CategoryFederal

SCOTUS issues two unanimous opinions

The U.S. Supreme Court issued two unanimous opinions this week – Henry Schein Inc. v. Archer and White Sales Inc., and Culbertson v. Berryhill. Last term, the justices issued 20 unanimous opinions.
 
In Henry Schein Inc. v. Archer and White Sales Inc., the court considered a case regarding the Federal Arbitration Act. In his first opinion for the court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh vacated and remanded the ruling of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
 
In Culbertson v. Berryhill, the court considered a question concerning Social Security and attorney fees. The court unanimously reversed and remanded the ruling of the Eleventh Circuit Court.
 
The justices have granted cert in 65 cases and have issued decisions in seven of them. They have 26 cases remaining on their argument schedule.


Government shutdown delays comment period for Trump administration’s “Waters of the U.S.” proposal

The federal government shutdown has delayed a comment period for a proposed rule that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in December. The rule would replace the Clean Water Act’s definition of “waters of the United States” set by the Obama administration in 2015. The EPA aims to clarify the difference between federally-protected waterways and state-protected waterways, which it says will help landowners determine whether they need a federal permit to do projects on their property. The EPA has decided to wait until Congress funds the agency to begin a 60-day comment period during which the public may submit written feedback about the rule.
 
Proposed rules are preliminary versions of a prospective federal agency regulation. If an agency determines that a new regulation is necessary, the agency develops a proposed rule for publication in the Federal Register. After a period of public comment, the agency may determine to revise the proposed rule, abandon the proposal, or move forward to the final rule stage of the rulemaking process.


Senate Judiciary Committee committee schedules hearings for Barr

The Senate Judiciary Committee announced that it will hold a confirmation hearing for William Barr’s nomination to be United States Attorney General on January 15 and 16. President Donald Trump (R) announced his intent to nominate Barr to the position on December 7, 2018, and formally sent his nomination to the Senate on January 3, 2019. Barr will have to be confirmed by the Senate with a simple majority vote before taking office.
 
Barr served as the 77th United States Attorney General under former President George H.W. Bush (R) from 1991 to 1993. He was confirmed by a unanimous voice vote in November 1991. The previous attorney general under Trump, Jeff Sessions, was confirmed 52-47 in November 2017.


Trump’s nominee to FCC, a Democrat, confirmed by U.S. Senate

The U.S. Senate voted yesterday to confirm Democrat Geoffrey Starks as a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Under federal law, only three FCC commissioners can be from the same political party, so President Trump nominated Starks based on recommendations from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). The FCC is an independent federal agency formed in 1934 that regulates interstate and international radio, television and other communications.
 
Independent federal agencies operate with some degree of autonomy from the executive branch. These agencies exist outside of the Executive Office of the President and executive departments or have top officials with protections against removal by the president or other officials. The FCC is run by five commissioners appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to five-year terms.


Federal Register weekly update; 2019 off to a slow start

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 measure of an administration’s regulatory activity.
 
During the week of January 1 to January 4, the number of pages in the _Federal Register_ increased by 34 pages. A total of 15 documents were included in the week’s _Federal Register_, including 14 notices and one rule.
 
No proposed or final rules were deemed significant under E.O. 12866. To be deemed significant, final rules must prospectively have a large impact 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 704 pages. As of January 4, the 2019 total trailed the 2018 total by 670 pages.
 
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_ from 2017 to 2019: https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_to_the_Federal_Register
 
Click here to find yearly information about additions to the _Federal Register_ from 1936 to 2016: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2016
 
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.


Federal Register 2018 in review

In 2018, the Trump administration added a total of 68,082 pages to the _Federal Register_, a daily journal of federal government activity which includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory execution. The page total will likely decrease after the National Archives processes the blank pages and finalizes the publication. Over the course of the year, the _Federal Register_ included a total of 27,749 documents: 22,020 notices, 260 presidential documents, 2,044 proposed rules, and 3,367 rules.
 
During 2017, the Trump administration added a total of 61,950 pages to the _Federal Register_. The 2018 page total led the 2017 page total by 6,132 pages.
 
The Trump administration added an average of 1,301 pages to the _Federal Register_ each week in 2018. Over the course of the Obama administration, the _Federal Register_ increased by an average of 1,658 pages per week.
 
The 2018 and 2017 page totals under the Trump administration are the lowest page totals since 2001, when the _Federal Register_ reached 64,438 pages. According to government data, the _Federal Register_ hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.
 
The 3,367 final rules in the 2018 _Federal Register_ and the 3,281 final rules in the 2017 _Federal Register_ are the lowest annual rule counts since the 1970s.
 
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.


Pelosi elected speaker of the House

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was elected speaker of the House with 220 votes. Fifteen Democrats did not vote for her. Eight of those who voted against Pelosi were among the 16 Democrats that signed a letter opposing her candidacy on November 19, 2018.
 
Pelosi previously served as speaker of the House from 2007-2011. She is the first and only woman to hold the position.
 
The speaker of the House presides over sessions of the lower chamber and is second in the line of presidential succession.


Warren forms presidential exploratory committee and Iowa team

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced Monday that she had formed a presidential exploratory committee, joining former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro (D) in taking the first steps towards a possible presidential run.
 
Warren has brought on several experienced staffers to her Iowa team from the Clinton, Obama, and Sanders campaigns: Emily Parcell, Janice Rottenberg, and Brendan Summers.
 
More than 440 candidates have already filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for president in 2020, including 133 Democrats, 60 Republicans, 18 Libertarians, and 10 Greens.
 
Ballotpedia is also tracking more than 60 possible Democratic and Republican presidential contenders.


December 2018 OIRA review count on same level as previous year; Total 2018 review count more than 100 rules higher than 2017

In December 2018, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) reviewed 31 significant regulatory actions issued by federal agencies. The agency approved the intent of 26 rules while recommending changes to their content. OIRA approved three other rules without changes. Agencies withdrew two rules from the review process.
 
The 31 significant regulatory actions reviewed by OIRA in December 2018 is higher than the 30 significant regulatory actions reviewed by OIRA in December 2017. During the Obama administration from 2009-2016, OIRA reviewed an average of 58 significant regulatory actions each December.
 
The office reviewed a total of 355 significant rules in 2018. In 2017, OIRA reviewed 237 significant rules.
 
As of January 2, 2018, 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 may conflict with other regulations or with the priorities of the president.
 
Every month, Ballotpedia compiles information about regulatory reviews conducted by OIRA.


2019 Congressional calendar

The 116th Congress will convene on January 3, 2019, and will conclude on January 3, 2021. The House is scheduled to meet for 130 days in 2019, and the Senate is scheduled to meet for 168 days.
 
In 2018, the House had 171 legislative days, and the Senate had 186 days.
 
From 2001 to 2018, the House spent an average of 140 days in session each year, while the Senate averaged 165 days in session each year.
 
Click here to view the calendar for the first session of the 116th Congress.


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