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).
Senate committee advances Trump’s attorney general nominee
The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the nomination of William Barr to be U.S. attorney general by a vote of 12-10, along party lines. His nomination now heads to the Senate where he will need a simple majority for confirmation. Republicans hold a 53 to 47 majority.
Trump announced his intent to nominate Barr as attorney general on December 7, 2018, and he was formally nominated on January 3, 2019. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing for Barr on January 15-16, 2019.
Barr served as the 77th United States attorney general under former President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993. At that time, he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate.
U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall (R) not seeking re-election in GA-7
U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall (R) announced Thursday that he would not seek re-election to Georgia’s 7th Congressional District in 2020. In a statement, Woodall referred to the death of his father in 2018, saying, “Doing what you love requires things of you, and having had that family transition made me start to think about those things that I have invested less in because I’ve been investing more here.”
Woodall has represented the 7th District since 2010. He won the closest election of his career in 2018, defeating Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) by 419 votes, which was also the U.S. House race with the smallest vote margin last year. Prior to 2018, Woodall had never received less than 60 percent of the vote.
After Woodall’s announcement, Bourdeaux said that she would run for the seat again in 2020. The 7th District is based in Gwinnett County and Forsyth County, both suburbs of Atlanta. The district voted for Donald Trump (R) over Hillary Clinton (D) in 2016, 51 percent to 45 percent.
Woodall is the third member of the U.S. House to announce that they will not run for re-election after their term ends. The others are Rob Bishop (R), who represents Utah’s 1st Congressional District, and Walter Jones (R), who represents North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District.
Trump delivers second State of the Union address; Abrams delivers response
President Donald Trump delivered his second State of the Union address on February 5. He called on members of Congress from both parties to work with him “to achieve historic breakthroughs for all Americans. Millions of our fellow citizens are watching us now, gathered in this great chamber, hoping that we will govern not as two parties but as one nation. The agenda I will lay out this evening is not a Republican agenda or a Democrat agenda. It’s the agenda of the American people.”
He discussed his immigration plan, which includes “humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, drug detection at our ports, closing loopholes that enable child smuggling, and plans for a new physical barrier, or wall, to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry.” Trump also discussed trade, infrastructure, drug pricing, healthcare, abortion, socialism, and Afghanistan, among other issues. He called on members of Congress to work with him to create “a new standard of living for the 21st century” and “reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution, and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.”
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia in 2018 and former Georgia House minority leader, delivered the Democratic response to Trump’s State of the Union address. Abrams is the first black woman to deliver a response to a president’s State of the Union speech. Abrams spoke about the government shutdown, gun safety measures, education, immigration, and voter suppression, among other issues. She concluded her speech by speaking directly about Trump, saying, “So even as I am very disappointed by the president’s approach to our problems -– I still don’t want him to fail. But we need him to tell the truth, and to respect his duties and the extraordinary diversity that defines America.” She then called for a “renewed commitment to social and economic justice.”
Senate committee advances Trump’s EPA nominee
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works advanced the nomination of Andrew Wheeler to be Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator by a vote of 11-10, along party lines. His nomination now heads to the Senate where he will need a simple majority for confirmation. Republicans hold a 53 to 47 majority in the U.S. Senate.
President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Wheeler as EPA administrator on November 16, 2018. During a White House ceremony for Medal of Freedom recipients, Trump said, “He’s done a fantastic job and I want to congratulate him.” Trump formally nominated Wheeler on January 9, 2019.
Wheeler currently serves as the acting administrator of the EPA. He took over for former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who resigned in July 2018.
The United States Senate confirmed Wheeler as the EPA deputy administrator on April 12, 2018, by a vote of 53-45. Prior to serving as deputy administrator, Wheeler worked as a lobbyist for the energy industry and as a staffer in the Senate.
Trump to nominate David Bernhardt to serve as U.S. Secretary of the Interior
On February 4, President Donald Trump (R) announced that he would nominate David Bernhardt to serve as U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Bernhardt became the department’s deputy secretary in 2017, and he has served as acting secretary since Ryan Zinke (R) resigned the position on January 2, 2019.
Trump tweeted, “I am pleased to announce that David Bernhardt, Acting Secretary of the Interior, will be nominated as Secretary of the Interior. David has done a fantastic job from the day he arrived, and we look forward to having his nomination officially confirmed!”
Bernhardt is a shareholder at the law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. He previously served as a lobbyist at the firm and on Trump’s presidential transition team. He began working at the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2001 as the counselor to the secretary and director of the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs. In 2004, he became the counselor to the secretary and deputy chief of staff within the department. By 2005, he had become the deputy solicitor and, by 2006, the solicitor. He remained solicitor until 2009.
Trump will now send the nomination to the U.S. Senate, where a majority of senators will have to approve him.
January 2019 OIRA review count: despite government shutdown, agency reviewed only three fewer significant rules than January 2018
In January 2019, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) reviewed 17 significant regulatory actions issued by federal agencies. The agency approved the intent of 13 rules while recommending changes to their content. OIRA approved one other rule without changes. Agencies withdrew three rules from the review process.
OIRA reviewed 20 significant regulatory actions in January 2018—three more than the 17 significant regulatory actions reviewed by the agency in January 2019. During the Obama administration from 2009-2016, OIRA reviewed an average of 46 significant regulatory actions each January.
The office reviewed a total of 355 significant rules in 2018. In 2017, OIRA reviewed 237 significant rules.
As of February 1, 2019, OIRA’s website listed 92 regulatory actions under review.
OIRA is responsible for reviewing and coordinating what it deems to be all significant regulatory actions made by federal agencies, with the exception of independent federal agencies. Significant regulatory actions include agency rules that have had or may have a large impact on the economy, environment, public health, or state and local governments and communities. These regulatory actions may also conflict with other regulations or with the priorities of the president.
Every month, Ballotpedia compiles information about regulatory reviews conducted by OIRA.
Federal Register weekly update; page count rises as government reopens
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 January 28 to February 1, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 936 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 1,342 pages. A total of 600 documents were included in the week’s Federal Register, including 534 notices, one presidential document, 31 proposed rules, and 34 final rules.
One proposed rule and one final rule were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—meaning that it 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 1,092 pages. As of February 1, the 2019 total trailed the 2018 total by 3,686 pages.
The Trump administration has added an average of 268 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of February 1. 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 yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2016:
Administrative state cases bring unpredictable partisan splits at U.S. Supreme Court
The contemporary U.S. Supreme Court often divides along partisan lines. In Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group — a 2017 term case questing whether an administrative tribunal violated Article III of the U.S. Constitution — partisan lines weren’t so predictable. Neil Gorsuch and John Roberts were the only dissenting voices from an opinion written by Clarence Thomas, which held that the tribunal did not violate Article III.