CategoryFederal

William Barr sworn in as U.S. attorney general

William Pelham Barr was sworn in as the 85th United States attorney general, marking his second time in the position. Barr was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday by a vote of 54-45. He was sworn in the same day.

Fifty-one Republicans and three Democrats—Sens. Doug Jones (Ala.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), and Krysten Sinema (Ariz.)—voted for Barr. Forty-four members of the Democratic caucus and Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) voted against Barr’s nomination.

President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Barr to the position on December 7, 2018, and he was formally nominated on January 3, 2019. There were 42 days from nomination to confirmation for Barr. The average number of days from nomination to confirmation for Trump administration Cabinet members and Cabinet-rank officials is 36 days.

Barr previously served as the 77th United States attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush from November 1991 to January 1993. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate.

The only other person to serve as attorney general twice was John J. Crittenden. He served as the 15th and 22nd attorney general from March 1841 to September 1841 and July 1850 to March 1853.



Federal Register weekly update; highest weekly number of final rules in 2019

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 February 11 to February 15, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,582 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 4,676 pages. A total of 863 documents were included in the week’s Federal Register, including 707 notices, seven presidential documents, 63 proposed rules, and 86 final rules.
 
One proposed rule and three 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 1,236 pages. As of February 15, the 2019 total trailed the 2018 total by 2,430 pages.
 
The Trump administration has added an average of 668 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of February 15. In 2018, the Trump administration added an average of 1,301 pages to the Federal Register each week. Over the course of 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.
 
Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2018 and 2017.
 
Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 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.


SCOTUS returns for February sitting

The U.S. Supreme Court will be back in session next week for its February sitting. The justices will hear two cases next week and six this month.

The first case—Return Mail v. U.S. Postal Service—is a patent law case that will be heard on Tuesday. The second case—Mission Product Holdings v. Tempnology LLC—is a trademark licensing case that will be heard on Wednesday.

SCOTUS has 71 cases on its argument schedule this term. Forty-two cases have been heard, and 27 cases are scheduled for argument.

The justices have issued eight decisions, seven of which were unanimous.

Read more about this term’s cases by signing up for Ballotpedia’s Bold Justice newsletter.



Former astronaut Mark Kelly will run in U.S. Senate special election in Arizona; Republicans hold 22 of 34 seats on 2020 Senate map

Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly (D) announced Tuesday that he is running in the 2020 special election for U.S. Senate in Arizona to complete the term of the late John McCain (R). Kelly became active in politics and gun violence prevention after his wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D), survived an assassination attempt in 2011.

The seat is currently held by Sen. Martha McSally (R), who was appointed in December 2018.

Thirty-three other Senate races will take place in 2020, including at least two for open seats in Tennessee and Kansas where Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) and Pat Roberts (R) announced they were not seeking re-election.

Republicans will be defending 22 seats up for election, compared to Democrats’ 12 seats. That is nearly the reverse of 2018, when Democrats held 26 of the 35 seats up for election.

Two Republicans face re-election in states that President Donald Trump (R) lost in 2018: Sen. Cory Gardner (R) in Colorado, where Trump lost in 2016 by 5 percentage points, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

Doug Jones, who won a 2017 special election to become the first Democratic senator elected in Alabama since 1992, is also expected to face a competitive race.

Republicans currently hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate.



Bill requiring congressional approval of major administrative agency action reintroduced

A bill requiring congressional approval of major agency regulations before they go into effect was reintroduced U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.). The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (REINS), a proposal designed to amend the Congressional Review Act (CRA) of 1996, defines major regulations as those that have financial impacts on the U.S. economy of $100 million or more, that increase consumer prices, or that have significant harmful effects on the economy. Under the existing CRA, Congress has the authority to issue resolutions of disapproval to nullify agency regulations.

As of February 8, 2019, the REINS Act had 37 cosponsors in the U.S. Senate and there was not a companion version in the U.S. House. Versions of the REINS Act have been introduced since the 112th Congress (2011-2013).



Woodall (R) is third U.S. House incumbent who won’t run for re-election. How many seats without incumbents flipped in 2018?

U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall (R) recently announced that he would not seek re-election to Georgia’s 7th Congressional District when his current term ends. Woodall had the closest election of his career in 2018; he defeated Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) by 433 votes.

He is the third member of the U.S. House to make such an announcement, behind Reps. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.).

What happened in Congressional districts with retiring incumbents in the 2018 elections?

Fifty-two incumbents did not run for re-election to the House in 2018, leaving open seats to be filled in the November elections: 18 were Democrats and 34 were Republicans.

Thirteen of the 52 districts changed party hands: 10 seats flipped from Republican to Democrat, and three seats flipped from Democrat to Republican.

Forty-six total seats changed party hands in November, giving Democrats a net gain of 40 seats.

Click below to stay on top of the list of Congressional incumbents not seeking re-election in 2020.



U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D) announces re-election bid

Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D) announced in a tweet on February 7 that he would be running for re-election in 2020. He has represented Arizona’s 1st Congressional District since 2017.

He last won re-election in 2018 when he captured 53.8 percent of the vote to defeat Wendy Rogers (R). A former Flagstaff city council member, Eva Putzova (D), has already announced her bid for O’Halleran’s seat in 2020.

O’Halleran was chosen to serve as the policy co-chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition in November 2018. In the 116th Congress, he will serve on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Committee on Agriculture.

Prior to his election to the U.S. House, O’Halleran served in the Arizona State Senate as a Republican, where he represented District 1 from 2007 to 2009, and in the Arizona House of Representatives from 2001 to 2006. He ran for U.S. Congress as a Democrat in 2016 after leaving the Republican Party in 2014.



Wonder why you’ve been receiving more robo-calls? A 2018 ruling by a federal appellate court has something to do with it

According to a January 29, 2019, report by The Washington Post, Americans received approximately 26.3 billion automated phone calls in 2018, a 46 percent increase over the total number of automated calls received in 2017. The increase can be attributed in part to a federal appellate court ruling that expanded the types of equipment that can be used legally to make automated calls.
 
On March 16, 2018, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued its ruling in ACA International v. Federal Communications Commission, striking down a rule promulgated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the types of equipment that can be used for making automated phone calls. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), enacted in 1991, granted the FCC the authority to interpret and enforce the law’s restrictions against the use of certain kinds of automated dialing equipment. In 2015, the FCC issued an order that, among other things, classified devices capable of being transformed into automated dialing systems via the installation of apps as devices subject to the restrictions of the TCPA. The court found that this classification metric was overly broad.
 
Judge Srikanth Srinivasan, appointed to the court by Barack Obama (D), wrote the following in the court’s opinion: “The Commission’s understanding would appear to subject ordinary calls from any conventional smartphone to the Act’s coverage, an unreasonably expansive interpretation of the statute.” Srinivasan was joined by Judges Cornelia T. L. Pillard and Harry Edwards, who were appointed to the court by Obama and Jimmy Carter (D), respectively.


Former U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D) passes away at 92

Former U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D) passed away Thursday at the age of 92. Dingell represented a U.S. House seat near Detroit, Michigan, from 1955 to 2014. He was the longest-serving member U.S. House in American history with nearly 60 years in the chamber. Throughout his tenure, he served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee including several periods as chairman. Dingell was replaced by his wife, Debbie Dingell (D), after retiring ahead of the 2014 elections.



Senate Judiciary Committee holds confirmation hearing for DC Circuit nominee Neomi Rao

The United States Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing for Neomi Rao, President Trump’s nominee to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, on February 5, 2019. Trump nominated Rao to the seat, which was vacated by Brett Kavanaugh following his confirmation to the United States Supreme Court, on November 13, 2018.
 
Prior to the hearing, Rao received a well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association (ABA).
 
Committee members questioned Rao on a variety of topics, including articles she wrote as an undergraduate student concerning sexual assault and feminism as well as her recent work as the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), a position she has held since July 2017.
 
As OIRA administrator, Rao has directed the Trump administration’s regulatory review process, clearance and approval of government information collection requests, and oversight of government statistical practices and privacy policies. Since the DC Circuit hears the majority of judicial challenges to administrative actions, Rao stated that she would consider recusing herself from cases concerning regulations issued under the Trump administration on a case-by-case basis when required by court precedent or statutory standards.
 
Prior to joining the Trump administration, Rao worked as an associate professor of law at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, where she founded the Center for the Study of the Administrative State. She also served as counsel to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary under U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R), as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and as a special assistant and associate counsel to former President George W. Bush (R).