CategoryFederal

Trump’s pick for EPA administrator testifies before Senate committee

Andrew Wheeler, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, appeared before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Wednesday.
 
After the committee votes on Wheeler’s nomination, the full Senate will have to vote to confirm him. He needs a simple majority for confirmation. Republicans currently hold the majority with 53 seats.
 
Wheeler currently serves as the acting administrator of the EPA. Trump announced his intent to nominate Wheeler as EPA administrator on November 16, 2018. Trump formally nominated Wheeler on January 9, 2019.
 
If confirmed, Wheeler will replace former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who resigned on July 6, 2018. The Senate confirmed Pruitt by a vote of 52-46 on February 17, 2017. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) were the only Democrats to vote for Pruitt’s confirmation. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the only Republican to vote against his confirmation.


Trump’s pick for attorney general appears before Senate Judiciary Committee committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing on January 15 and 16 for William Barr’s nomination to be United States Attorney General.
 
In his opening statement, Barr said that, if confirmed, he would “enforce the law evenhandedly and with integrity,” as he said during his confirmation hearing for attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration. He added, “We live in time when the country is deeply divided. In the current environment, the American people have to know that there are places in the government where the rule of law – not politics – holds sway, and where they will be treated fairly based solely on the facts and an even-handed application of the law. The Department of Justice must be such a place.”
 
Barr also told senators that he that he would allow special counsel Robert Mueller to finish his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and let the public and Congress learn about the conclusions. He did not promise to release the full contents of the final report.
 
As attorney general, Barr said that his priorities would be combating violent crime and predatory violence, enforcing and improving immigration laws, and protecting the integrity of elections.
 
President Donald Trump 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. Republicans currently hold the majority with 53 seats.
 
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.


Tom Marino (R) to resign from U.S. House next week, special election to be called in PA-12

Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), who has served in the U.S. House since 2011, announced Thursday that he will resign from Congress on January 23, 2019, to pursue a job in the private sector.
 
Marino served as the state co-chair for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 and was briefly a nominee to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy in 2017.
 
Gov. Tom Wolf (D) will schedule a special election to fill Marino’s vacancy. This will be the second congressional special election called for this session. The other will be held in November 2020 to fill the remainder of John McCain’s (R) term in the U.S. Senate representing Arizona.
 
Marino’s district, Pennsylvania’s 12th, was created in 2018 after the state Supreme Court ruled the original map was an illegal partisan gerrymander. The district backed Marino by a margin of 32 percentage points in 2018.


Federal judge blocks Trump contraception rules

On January 13, 2019, Federal Judge Haywood Gilliam blocked Trump administration contraception rules from going into effect in Washington, D.C., and thirteen states. The plaintiff states are challenging two final rules announced by the Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor in November 2018. According to the agencies, those rules provide flexibility to employers with moral or religious objections to health insurance plans that cover contraception and sterilization. Under the new rules, those employers would be able to offer alternative health insurance plans without such coverage.
 
The agencies issued the rules following a process called notice-and-comment rulemaking. That process allows agencies to amend, repeal, or create administrative regulations after considering public feedback on proposed rules.
 
Judge Gilliam agreed to issue an injunction against the new rules because he found that the suing states’ finances would suffer as a result of the new rules. First, the states claimed the rules would lead women to lose employer-sponsored contraceptive coverage and turn to the state for reimbursement after purchasing contraceptives. Next, the states argued that the rate of unintended pregnancies would rise following the implementation of the new rules. They claimed that the rise in unintended pregnancies would lead to higher expenses because states pay for child delivery and newborn care for mothers who have low incomes.
 
Judge Gilliam held that the states showed that the rules posed a reasonably probable threat to their economic interests because they would have to pay for contraceptives that had been guaranteed cost-free by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Gilliam held that granting an injunction against the rules was the only way to redress the potential harm to the states while their lawsuit makes its way through the court system. He limited the injunction to the plaintiff states and Washington, D.C., because the case involves difficult questions of law that might benefit from multiple decisions in various courts of appeals.
 
Judge Gilliam also defended his decision to issue a preliminary injunction against the contraception rules using the arbitrary-or-capricious test. That test comes from the part of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), that instructs courts reviewing agency actions to invalidate any that they find to be arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. The plaintiff states argued that the new rules are not in accordance with the ACA, which is one of the relevant laws that determine what rules agencies may pass regarding contraception. The parties to the case will discuss the next phase of the lawsuit at a case management conference scheduled for January 23rd.


Federal judge challenges citizenship question on census, citing Administrative Procedure Act

Judge Jesse Furman of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, a President Obama nominee, issued a ruling on January 15, 2019, holding that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by not properly following APA procedure when including a question regarding citizenship status in the 2020 census.
 
Plaintiffs in the case also argued that Ross violated the equal protection component of the U.S. Constitution’s Due Process Clause. Furman, however, held that the due process claims fell short because the administrative record in the case did not demonstrate discrimination as a motivating factor for Ross’ decision.
 
The case consolidated two legal challenges before the Southern District of New York: State of New York, et al. v. United States Department of Commerce, et al. and New York Immigration Coalition, et al. v. United States Department of Commerce, et al. The plaintiffs in the cases included a coalition of 18 states and the District of Columbia, fifteen cities and counties, the United States Conference of Mayors, and a group of advocacy organizations.
 
Following the ruling, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) stated that is was disappointed in the decision and was reviewing the case. “Our government is legally entitled to include a citizenship question on the census and people in the United States have a legal obligation to answer,” said DOJ spokeswoman Kelly Laco. “Reinstating the citizenship question ultimately protects the right to vote and helps ensure free and fair elections for all Americans.”


Three high-profile Democrats announced their 2020 presidential intentions last week

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) said Friday that she planned to run for president in 2020. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro (D), who formed an exploratory committee in December, also made a formal announcement of his candidacy on Saturday. 
 
Earlier in the week, Democratic activist and founder of NextGen Climate Tom Steyer (D) announced that he would not run for president.
 
As of January 14, 453 candidates had filed with the FEC for the 2020 presidential race, including 136 Democratic candidates and 62 Republican candidates.
 
Other notable candidates who have either filed with the FEC or announced exploratory committees include U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D), West Virginia Sen. Richard Ojeda (D), former U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D), and President Donald Trump (R).


Trump’s pick for EPA administrator to appear before Senate committee

Andrew Wheeler, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, will appear before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on January 16, 2019. After the committee votes on Wheeler’s nomination, the full Senate will have to vote to confirm him. He needs a simple majority for confirmation.
 
Wheeler currently serves as the acting administrator of the EPA. Trump announced his intent to nominate Wheeler as EPA administrator on November 16, 2018. During a White House ceremony, Trump said, “He’s done a fantastic job and I want to congratulate him.” Trump formally nominated Wheeler on January 9, 2019.
 
If confirmed, Wheeler will replace former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who resigned on July 6, 2018. The Senate confirmed Pruitt by a vote of 52-46 on February 17, 2017. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) were the only Democrats to vote for Pruitt’s confirmation. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the only Republican to vote against his confirmation.


Flashback to three years ago today – presidential primary debates

On this night three years ago, the Republican Party held its sixth debate of the presidential primary cycle. Taking place in North Charleston, South Carolina, seven candidates participated in the primetime debate, while three candidates were involved in the undercard.
 
The primetime debate was hosted by the Fox Business Network and moderated by Neil Cavuto and Maria Bartiromo. The following candidates participated in the primetime debate:
*Donald Trump
*Ted Cruz
*Ben Carson
*Marco Rubio
*Chris Christie
*Jeb Bush
*John Kasich
 
The undercard featured Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum. Rand Paul, who was still an active presidential candidate, chose not to participate in the undercard after he was not invited to the primetime debate.
 
The Republican Party held 12 debates during the presidential primary of 2016, while the Democratic Party held nine debates.
 
On December 20, 2018, the Democratic National Committee announced plans to host a minimum of 12 debates for the party’s presidential primary candidates. The schedule sets the first debate in June 2019 and the final debate in April 2020, with six debates occurring in each year. The Iowa caucuses kicking off the 2020 presidential primary are set for February 3, 2020.
 
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Federal Register weekly update; government shutdown results in low page count

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 7 to January 11, the Federal Register grew by 72 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 106 pages. A total of 31 documents were included in the week’s Federal Register, including 26 notices, four presidential documents, and one rule.
 
No proposed or 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.
 
Due to the government shutdown, the Federal Register features fewer pages compared to recent years. During the same week in 2018, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,324 pages. As of January 11, the 2019 total trailed the 2018 total by 1,922 pages.
 
The Trump administration has added an average of 53 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of January 11. 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.


Donald Trump nominates acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to permanent position

On January 9, President Donald Trump nominated acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler to lead the agency. Wheeler took over as EPA administrator on an interim basis when Scott Pruitt resigned on July 5, 2018. The Environment and Public Works Committee of the U.S. Senate will hold a hearing on Wheeler’s nomination on January 16, 2019. The committee must approve Wheeler before the full Senate may vote on his nomination.
 
Wheeler served as deputy administrator of the EPA from April 12 to July 9, 2018. Prior to serving as deputy administrator, Wheeler had worked as a lobbyist and lawyer. His lobbying clients included the coal company Murray Energy. Before lobbying, Wheeler worked as a staffer in the U.S. Senate, including stints as general counsel for U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and staff director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Wheeler also worked in the EPA’s Pollution Prevention and Toxics office during the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations from 1991 to 1995. 


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