Senate Judiciary Committee advances Rao’s nomination to D.C. Circuit

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-10 in a party-line vote on February 28 to advance OIRA Administrator Neomi Rao’s nomination to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The vote took place less than a week after Senate Judiciary Committee member Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) raised concerns about his reading of Rao’s academic writings that he claimed favor substantive due process—a legal interpretation that aims to safeguard general rights not specifically named in the U.S. Constitution. Hawley and other lawmakers who oppose abortion criticize substantive due process because it has been applied to advance abortion cases, including Roe v. Wade, through federal courts.
President Trump nominated Rao to the D.C. Circuit seat, which was vacated by Brett Kavanaugh following his confirmation to the United States Supreme Court, on November 13, 2018. Prior to joining the Trump administration as the administrator of OIRA in July 2017, 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).

Two more presidential contenders are in, four top Democrats are out

There are sixteen notable presidential candidates and 86 weeks to go until November 3, 2020.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) entered the race last Friday, calling himself “the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation’s number one priority.” On Monday, John Hickenlooper (D), the former governor of Colorado, also announced that he was running for president.
While they are still on the sidelines, former Vice President Joe Biden (D), possible independent candidate Howard Schultz, and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) are expanding their teams.
Biden reportedly hired Cristóbal Alex, the president of the Latino Victory Fund, for an undisclosed role. Schultz brought on three veteran Republican staffers: former Steve Stivers aides Brendon DelToro and Matt LoParco and consultant Greg Strimple. Although no job offers have been reported, O’Rourke has also been interviewing candidates to be his campaign manager.
Even with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D), former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D), and Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) ruling out a presidential run this week, the presidential field is still expected to grow in the coming weeks.
Compared to the 2016 presidential cycle, Democrats in 2020 are on track to match, if not exceed, the number of Republican candidates who ran four years ago. Click here to see a chart comparing the number of notable presidential candidates who entered the races in 2016 and 2020 by weeks out from the election.

Former Rep. Aaron Schock (R) and prosecutors reach agreement

Former Rep. Aaron Schock (R) reached an agreement with federal prosecutors Wednesday bringing an end to a criminal case over alleged misuse of campaign funds. Schock was first elected to represent Illinois’ 18th Congressional District in 2008. He held the seat until resigning in March 2015 following media reports that he had used campaign and office funds to cover personal expenses.
Schock was indicted on 24 counts, including fraud and theft of government property, on November 10, 2016. The case experienced several delays, including a change of venue from the Central to the Northern District of Illinois and the removal of several prosecutors and Judge Colin Bruce in separate instances of misconduct.
Under the terms of the agreement, Schock promised to reimburse his campaign $68,000 and to pay back taxes he had owed between 2010 and 2015. His campaign, which entered a guilty plea for a misdemeanor charge related to maintenance of financial records, was fined just over $26,000. Prosecutors agreed to put the case on hold for six months, at which point all charges against Schock will be dropped if he is found to be in compliance.

Republicans select nominee for PA-12 special election

On March 2, Republicans from counties represented by Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District selected state Rep. Fred Keller as their nominee for a special election taking place on May 21.
Keller was selected from a field of 14 candidates after four rounds of voting at the party’s convention. He will face college professor Marc Friedenberg, who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination, in the special election.
The previous incumbent, Tom Marino (R), resigned on January 23 to take a job in the private sector. He beat Friedenberg 66-34 in the November 2018 general election.
In 2018, Democrats picked up two U.S. House districts in special elections: Conor Lamb (D) won in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District in March 2018, and Mary Gay Scanlon (D) won Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District in November 2018.
Heading into the special election, Pennsylvania’s U.S. House delegation has nine Democrats and eight Republicans.

Trump and Kim meet for second summit

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met face-to-face on February 27 and 28, in Hanoi, Vietnam, for their second in-person summit.
Trump and Kim were unable to reach an agreement on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Trump said that Kim wanted all economic sanctions to be lifted in return for closing some, but not all, of its nuclear weapons sites.
Trump said, “I am never afraid to walk from a deal. … Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that. I just felt it wasn’t good enough. We had to have more.”
Trump’s first meeting with Kim, the first-ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, took place on June 12, 2018, in Singapore.
During the first summit, Trump and Kim signed a document outlining a framework for future negotiations. They committed to working toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and recovering the remains of prisoners of war. In return, Trump committed to providing security guarantees to North Korea.

Senate confirms Wheeler as EPA administrator

Andrew Wheeler, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 52-47, mostly along party lines. Republican Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined 46 members of the Democratic caucus in voting against Wheeler’s nomination. No Democrats voted for Wheeler’s nomination.
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 replaces former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who left the role in July 2018. Wheeler has served as acting EPA administrator since Pruitt resigned.

Special election to complete term of Walter Jones in NC-3 scheduled

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has announced dates for a special election to represent North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District. The winner of the election will complete the term of former Rep. Walter Jones (R), who passed away on February 10, 2019.
Six Republicans have already declared their intention to run for the seat. Jones faced two opponents in the May 2018 Republican primary but was unopposed in the general election last year.
The filing deadline to run in the special election is March 8, and primaries are scheduled for April 30. There are two possible schedules beyond that, depending on whether a primary runoff is required.
If no candidate receives more than 30 percent of the vote in either party primary, runoff elections will take place on July 9. In this scenario, the general election will be held on September 10. However, if no primary runoffs are required, the general election will be held on July 9.
The special election is one of two special elections currently scheduled to complete a term in the U.S. House in the current Congress. The second is in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District on May 21, 2019. A third special election, in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, is also set to take place in 2019. The North Carolina State Board of Elections will meet on March 4 to set the calendar for that election.
There is currently one special election scheduled to complete a term in the U.S. Senate. It is in Arizona, where voters will choose someone to complete the term that former Sen. John McCain (R) was elected to in 2016. McCain passed away on August 25, 2018. The special election is scheduled for November 3, 2020.

Senate rejects Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

The Senate rejected the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act by a vote of 53-44. It needed 60 votes to advance. The bill proposed making it a felony if a healthcare practitioner failed to care for a child who survived an abortion or attempted abortion.
All Republicans and Democratic Sens. Bob Casey (Pa.), Doug Jones (Ala.), and Joe Manchin (WVa.) voted for the bill. No Republicans voted against the bill. All 44 votes against the bill were cast by members of the Democratic caucus.
After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “Evidently the far left is no longer convinced that all babies are created equal.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) criticized McConnell for bringing the bill to the floor for a vote. He said, “This is pure Mitch McConnell. It’s all aimed at keeping his base in line, while the president grows increasingly unpopular. We’re not doing infrastructure, we’re not doing health care. We’re not doing anything that matters to help our country. It’s just votes on abortion and other kinds of divisive votes he’s going to bring.”

House passes resolution to overturn Trump’s national emergency declaration

The House passed legislation to overturn President Donald Trump’s declaration of national emergency on the southern border. The resolution passed by a vote of 245-182. Every Democrat and 13 Republicans voted for the resolution.
The 13 Republicans who voted for the resolution were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Mike Gallagher (Wis.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), Will Hurd (Texas), Dusty Johnson (S.D.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), Francis Rooney (Fla.), Jim Sensenbrenner (Wis.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Fred Upton (Mich.), and Greg Walden (Ore.).
Trump declared a state of emergency on the southern border and directed $8.1 billion to build a border wall on February 15, 2019.
The resolution now heads to the Senate where four GOP senators will have to vote with every member of the Democratic caucus to send it to Trump’s desk. The resolution needs a simple majority to pass. If it passes, Trump said that he would veto the resolution. It would be the first veto of his presidency.

Senate confirms first federal judicial nominee in 2019 without support from home-state senators

The U.S. Senate confirmed Eric D. Miller’s nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on a recorded vote of 53 – 46. The vote, which took place on February 26, 2019, was the first circuit court judge confirmation to occur without blue slip approval from home-state senators.
A blue slip is a piece of paper a home-state senator returns to the Senate Judiciary Committee chair to express support for a federal judicial nominee. Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) decided not to require blue slip approval for federal judicial nominees to the U.S. circuit courts of appeals.
Home-state Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wa.) said on the Senate floor, “Confirming this Ninth Circuit court nominee without the consent or true input of both home-state senators, and after a sham hearing, would be a dangerous first for this Senate.” Murray referred to Miller’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on October 24, 2018, which took place during a congressional recess. Two Republican senators attended the meeting. No Democratic senators were present.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wa.) also spoke on the Senate floor in opposition to the nomination. She criticized the confirmation process, including the October 24 committee hearing. “Confirming Mr. Miller without a full vetting by both Democrats and Republicans is the wrong way to proceed on a lifetime appointment,” she said. Cantwell also said she opposed Miller’s confirmation because he had “spent much of his career fighting against the interest of tribal governments and tribal sovereignty.”
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) supported Miller’s nomination, saying, “All in all, his classmates, many of whom have also been his colleagues over the years, say that Mr. Miller is, ‘extraordinarily well-qualified’ to serve as a federal judge.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to Murray and Cantwell in 2018, when he was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley wrote, “Miller appears to be a highly qualified and well-regarded nominee. … I understand that both of you oppose Mr. Miller’s nomination, but you have not expressed any substantive reasons for your opposition.”
President Donald Trump (R) nominated Miller to the court on July 13, 2018, to replace Richard Tallman, who had assumed senior status in March 2018. Miller will join the court upon receiving his judicial commission and taking his judicial oath.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, headquartered in San Francisco, California, currently has 23 active judges of 29 active judicial posts. Sixteen of the court’s current judges were appointed by Democratic presidents.
Miller received a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard University and a J.D., with highest honors, from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was inducted into the Order of the Coif. He also served as a topics and comments editor of the University of Chicago Law Review.
After completing his legal studies, Miller clerked for  Justice Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court of the United States and for the Hon. Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. From 2012 to 2019, he was a partner at the Seattle-based law office of Perkins Coie LLP. He previously held positions in the U.S. Department of Justice and on the Federal Communications Commission.
The Senate has confirmed 86 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—53 district court judges, 31 appeals court judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017.