Johnny Isakson announces 2019 retirement

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) announced his resignation effective December 31, 2019. He cited his health as a reason for the resignation. He is the first senator to announce an early retirement from the 116th Congress and the fifth senator not to run for re-election in 2020. Three other Republicans and one Democratic senator are also not seeking re-election.
Isakson was first elected to the Senate in 2004 to replace retiring incumbent Zell Miller (D). He won re-election campaigns in 2010 and 2016. His seat would have been up for election in 2022.
Under Georgia law, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) will appoint a replacement for Isakson until the next general election (November 2020). A special election will be held at that time to fill the remainder of Isakson’s term. Georgia will have two U.S. Senate elections next November because Sen. David Perdue’s (R) seat is also up for its regularly-scheduled election.
Republicans currently hold a 53-member majority in the U.S. Senate. In 2020, Republicans are defending 23 seats while Democrats are defending only 12. Each party is defending two seats that the opposing party’s presidential candidate won in 2016.
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Kirsten Gillibrand ends presidential campaign

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announced she was ending her campaign for the presidency in an interview with The New York Times Wednesday.
In a tweet announcing her withdrawal, Gillibrand said, “I am so proud of this team and all we’ve accomplished. But I think it’s important to know how you can best serve. To our supporters: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Now, let’s go beat Donald Trump and win back the Senate.”
Gillibrand is the seventh noteworthy Democratic candidate to suspend her bid for the presidency this year and the fifth to do so this month. Other August withdrawals include former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.)
Gillibrand’s withdrawal leaves 20 noteworthy Democrats in the running. As of Monday, there were 277 Democratic presidential candidates registered with the Federal Election Commission.

Trump administration asks U.S. Supreme Court for emergency action on asylum rule

On August 26, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the Trump administration to enforce a new asylum rule while a challenge to the rule is working its way through the court system.
What happened?
The solicitor general asked the U.S. Supreme Court to grant a stay of injunction. If the Supreme Court complies, the Trump administration could deny asylum to people who travel through another country and fail to file for asylum there before applying in the United States. On August 16, the Ninth Circuit had upheld a district court’s injunction, which blocked the rule from going into effect until after courts resolve the cases brought against it. You can read about the Ninth Circuit’s ruling here
In the government’s request for a stay, Francisco argued that the rule involved foreign affairs and was not subject to the notice and comment procedures required by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). He argued that if the Supreme Court does not remove the injunction it should at least limit its application to specific people who were injured under the new rule. When the Ninth Circuit upheld the initial injunction, it limited the scope to those states within its jurisdiction.
What comes next?
According to Amy Howe, writing for SCOTUSblog, Justice Elena Kagan handles emergency requests related to cases before the Ninth Circuit. She will decide whether to rule on the government’s request herself or to refer the decision to the full Supreme Court.

President Trump nominates Eugene Scalia to lead U.S. Department of Labor

On August 27, 2019, President Trump nominated lawyer Eugene Scalia to replace Alexander Acosta as secretary of labor.
Who is he?
Scalia is the son of late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and handled Labor Department litigation and gave legal advice on rulemakings and administrative law during George W. Bush’s presidency.
According to his law firm biography, Eugene Scalia also served as special assistant to U.S. Attorney General William Barr from 1992 to 1993 and has written over 20 articles and papers on labor, employment, and constitutional law.
What happens next?
After the summer recess, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will vote on Scalia’s nomination. If the committee approves him, then the full Senate will vote on whether to confirm him as the new head of the Department of Labor.

Federal Register weekly update; 2019 average weekly page total surpasses 2018

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 regulatory activity.
During the week of August 19 to August 23, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,738 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 44,536 pages. The week’s Federal Register featured a total of 568 documents, including 447 notices, two presidential documents, 51 proposed rules, and 68 final rules.
Two final rules were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—meaning that they may 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.
During the same week in 2018, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,484 pages for a year-to-date total of 43,500 pages. As of August 23, the 2019 total led the 2018 total by 1,036 pages.
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,310 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of August 23. Over the course of 2018, the Trump administration added an average of 1,301 pages to the Federal Register each week. During the Obama administration, the Federal Register increased by an average of 1,658 pages per week.
According to government data, the Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.
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.

President Trump issues memorandum that aims to help disabled veterans navigate student loan forgiveness program

On August 21, President Trump issued a presidential memorandum directing the Departments of Education (DOE) and Veterans Affairs (VA) to simplify the process disabled veterans must follow to have their student loans forgiven.
Under the Higher Education Act, veterans who have total and permanent disabilities because of their military service qualify for federal student loan forgiveness. According to President Trump’s memorandum, only half of those veterans who qualify have taken advantage of the program.
The memorandum directs the DOE and the VA to work together to minimize the burdens on qualifying veterans who want relief from their student loans.
Presidential memoranda and executive orders both carry the force of law, but memoranda are not numbered nor required by law to be published in the _Federal Register_. Under an executive order issued by President John F. Kennedy, the president must cite the constitutional or legal authority that justifies issuing an executive order; that justification is not required for presidential memoranda.

Lawsuit raises new challenge to Trump’s civil service executive orders

A chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) representing U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employees in Buffalo, New York, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York on August 13, 2019, arguing that President Donald Trump’s (R) three civil service executive orders exceed the president’s constitutional authority and violate the Civil Service Reform Act.
President Trump issued the civil service executive orders (E.O. 13837, E.O. 13836, and E.O.13839) in May 2018. The orders include proposals aimed at facilitating the removal of poor-performing federal employees and streamlining collective bargaining procedures.
The lawsuit follows a July 16 decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that unanimously reversed and vacated a lower court decision blocking provisions of the executive orders. The judges held that the lower court did not have jurisdiction and that the plaintiffs—a coalition of union groups—should have brought the case before the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) as required by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS).
The new lawsuit claims that the district court has jurisdiction over the case in part because FLRA has lacked a general counsel for almost two years—preventing the agency from hearing unfair labor practice complaints.
The [[United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit]] has appellate jurisdiction over the [[United States District Court for the Western District of New York]]. As such, the D.C. Circuit’s July decision upholding the civil service executive orders is not controlling on the case.

Andrew Yang becomes second candidate to reach 100,000 pageviews, leads all candidates for second straight week

Each week, we report the number of pageviews received by 2020 presidential campaigns on Ballotpedia. These numbers show which candidates are getting our readers’ attention.
Andrew Yang’s campaign page on Ballotpedia received 5,590 pageviews for the week of August 18-24. Yang’s pageview figure represents 8.9% of the pageviews for all Democratic candidates during the week. Joe Biden had 8.6% of the pageviews for the week, followed by Elizabeth Warren with 6.9%. This is Yang’s second consecutive week with the most pageviews among Democrats.
Every noteworthy Democratic candidate other than Yang had more Ballotpedia pageviews last week than the week before. The three largest week-over-week increases were Wayne Messam (43.7%), Kirsten Gillibrand (30.4%), and Joe Sestak (29.0%).
The leader in overall pageviews this year is Pete Buttigieg with 105,981. Buttigieg is followed by Andrew Yang with 100,717 and Kamala Harris with 94,574.
On the GOP side, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld had 16,246 pageviews to President Trump’s 2,053.

Pennsylvania state employee files class-action lawsuit for refund of agency fees

On Aug. 7, Pennsylvania state employee Catherine Kioussis filed a class-action lawsuit against the Service Employees International Union Local 668 seeking restitution for agency fees paid to the union in 2017 and 2018.
Who are the parties to the suit?
Kioussis, the plaintiff, works for the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. She is represented by the Liberty Justice Center, a nonprofit public-interest law firm that represented Mark Janus in Janus v. AFSCME (2018). The defendant is the Service Employees International Union Local 668, which represents public- and private-sector social service workers at both the state and municipal levels of government. According to a federal disclosure report, SEIU Local 668 comprised 16,507 dues-paying members and 361 agency fee payers as of Dec. 31, 2018.
What’s at issue?
Kioussiss alleges “SEIU should have known that its seizure of [agency fees] from non-consenting employees likely violated the First Amendment.” Kioussiss seeks a refund of all agency fees she and other non-member employees paid to the union from Aug. 7, 2017, to June 27, 2018, the period permitted under Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations. According to the Liberty Justice Center, should the case be decided in Kioussiss’ favor, approximately 2,000 workers could receive as much as $1 million in restitution.
What are the reactions?
Brian Kelsey, an attorney with the Liberty Justice Center, said, “It’s unfortunate [Kioussiss’] constitutional rights were violated. We’re going to make sure she can get her money back now, or at least as much as we can gather that she paid over the last couple years.”
SEIU Local 669 President Steve Catanese said, “The Liberty Justice Center, along with other anti-union organizations such as the Fairness Center, is being funded by millions of dollars in dark money donations from billionaires and corporations. The sole purpose of these organizations and investments in them is to file frivolous litigation against labor unions and undermine the ability of workers to have a voice at the workplace.”
What comes next?
The case is pending before Judge John E. Jones III of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. President George W. Bush (R) appointed Jones in 2002. The case name and number are Kioussis v. Service Employees International Union Local 668, 1:19-cv-01367.

Seth Moulton suspends his presidential campaign

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) suspended his presidential campaign on Friday, August 23, making him the sixth notable Democrat to do so. “I think it’s evident that this is now a three-way race between Biden, Warren and Sanders, and really it’s a debate about how far left the party should go,” he said in an interview with The New York Times.
His campaign suspension left 23 notable candidates—21 Democrats and two Republicans—actively campaigning for president in 2020. Moulton’s exit left two U.S. Reps. in the Democratic field, along with seven U.S. Senators, two mayors, and one governor.
President Donald Trump (R) is seeking re-election. He defeated Hillary Clinton (D) in 2016 with 304 electoral votes to Clinton’s 227. Clinton received 48.3 percent of the popular vote while Trump received 46.2 percent of the popular vote.