Miami will host first set of Democratic presidential primary debates in June

The Democratic National Committee announced on March 28 that the first set of Democratic primary debates will be held in Miami, Florida, on June 26 and 27. The debates will be broadcast by NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo.
A candidate can qualify for these debates by polling performance or fundraising from individual donors. Under the first option, a candidate must receive 1 percent support or more in three national or early state polls from a select list of organizations and institutions. Under the second option, a candidate must receive donations from at least 65,000 unique individual donors. Additionally, they must have a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 states.
No more than 20 candidates—10 candidates on stage each night—will be able to participate.
Wayne Messam, the mayor of Miramar, Florida, brought the number of notable Democratic candidates in the race to 16 on March 28. He formally announced that he was running for president, having launched a presidential exploratory committee two weeks ago.

Party fundraising update: Republican committees raise $54.4 million, Democratic committees raise $39.6 million

Republican Party Congressional party committees outraised their Democratic counterparts in the first two months of 2019 $54.4 million to $39.6 million, in line with trends from the 2018 campaign cycle.
The committees are the Republican National Committee (RNC), National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), and National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), along with the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).
The DCCC was the one Democratic group to raise more money than its Republican counterpart in the first two months of 2019. It raised $19.0 million to the NRCC’s $12.1 million and spent $14.1 million compared to the NRCC’s $11.3 million. However, the NRCC had more cash on hand than the DCCC ($17.4 million to $10.4 million), and less debt ($5.8 million to $12.0 million). The DCCC raised more than the NRCC in 2018, $191.0 million to $120.8 million.
The RNC raised $30.3 million to the DNC’s $12.7 million. The RNC also spent more than the DNC ($22.7 million to $13.8 million) and had nearly five times the cash on hand as the DNC ($31.1 million to $7.5 million). In 2018, the RNC raised $192.4 million to the DNC’s $109.8 million and spent $207.6 million to the DNC’s $107.9 million.
The NRSC raised $12.0 million, while the DSCC raised $7.9 million, and spent $9.9 million to the DSCC’s $2.9 million. The DSCC reported more cash on hand, with $11.2 million to the NRSC’s $9.6 million, and nearly twice as much debt ($21.0 million to the NRSC’s $12.0 million). In 2018, the NRSC raised $109.7 million and spent $117.4 million to the DSCC’s $94.3 million raised and $107.1 million spent.
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SCOTUS hears arguments in two partisan gerrymandering cases

On March 26, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in two partisan gerrymandering cases, Rucho v. Common Cause and Lamone v. Benisek. During the course of arguments, the justices appeared divided over the issues central to both cases: are partisan gerrymandering claims justiciable under federal law, and should federal courts intervene to settle disputes over alleged partisan gerrymandering?
Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, appointed to the court by Pres. Donald Trump (R), asked Emmet Bondurant, counsel for Common Cause, the following: “What do we do as well about the — the fact that about 20 states, as I understand it, from — from your friend on the other side, have dealt with this problem through citizen initiatives as a remedy to deal with this, including, I think, five of them just this last election and a bunch more on the ballot in the coming election. Why should we wade into this — when that alternative exists?”
Associate Justice Elena Kagan, a Barack Obama (D) appointee, disputed Gorsuch’s claim: “I mean, going down that road would suggest that Justice Gorsuch’s attempt to sort of say this is not so bad because the people can fix it is not so true because you’re suggesting that the people really maybe can’t fix it, you were wrong about the people being able to fix it, and if the people could fix it, while it’s not the constitutionally prescribed way because it’s never been done before, so Justice Gorsuch’s attempts to save what’s so dramatically wrong here, which is the Court leaving this all to professional politicians who have an interest in districting according to their own partisan interests, seems to fail.”
Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a Trump appointee, echoed Gorsuch’s inquiry: “But what about, to pick up on something Justice Gorsuch said earlier, that there is a fair amount of activity going on in the states on redistricting and attention in Congress and in state supreme courts? In other words, have we reached the moment, even though it would be a — have we really reached the moment, even though it would be a big lift for this Court to get involved, where the other actors can’t do it?”
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an Obama appointee, responded as follows to the point made by Paul Clement, counsel for Rucho, that partisan gerrymandering claims are not justiciable under federal law: “Once we decided the one person, one vote concept, we’ve been pretty much in all of our jurisprudence saying that certain acts by the legislature are unconstitutional, including race discrimination and others. It can’t be that simply because the Constitution says that a particular act is in the hands of one — one branch of government, that that deprives the courts of reviewing whether that action is constitutional or not.
The high court is expected to rule on both cases prior to the conclusion of the current term in June of this year.
The phrase partisan gerrymandering refers to the practice of drawing electoral district maps with the intention of favoring one political party over another. In contrast with racial gerrymandering, on which issue the Supreme Court of the United States has issued rulings in the past affirming that such practices violate federal law, the high court has not yet a ruling establishing clear precedent on the question of partisan gerrymandering. Although the court heard two partisan gerrymandering cases last term, it ruled on procedural and standing grounds in each, without addressing the question of justiciability.
For more information about these cases, see our articles:

Senate confirms 9th Circuit Court nominee

The U.S. Senate confirmed Bridget Bade to be a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The vote on Tuesday was bipartisan, with 53 Republican senators, 24 Democratic senators, and Independent Angus King voting in favor. Home-state Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D) and Martha McSally (R) of Arizona both voted to confirm Bade. The overall vote was 78-21 (with 1 abstaining).
The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is one of 13 U.S. courts of appeal. They are the intermediate appellate courts of the United States federal courts. On August 27, 2018, President Donald Trump (R) nominated Bade to a seat on this court. She will join the court upon receiving her judicial commission and taking her judicial oath. Bade will be the fourth Trump nominee to join the 29-member court. She is the 37th appeals court judge to be confirmed under President Donald Trump.
Before Bade’s confirmation, the court had 24 members–16 appointed by a Democratic president and eight appointed by a Republican president. There were five vacant seats. Bade’s confirmation leaves four vacant seats.
Four nominees for the vacant seats are awaiting action from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Daniel Bress and Patrick Bumatay are awaiting a hearing before the committee. Daniel Collins and Kenneth Kiyul Lee are awaiting a committee vote.
The Senate has confirmed 92 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—53 district court judges, 37 appeals court judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017.

Sen. Tom Udall (D) and Rep. Jose Serrano (D) not running for re-election

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) announced Monday that they would not seek re-election in 2020. Udall and Serrano are the fifth and sixth members of the 116th Congress, and the first Democrats, to announce they will not run for re-election.
Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Reps. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) have already announced their intention to not run again. Rep. Tom Marino (R-Penn.) left office early, and Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) died in February.
At this point in the 2018 campaign cycle, more members had left office early but fewer had announced that they would not seek re-election. Five members of Congress—four Republicans and one Democrat—had announced that they were not planning to seek re-election in 2018. Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) and Sam Johnson (R-Texas) retired from elected office, while Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), and Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) had launched campaigns for governor.
Six members had left Congress early. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Reps. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Tom Price (R-Ga.), and Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) had been appointed to positions in the Trump administration. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) had been appointed California attorney general.
In the 2018 campaign cycle, 55 members of Congress announced that they would not seek re-election while a further 20 members left office early. Both figures were the highest since Ballotpedia began tracking congressional retirements and early departures in 2012.

March 2019 SCOTUS update

This week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) released five rulings on cases that were argued in October 2018 and January 2019.
SCOTUS has heard four cases this month as of March 22. It is scheduled to hear five more by the end of the month and a total of 12 cases in its April sitting.
In the court’s current term, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has issued the most majority opinions so far (4). Justices Elena Kagan and Samuel Alito have issued the least (1 each).

What does it take to make the Democratic presidential primary debate stage?

Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, and Andrew Yang have all reportedly qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary debate this past week.
With 16 notable Democratic candidates running so far, what does it take to reach the debate stage?
The Democratic National Committee announced last month that a candidate can qualify for the first debate in June by either polling performance or grassroots fundraising.
Under the first option, the candidate must receive 1 percent support or more in three national or early state polls from a select list of organizations and institutions.
Under the second option, candidates must receive donations from at least 65,000 unique donors. Additionally, they must have a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 states.
Some candidates have been openly sharing their progress. Marianne Williamson, who is halfway to qualifying, called on her supporters to ask their friends to donate, writing, “You yourself giving me another dollar would not help in this process, but if you make a personal commitment to asking at least one other person to contribute at least one dollar, that will get us over the finish line.”
John Delaney has agreed to donate $2 to charity for every new donor that contributes at least $1 to his campaign.
To follow who else makes it to the debate stage and all the latest news in the 2020 presidential election, sign up for Ballotpedia’s Daily Presidential News Briefing.

An analysis of legislation in the 115th Congress

The 116th Congress is more than two months old. Here’s a look back at the 115th Congress.
The 115th Congress ran from January 3, 2017, to January 3, 2019. The U.S. Senate and the U.S. House both began with a Republican majority. Following the November 2018 election, the Senate retained its Republican majority and the House gained a Democratic majority.
Members of the 115th United States Congress introduced 13,556 pieces of legislation, and 867 of those received a vote. Seven hundred fifty-eight (6 percent) of those bills passed, and 443 (3 percent) of those went on to be signed into law. In the 114th Congress, 708 bills were passed and 329 were signed into law, and in the 113th Congress, 663 bills were passed and 296 were signed.
Ballotpedia categorized 79 of the Congress’ votes as key votes.
Click the link below to learn more.

U.S. House passes the Federal Register Modernization Act

The U.S. House passed a bill that would change printing requirements for the Federal Register. The Federal Register is a legal newspaper published every federal business day by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Government Publishing Office (GPO). The Federal Register lists new administrative agency rules and regulations in addition to policy statements and interpretations of existing rules. It also contains presidential documents (such as executive orders) and notices for public hearings, grant applications, and administrative orders.
The Federal Register Modernization Act passed the House by a 426 to one vote on March 12, 2019. The bill requires that the Federal Register be published, but not necessarily in print form with duplicate copies of each particular document. In times when the GPO cannot print the Federal Register as usual, the bill allows it to publish the Federal Register on a website. The bill also requires a time stamp for each document in the Federal Register showing when the GPO made them available for public inspection.

President Trump issues first veto of presidency

President Trump issued the first veto of his presidency Friday when he blocked Congress’ resolution of disapproval of his declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump declared the national emergency on February 15 after Congress did not meet his request for border wall funding in a government funding deal.
The resolution of disapproval passed the House February 26 in a 245-182 vote. All 232 Democrats who voted and 13 Republicans supported the resolution, while 182 Republicans opposed it. The resolution passed the Senate March 14 in a 59-41 vote. All 47 Democrats and 12 Republicans supported the resolution, and 41 Republicans opposed it.
The Constitution allows Congress to override presidential vetoes with a two-thirds vote in each chamber. If all members participate, the House would need 290 votes and the Senate would need 67 votes to override Trump’s veto.
Trump’s veto was the 2,575th in U.S. history. Of those vetoes, 111 have been overridden by Congress.
The two previous presidents—George W. Bush (R) and Barack Obama (D)—issued 12 vetoes each. President Franklin Roosevelt had the most vetoes with 635. Seven presidents–John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Q. Adams, William H. Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, and James A. Garfield–did not issue any vetoes.