 

Minerva Surgical Inc. v. Hologic Inc. concerns patent infringement claims and the doctrine of assignor estoppel. The doctrine of assignor estoppel prevents a party that assigns a patent to a new party from later challenging the validity of that patent in U.S. district court. Minerva originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

SCOTUS will next hear six hours of oral argument in seven cases from April 26 through April 28. To date, the court has scheduled one case, Terry v. United States, to be argued during the May sitting on May 4. The May sitting is expected to be the final argument session of the term.

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Congressional resolution would reverse Trump-era rule specifying when Social Security administrative appeals judges would decide cases

On April 1, 2021, U.S. Representative John Larson (D-Conn.) introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block a rule made by the Social Security Administration (SSA) in November 2020. 

The rule, published in the Federal Register on November 16, 2020, aims to clarify when administrative appeals judges on the Social Security Administration Appeals Council may hold hearings and issue decisions.

The Congressional Review Act gives Congress a chance to review and reject any new regulatory rules created by federal administrative agencies. Both houses of Congress have to pass a resolution disapproving the SSA rule and President Biden would then have to sign that resolution into law to block the rule. Since the law’s creation in 1996, Congress has used the CRA to repeal 17 out of the over 90,767 rules published in the Federal Register during that time.

The SSA rule went into effect on December 16, 2020. A recent edition of the Congressional Record clarified that Congress has 60 days from February 3, 2021, to use the CRA to block regulatory activity taken near the end of the Trump administration. Rules published by the Trump administration after August 21, 2020 fall within the CRA lookback window.

Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) cosponsored the resolution. 

To learn more about the Congressional Review Act and its use, see here. Want to go further? Sign up today for our Learning Journey on the Congressional Review Act.

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Federal Register weekly update: 68 new final rules

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The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From April 5 through April 9—the 12th week of the Biden administration—the Federal Register grew by 1,390 pages for a year-to-date total of 18,882 pages. During the same period of the Trump administration in 2017, the Federal Register grew by 982 pages for a year-to-date total of 18,078 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 496 documents:

  • 375 notices
  • 15 presidential documents
  • 38 proposed rules
  • 68 final rules

One final rule from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration regarding the taking and importing of marine mammals and one proposed rule concerning revisions to the Environmental Protection Agency’s lead and copper rule were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Biden administration has issued 11 significant proposed rules and seven significant final rules as of April 9.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

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Checks and Balances: State lawmakers press for oversight of emergency powers

The Checks and Balances Letter delivers news and information from Ballotpedia’s Administrative State Project, including pivotal actions at the federal and state levels related to the separation of powers, due process and the rule of law.

This edition: 

In this month’s edition of Checks and Balances, we review the six resolutions of disapproval filed under the Congressional Review Act that could nullify regulations issued in the final months of the Trump administration. We also review judicial activity affecting federal employee removal protections and applications of Chevron deference to agency interpretations of criminal statutes. 

At the state level, we take a look at a Connecticut judge’s opinion supporting legislative oversight of executive emergency powers; a veto override from the Ohio General Assembly enacting legislation limiting the governor’s emergency powers; a legislative proposal in Idaho that would allow state lawmakers to veto certain federal government actions; and new limits on judicial deference in Georgia tax cases. 

We also highlight a new paper examining the recent increase in agency leadership positions held by former congressional staff. As always, we wrap up with our Regulatory Tally, which features information about the 262 proposed rules and 277 final rules added to the Federal Register in March and OIRA’s regulatory review activity.


In Washington

Democrats file six CRA resolutions aiming to block Trump-era agency rules

  • What’s the story? Democratic members of Congress introduced six resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) prior the April 4 deadline. The resolutions create a path for lawmakers to review federal rules issued during the final months of the Trump administration (after August 21, 2020) and vote to reject them.
  • To reject a rule, both chambers of Congress must pass a resolution disapproving the rule and President Joe Biden (D) must sign the resolution into law.  
  • The CRA authorizes the U.S. Senate to fast-track the resolutions through the legislative process. In order to avoid any legislative delay tactics, senators must take action to fast-track the resolutions before the deadline, estimated to occur in mid-to-late May according to The George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center. 
  • The six resolutions of disapproval seek to block the following agency regulations:
  • An October 2020 rule from the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) that aims to determine when banks are the true lender in situations where banks provide the money for third-party organizations to extend credit to borrowers. 
  • A November 2020 rule from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that changed regulations governing shareholder proposal submissions. 
  • An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule from September 2020 that reversed the Obama administration’s methane standards. 
  • An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rule changing the conciliation process (an alternative to litigation). 
  • A sunset rule from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that sets expiration dates for HHS regulations unless the agency reviews those regulations according to Regulatory Flexibility Act requirements.
  • A November 2020 rule from the Social Security Administration that aims to clarify when administrative appeals judges on the Social Security Administration Appeals Council may hold hearings and issue decisions.

Sixth Circuit narrows Chevron deference 

  • What’s the story? A divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on March 25 limited applications of Chevron deference in the criminal context in its Gun Owners of America v. Garland decision, which invalidated the Trump administration’s bump stock ban. 
  • The court declined to apply Chevron deference to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearm’s statutory interpretation supporting the agency’s rule that allowed bump stocks to be classified as machine guns. The court held that Chevron deference did not apply because the law in question was a criminal statute. The court also found that the district court should have permitted the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction to block the rule.
  • “Consistent with our precedent and mandated by separation-of-powers and fair-notice concerns,” wrote Judge Alice Batchelder in the opinion, “we hold that an administering agency’s interpretation of a criminal statute is not entitled to Chevron deference.”
  • Judge Eric Murphy joined Judge Batchelder in the opinion. Judge Helene White dissented.
  • Judge White disagreed with the court’s limitation on Chevron deference. “The Supreme Court has applied Chevron in the criminal context in three binding decisions—Chevron itself, Babbitt, and O’Hagan—and has never purported to overrule those cases,” she wrote.
  • The court remanded the case to the district court and eliminated the possibility of a nationwide injunction by limiting any subsequent injunctions to the four states within the Sixth Circuit.
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Federal Circuit raises standard to remove federal employees

  • What’s the story? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on March 11 set a new bar for firing federal agency employees in the case Santos v. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • The court found that NASA failed to provide justification for placing its employee, Fernando Santos, on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). An agency generally issues a PIP as a signal to a poor performing employee before initiating disciplinary action. 
  • The three-judge panel (Judges Kathleen O’Malley, William Bryson, and Todd Hughes) ruled that federal law requires agencies to justify the issuance of a PIP when a fired employee challenges a PIP-based removal. Prior to the court’s decision, agencies had not been required to justify the use of a PIP.
  • “Allowing a PIP to serve as the pre-removal notice required by Section 4303 is not the  same as allowing the mere fact of a PIP to create a presumption that the pre-PIP conduct  was actually unacceptable,” wrote Judge O’Malley in the opinion. “Thus, we  hold that, once an agency chooses to impose a post-PIP termination, it must prove by substantial evidence that the employee’s unacceptable  performance  ‘continued’—i.e., it  was  unacceptable before the PIP and remained so during the PIP.”
  • The judges remanded the case to the Merit Systems Protection Board for further proceedings.
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In the states

Connecticut judge calls for legislative oversight of governor’s emergency powers

  • What’s the story? Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher on March 8 issued a decision that upheld the state’s mask mandate for school children while also calling for legislative oversight of the governor’s emergency actions.
  • Moukawsher stated that, in his view, the Connecticut Constitution does not allow the Connecticut General Assembly to delegate legislative power—including emergency power—to the governor without placing limits on such authority. 
  • Moukawsher claimed that state law must include a method for the general assembly to disapprove of the governor’s orders, that the general assembly must ratify or reject the governor’s existing orders, and that current law requires the general assembly to renew the governor’s emergency authority after six months.
  • The effect of Moukawsher’s decision depends on the Connecticut Supreme Court’s forthcoming written opinion in the December 2020 case Casey v. Lamont, in which the court upheld Governor Ned Lamont’s (D) executive order on bar closures. The court had yet to issue a written opinion in the case as of April 7, but its anticipated opinion is expected to include guidance that could affect Moukawsher’s holding.
  • “This court believes that the Governor likely cannot continue to carry out his emergency orders without some form of ratification and control from the General Assembly,” wrote Moukawsher, “But matters affecting this issue are currently before the Connecticut Supreme Court. Whether this court may act in any way on this question or what way it may act will doubtless be influenced by the pending decision.”
  • Lamont indicated that he would allow his emergency powers to expire after April 20 and would work with legislators to continue any executive orders deemed necessary. “Right now my EO’s are in place,” said Lamont at a news conference. “If anyone wants to counter them, I’m willing to listen, and then on April 20 the legislature will step in and make some determinations.” 
  • Want to go deeper?

Ohio lawmakers override governor’s veto to implement legislative oversight of emergency actions

  • What’s the story? The Ohio General Assembly on March 24 voted to override Governor Mike Dewine’s (R) veto of a law aimed at increasing legislative oversight of the governor’s emergency powers.
  • Senate Bill 22 places a 90-day limit on states of emergency. It also authorizes lawmakers to pass resolutions to terminate a state of emergency after 30 days and to reject any executive orders related to the emergency.
  • The House of Representatives approved the veto override by a 62-35 vote. The Senate approved the veto override by a 23-10 vote. Both votes occurred largely along party lines with three Republicans joining Democrats in opposition.
  • Dewine expressed concerns about the legislation in his March 23 veto statement, including what he views as the potential unconstitutionality of reversing executive orders through resolutions and the potential prevention of  local health boards from quarantining people exposed to deadly diseases.
  • Speaker of the House Bob Cupp (R) stated that the Ohio legislation updates the state statute to align with similar processes in 26 other states. “We have a very old statute, and the pandemic sort of brought that to light,” said Cupp. “And so we are just adjusting and modernizing our statute.”
  • Democrats, including House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D), voted against the legislation. “You all are great at a lot of things,” Sykes told her colleagues on the House floor. “You are brilliant orators, lawyers, business owners, farmers, and more, but you are not good at public health.”
  • Want to go deeper?

Idaho legislative committee advances bill allowing for veto of federal actions 

  • What’s the story? Idaho state Representative Sage Dixon (R), co-chair of the state legislature’s Committee on Federalism, on March 10 introduced legislation in the House State Affairs Committee that aims to allow state lawmakers to veto federal actions.
  • The bill would allow any state legislator to make a complaint concerning federal actions, such as executive orders, acts of Congress, or federal court rulings, that they consider to be beyond the scope of federal authority. 
  • After receiving a complaint, the members of the federalism committee would determine whether the complaint has merit. If so, a public hearing would be scheduled and, after the hearing, the committee would submit a report to the full legislature recommending whether to pass legislation nullifying the federal action.
  • Dixon told lawmakers that the nation has “experienced the gradual drifting away from the founding principles of a limited federal government that stayed within the powers granted to it in the Constitution to a place where states are often merely enforcement vehicles of federal policy.”
  • The House State Affairs Committee advanced the bill to the full House for possible amendments.
  • Idaho Deputy Attorney General Cory M. Carone issued an opinion on March 19 claiming that the legislation wasn’t unconstitutional on its face, but that lawmakers’ actions pursuant to the legislation could face constitutional challenges.
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Georgia legislature approves limits on judicial deference 

  • What’s the story? The Georgia House of Representatives on March 22 voted 164-4 to send legislation to the governor’s desk that would limit judicial deference in the state by ending deference to certain tax regulations. The state Senate unanimously approved the legislation on March 1. 
  • Senate Bill 185, sponsored by state Senator Bo Hatchett (R) and six Republican cosponsors, requires state courts and the Georgia Tax Tribunal to decide all questions of law without deference to the regulations or policy interpretations of the state’s Department of Revenue, among other provisions.
  • Georgia lawmakers failed to approve similar legislation last year before the close of the legislative session.
  • Georgia joins a group of other states that have addressed judicial deference practices in recent years. Since 2008, Wisconsin, Florida, Mississippi, Arizona, and Michigan have taken executive, judicial, or legislative action to prohibit or limit judicial deference to state agencies.
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Examining the “Congress-to-commission” pathway

“Congress’s Commissioners,” a recent paper in the Yale Journal on Regulation by administrative law scholars Brian D. Feinstein and M. Todd Henderson, examines Congress’ growing practice of placing former legislative staff members in agency leadership positions. The authors found that the practice has increased nearly fourfold since the 1980s. Half of all current commissioners and board members on eleven major multi-member agencies examined by the authors previously served as legislative staff.

The authors argue that:

“[T]he Congress-to-commission pathway likely changes the way in which the administrative state operates. To the extent that former staffers take the culture of, and their connections to, Capitol Hill with them to their new jobs, then some of Congress’s pathologies may inhibit agency functioning. On the other hand, linking commissions with the legislative branch may increase democratic accountability, provide meaningful oversight, and improve commissions’ understanding of congressional objectives.”

  • Want to go deeper

Regulatory tally

Federal Register

Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)

OIRA’s March regulatory review activity included the following actions:

  • Review of 28 significant regulatory actions. 
  • Three rules approved without changes; recommended changes to 25 proposed rules.
  • As of April 9, 2021, OIRA’s website listed 38 regulatory actions under review.
  • Want to go deeper? 


Transition Tracker: Biden announces bipartisan SCOTUS commission

Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking key presidential appointments, executive actions, and policy developments from the Biden administration.

  • There are no committee hearings scheduled Monday. The Senate will reconvene for a full session on Monday at 3:00 p.m. after being adjourned since March 25. 

News

  • Biden issued an executive order on Friday to convene a bipartisan commission on the role and operation of the Supreme Court. Yale Law School professor Cristina Rodríguez and Biden campaign legal strategist Bob Bauer will co-chair the 36-member commission.
  • Biden is expected to nominate Jen Easterly as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and Chris Inglis as the newly established national cyber director. Easterly is a former senior counterterrorism and cybersecurity official who worked in the Obama administration. Inglis is the former deputy director of the National Security Agency.
  • In an interview on Sunday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Biden “wants to see major action in Congress and real progress by Memorial Day” for the infrastructure bill.
  • Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (D) are meeting with a bipartisan group of Congress members to discuss the American Jobs Plan on Monday.
  • Cindy McCain is under consideration for ambassador to the U.N. World Food Programme, which is based in Rome. If nominated, she would be Biden’s first Republican appointee for a position requiring Senate confirmation.

Transition in Context: Flashback to Trump’s First Year in Office

Here’s a look at what President Donald Trump (R) was doing this week during his first year in office.

  • April 12, 2017: The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration was considering developing a nationwide deportation force program.
  • April 13, 2017: Trump signed into law a bill that undid an Obama administration rule prohibiting state and local governments from withholding federal funding for qualified health providers offering family planning services related to contraception and other reproductive issues.
  • April 14, 2017: The Trump White House announced it would not release its visitor logs.
  • April 15, 2017: Tax Day protests were held in Washington, D.C., West Palm Beach, Florida, and other cities calling on Trump to release his personal tax returns. 
  • April 16, 2017: Trump attended an Easter service in Palm Beach, Florida.

What We’re Reading



Two Cabinet-level positions remain unfilled in Biden admin

All 15 of President Joe Biden’s (D) main Cabinet secretary nominees were confirmed 61 days after he took office.

At this point in President Barack Obama’s (D) presidency—82 days after his inauguration—he still had one vacant secretary post for the Department of Health and Human Services. President Donald Trump (R) had two: the secretaries of agriculture and labor.

In addition to the main 15 Cabinet secretaries, Biden has selected eight more positions requiring Senate confirmation to be Cabinet-level in his administration. Two of those positions are still un: director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Biden initially nominated Neera Tanden, the president of Center for American Progress, to serve as OMB director. She faced two hearings before the Senate committees on budget and homeland security and governmental affairs but never received a committee vote.

Two weeks after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and several key Republicans—Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah)—said they would not support her confirmation, Tanden withdrew from consideration on March 2, 2021. Biden has not yet named a replacement nominee. OMB Deputy Director Shalanda Young is the acting director of the agency.

Biden formally nominated Eric Lander for OSTP director on Jan. 20. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has not yet scheduled his confirmation hearing. If Lander is confirmed, it will be the first time a presidential science advisor is in the president’s Cabinet.

Additional Reading:



Ballotpedia’s Weekly Transition Tracker: April 3-9, 2021

Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking key presidential appointments, executive actions, and policy developments from the Biden administration.

  • There were no committee hearings scheduled this week. The Senate stands adjourned until April 12 for a full session.

Executive Actions and Nominations

  • Biden announced David Chipman as his nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) on Thursday. Chipman is an explosives expert and former ATF agent. The White House said in a statement, “As a father, public servant, gun owner, and decorated law enforcement professional Chipman has spent his life serving the public, combating violent crime, and striving to make our nation and our communities safer every day.”
  • Biden also announced several executive actions he planned to take to address gun violence, including the review of policy on unregistered firearms assembled at home, which the White House called ghost guns; the regulation of pistol-stabilizing braces; model legislation for red flag laws; community violence interventions; and an annual report on firearms trafficking.
  • On Tuesday, Biden said that he would nominate Robin Carnahan (D) to serve as the administrator of the General Services Administration. Carnahan is a former Missouri secretary of state, serving from 2005 to 2013.

Other News

  • Seven Democratic governors—Phil Murphy (N.J.), Gavin Newsom (Calif.), Ned Lamont (Conn.), David Ige (Hawaii), J.B. Pritzker (Ill.), Andrew Cuomo (N.Y.), and Kate Brown (Ore.)—called on Biden to lift the $10,000 cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions established during the Trump administration. 
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an interview on Saturday that he planned to move forward with a marijuana legalization bill whether or not Biden supported it.
  • The Senate parliamentarian ruled on Monday that a revised budget resolution could use the reconciliation process, which would allow the Senate to pass spending legislation by a simple majority vote rather than 60 votes.
  • On Tuesday, Biden moved up the deadline for all adults to be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine from May 1 to April 19. For more information about vaccine distribution and eligibility by state, click here.
  • The Open Society Foundations planned to spend $20 million to promote Biden’s infrastructure and social welfare proposals. Axios reported that spending on the campaign could reach $100 million.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said on Monday that he opposed Biden’s proposal to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, preferring instead 25%. “If I don’t vote to get on it, it’s not going anywhere. So we’re going to have some leverage here. And it’s more than just me. … There’s six or seven other Democrats that feel very strongly about this,” Manchin said.
  • Manchin also wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post on his opposition to eliminating or weakening the filibuster.
  • Tennessee and Kentucky filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration regarding tax provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act. The complaint said the tax provisions prohibit states that receive federal aid under the law from lowering taxes for several years, constituting a federal overreach.
  • Biden promoted the American Jobs Plan during remarks at the White House on Wednesday. His administration also began conducting outreach to governors and mayors and making local TV appearances to support the plan.
  • Jill Biden announced details of her Joining Forces initiative on Wednesday, which will include expanding job opportunities for military spouses and access to mental health services.
  • The White House is vetting Amos Hochstein as a potential special envoy to halt the Nord Stream 2, the Russia-Germany gas pipeline project. Hochstein was a special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs in the Obama administration.
  • Biden is expected to release the initial outline of his proposed 2022 federal budget on Friday, which will include $715 billion for the Pentagon, up from $704 billion this fiscal year. 
  • During a court hearing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Friday, the Biden administration will announce its position on whether the Dakota Access pipeline should be shut down.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats would likely pursue separate legislation on infrastructure and jobs, with a target of passing both before Congress’ August recess.

Transition in Context: Flashback to Trump’s First Year in Office

Here’s a look at what President Donald Trump (R) was doing this week during his first year in office.

  • April 5, 2017: Trump removed White House chief strategist Steve Bannon from the principals committee of the National Security Council.
  • April 6, 2017: Trump announced he had ordered airstrikes in Syria in response to chemical attacks on civilians allegedly ordered by Syrian President Bashar Assad.
  • Apri 7, 2017: Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago for a second day.
  • April 8, 2017: The Pentagon said a U.S. Navy carrier strike group heading for Australia was instead being moved near the Korean peninsula.
  • April 9, 2017: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with diplomats from the G-7 countries.

Transition in Context: Flashback to Obama’s First Year in Office

Here’s a look at what President Barack Obama (D) was doing this week during his first year in office.

  • April 6, 2009: Obama addressed the Turkish parliament in Ankara as part of his first overseas trip as president.
  • April 7, 2009: Obama visited troops at Camp Victory near Baghdad, Iraq.
  • April 8, 2009: Obama was expected to make a supplemental request of $83 billion to help continue to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through September.
  • April 9, 2009: Obama hosted a Passover Seder at the White House.
  • April 10, 2009: Obama met with financial regulators to discuss the health of 19 of the biggest U.S. banks.

Transition in Context: Presidential Approval Rating

The following chart compares the presidential approval ratings of Presidents Donald Trump (R) and Joe Biden (D) on a week-over-week basis. This number is taken from the 30-day average of polls conducted by a select list of polling organizations and outlets. Click here to read the list of polling organizations used.

President Biden’s approval rating for the tenth week of his term was 51.9%, down 1.3 percentage points from the week before. President Trump’s approval rating at the same point in his term was 42.3%, down 2.3 percentage points from the week before.

Transition in Context: Congressional Approval Rating

The following chart compares congressional approval ratings during the administrations of Presidents Donald Trump (R) and Joe Biden (D) on a week-over-week basis. 

Congress’ approval rating during the tenth week of President Biden’s term was 24.6%, down 1.9 percentage points from the week before. At the same point in President Trump’s term, Congress’ approval rating was 18.5%, down 1.8 percentage points from the week before.

Transition in Context: In Their Words…

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders have said about the American Jobs Plan.

  • “I don’t think the bill can grow into a multi-trillion-dollar catch-all. A transportation bill needs to be a transportation bill, not a Green New Deal. It needs to be about roads and bridges.” – Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.)
  • “You can’t separate the climate part from this vision because every road we fix, every bridge we build, we can either do it in a way that’s better for the climate or worse for the climate. Why wouldn’t we want to be creating these jobs in a way that’s better for the climate?” – Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg (D)
  • “They’re terming it ‘social infrastructure.’ Never heard that before. I think we need to talk to the American people and say, ‘Is this what you envision with infrastructure? Are these job creators? Are we re-engineering our own social fabric here with a 50-vote majority?'” – Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)
  • “I think it’s a wish list for every single mayor and almost every governor across the country. I mean, I think that this is something that, if I were the mayor of Boston a week ago when the president unveiled this plan, I would be excited because almost every aspect of this plan touches somebody in the city of Boston. And I can speak for a lot of mayors around the country. They’re very excited about this legislation. So I don’t think they view it as a liberal wish list. They view it as something that is much needed in America.” – Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh (D)

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