President Donald Trump (R) signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act into law December 27, approving a $900 billion legislative package that included a second round of direct stimulus payments in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The act, which was introduced as a series of amendments to the United States-Mexico Economic Partnership Act, passed both chambers of Congress on Dec. 21. It is the fifth-longest bill ever to have passed Congress, according to GovTrack.
Among the act’s provisions is a second round of direct stimulus payments. The act calls for individuals who reported an income of $75,000 or less in tax year 2019 to receive a direct payment of $600. The size of the payment decreases as 2019 income increases, with individuals who reported an income of $99,000 or greater in 2019 receiving no direct payment.
President Trump (R) signed a first round of direct stimulus payments of up to $1,200 into law in March.
The act extends several existing federal policies enacted in response to the pandemic, including a moratorium on evictions, federal unemployment assistance, and the Paycheck Protection Program. The act also includes $20 billion in funding for coronavirus testing and $28 billion towards acquiring and distributing doses of the vaccine.
On December 14, Representative Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) introduced the Midnight Regulations Review Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to send Congress a report about major regulations made by outgoing presidents just before the transition to a new administration.
The bill defines major rules as those that would have an annual economic effect of $100,000,000 or more, would cause major cost increases for consumers, industries, or government agencies, or would have significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or trade.
The bill requires the GAO to send the report to Congress within five weeks after a new president has been inaugurated. The report must identify any new major rules that Congress could block using the Congressional Review Act (CRA).
Under the CRA, Congress has a chance to review and reject any new regulatory rules created by federal administrative agencies. Since the law’s creation in 1996, Congress has used it to repeal 17 out of the over 90,767 rules published in the Federal Register during that time. Congress blocked 16 of those rules at the beginning of the Trump administration as it reviewed rules made by agencies at the end of the Obama administration.
Debates about midnight rulemaking or midnight regulations refer to the informal rules that federal agencies adopt at the end of presidential administrations. Scholars have found that since 1948 agencies have made rules at a higher rate between election day in November and inauguration day the following January. Concerns about the quality of midnight regulations have led presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan (R), to issue regulatory freezes at the beginning of their administrations.
Connolly’s bill had four Democratic party cosponsors as of December 18: Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), Raja Krishamoorthi (Ill.), Jackie Speier (Calif.), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.).
The state of Iowa certified results in the election for its 2nd Congressional District, which indicate Republicans are primed to pick up their second open seat previously held by a Democrat in the 2020 U.S. House elections. Certified results showed Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) beating Rita Hart (D) by six votes. Hart indicated she would challenge the results of the election with the U.S. House.
Rep. Dave Loebsack (D) did not run for re-election this cycle. The other open seat Republicans picked up was Michigan’s 3rd, currently represented by Justin Amash (L).
Under the Federal Contested Elections Act of 1969, the challenge will be referred to the House Administration Committee. If the committee recommends the matter to the full House, the chamber will decide the outcome by a majority vote. Article I, Section 5, of the U.S. Constitution establishes that each chamber of Congress “shall be the judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of its own members.”
Democrats currently control the House, and they are expected to maintain their majority when the next Congress convenes.
Democrats picked up three seats in open races for districts represented by Republicans: Georgia’s 7th, North Carolina’s 2nd, and North Carolina’s 6th. There are still two remaining open seat races without a clear winner.
Across all 2020 Congressional elections, 16 seats changed hands. Democrats picked up two seats in the Senate while Republicans picked up one. In the House, Democrats picked up three seats while Republicans picked up 10 seats.
On November 20, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fl.) announced he tested positive for COVID-19. On November 14, he announced he would quarantine himself after coming into contact with a person who tested positive for the virus.
Scott was the 31st member of Congress to test positive for COVID-19, and the seventh to announce a positive test since Monday, November 16.
On November 16, Reps. Tim Walberg (R-Mi.) and Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) announced they tested positive. Senate President pro tempore Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Co.) announced positive test results on November 17. On November 18, Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Co.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wa.) announced positive test results.
Ninety-six veterans served as members of the 116th Congress (2019-2020). Seventy-three served in active duty with one of the four main military branches: 15 in the Air Force, 36 in the Army, 15 in the Marine Corps, and eight in the Navy (Steven Palazzo served in both the Army and Marine Corps). The remaining veterans served in either the reserves or national guard.
Sixty-six were members of the Republican Party and 30 were members of the Democratic Party. Fourteen of the veterans serving in the 116th Congress did not run for re-election in 2020.
President Woodrow Wilson (D) first recognized November 11 as Armistice Day in 1919 to commemorate the agreement that ended World War I in 1918. Congress recognized the date as a legal holiday to honor veterans of World War I in 1926. Congress changed the name from Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day in 1954 to further commemorate the service of veterans in World War II and the Korean War.
On Oct. 27, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) introduced the Saving the Civil Service Act (H.R. 8687) to block President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13957.
The executive order, issued on Oct. 21, aims to give agency heads greater flexibility in the appointment of staff members who serve in policy-related positions and make it easier for agency management to remove poor-performing employees.
“The executive order would erode due process protections for civil service employees,” Connolly, along with Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a letter that was signed by other members of the Democratic caucus. “It would expedite the hiring of Trump loyalists and place them in roles best served by career civil servants.”
The text of the executive order Trump signed reads: “Separating employees who cannot or will not meet required performance standards is important, and it is particularly important with regard to employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions. High performance by such employees can meaningfully enhance agency operations, while poor performance can significantly hinder them.”
The debate over the executive order to change civil service classifications is part of a larger debate over executive control of agencies. Executive control of agencies is one of five pillars key to understanding the main areas of debate about the nature and scope of the administrative state.
Executive control is primarily exercised through appointment and removal power — the authority of an executive to appoint and remove officials in the various branches of government.
A scholarly debate in this area concerns the president’s removal power: The president has the authority to remove his appointees from office, for example, but he can only fire the heads of independent federal agencies with a cause.
U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) co-sponsored the Saving the Civil Service Act and the bill was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
To learn more about executive control of agencies, see here.
Incumbent Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D) defeated challenger Nick Freitas (R) in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District.
Spanberger was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, defeating incumbent Rep. Dave Brat (R) 50% to 48%. Preliminary results indicate Spanberger won re-election by a similar 51% to 49% margin.
The 7th District was one of 30 districts Democrats were defending nationwide this year that Donald Trump (R) carried in the 2016 presidential election. In that election, Trump defeated Hillary Clinton (D) 51% to 44% in the district.
Both parties’ national committees targeted the district; the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) added Spanberger to its Frontline program, which allocates funds and resources to Democratic candidates in competitive races, while the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) added Freitas to its Young Guns program, the Republican Party’s equivalent fundraising program.
The DCCC and House Majority PAC spent a combined $3.9 million on the race, while the NRCC and Congressional Leadership Fund spent a combined $5.0 million.
Six party committees have raised a combined $2 billion since January 2019, according to pre-general election campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on October 22. The reports covered all fundraising and spending between October 1 and October 14.
Democrats and Republicans each have three party committees: a national committee to coordinate overall party objectives and one committee each dedicated to electing members to the Senate and House (referred to as Hill committees). During the 2018 campaign cycle, the six committees spent a combined $1.3 billion. So far in the 2020 cycle, they have spent a combined $1.8 billion out of more than $2 billion in fundraising.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) raised $38.2 million and spent $42.8 million during the first half of October, while the Democratic National Committee (DNC) raised $37.4 million and spent $58.9 million. So far in the 2020 cycle, the RNC has raised 47.9% more than the DNC ($642.6 million to $394.5 million). The RNC’s 47.9% advantage is down from 51.5% at the end of September and 61.9% the month before.
At this point in the 2016 election cycle (the most recent presidential cycle), the RNC had a smaller 16.1% fundraising advantage over the DNC ($290.6 million to $247.3 million).
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) raised $35.3 million and spent $33.6 million during the first half of October, while the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) raised $19.3 million and spent $23.6 million. So far in the 2020 cycle, the DSCC has raised 10.6% more than the NRSC ($244.3 million to $219.7 million). The DSCC’s 10.6% fundraising advantage is up from 4.2% at the end of September and 1.5% the month before.
On the House side, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) raised $12.3 million and spent $45.4 million during the first half of October, while the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) raised $11.7 million and spent $30.4 million. So far in the 2020 cycle, the DCCC has raised 25.1% more than the NRCC ($290.5 million to $225.8 million). The DCCC’s 25.1% fundraising advantage is down from 26.1% at the end of September and 26.3% the month before.
At this point in the 2018 campaign cycle, Democrats had a wider lead in House fundraising and a narrower lead in Senate fundraising. The DSCC had raised 4.5% more than the NRSC ($135.3 million to $129.4 million), while the DCCC had raised 35.9% more than the NRCC ($250.3 million to $174.1 million).
So far in the 2020 campaign cycle, the RNC, NRSC, and NRCC have raised 15.7% more than the DNC, DSCC, and DCCC ($1.088 billion to $929.3 million). Republicans’ 15.7% fundraising advantage is down from 18.7% at the end of September and 24.8% the month before.
Welcome to the Wednesday, October 21, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:
Senate Judiciary Committee to vote on Barrett nomination
The arguments for and against lockdown/stay-at-home orders and restrictions on religious services
Explore Kansas elections
Explore Washington elections
Senate Judiciary Committee to vote on Barrett nomination
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow—Oct. 22—on the nomination of federal appeals court justice Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. The committee held public hearings from Oct. 12 through Oct. 15 and will vote on whether to advance Barrett’s nomination to the full Senate.
There are 22 members of the committee—12 Republicans and 10 Democrats. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is the chairman and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is the ranking member. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the full Senate would begin to consider Barrett’s nomination on Oct. 23 and has scheduled a vote on her confirmation for Oct. 26.
Barrett is President Trump’s (R) third nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. He appointed Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy opened by Antonin Scalia’s death in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy opened by Anthony Kennedy’s retirement in 2018.
Our coverage of the committee proceedings includes a brief summary of each day’s proceedings, links to the statements made by committee members during the hearings, and transcripts of the testimonies from panels of witnesses in support of and opposed to Barrett’s confirmation.
Click the link below to review what happened or catch up on anything you may have missed.
The arguments for and against lockdown/stay-at-home orders and restrictions on religious services
As part of our ongoing coverage in Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, Ballotpedia published a series of articles capturing the regular themes in support of and opposition to policy responses to the coronavirus.
We identified topic areas—such as mask requirements or testing—and gathered and curated articles and commentary from public officials, think tanks, journalists, scientists, economists, and others. We then organized that commentary into broad, thematic summaries of the arguments.
At the federal level, Kansas voters will elect six presidential electors, one U.S. Senator, and four U.S. Representatives. Five out of 10 seats are up for election on the state board of education. Both chambers of the state legislature are on the ballot, with all 40 seats up in the state Senate and all 125 state House districts. One seat on the state supreme court and five seats on the state court of appeals are up for retention. Ballotpedia is also tracking local elections in Sedgwick County.
In 2016, Donald Trump (R) defeated Hillary Clinton (D) 57% to 36% in Kansas. Lyndon B. Johnson was the last Democrat to win Kansas in 1964.
Both of Kansas’ U.S. Senators—Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts—are Republicans.
Republicans represent three of Kansas’ U.S. House districts and Democrats represent one.
Kansas’ governor is a Democrat. Its attorney general and secretary of state are Republicans, meaning it is one of 14 states with divided triplex control. It has held this status since the 2018 election of Gov. Laura Kelly (D).
Republicans have a 29-11 majority in the state Senate and an 84-41 majority in the state House. Because the governor is a Democrat, Kansas is one of 14 states without a trifecta. Republicans lost a trifecta after Kelly (D) was elected governor in 2018.
There are two battleground races in Kansas this year:
U.S. Senate: Barbara Bollier (D), Roger Marshall (R), and Jason Buckley (L) are running in the general election; Roberts is not seeking re-election. In 2014, no Democratic candidate ran and Roberts defeated independent Greg Orman 53% to 43%.
Kansas State Board of Education: Kansas is holding elections for the five even-numbered districts of the state board of education, including two contested races. In the open-seat race in District 2, Melanie Haas (D) faces Benjamin Hodge (R) as Steve Roberts (R) did not run for re-election. In District 8, incumbent Kathy Busch (R) is opposed by Betty Arnold (D). In July, the Board received attention for its 5-5 vote that vetoed the governor’s executive order to postpone school reopenings in the state until September 9. Roberts voted to veto the order and Busch voted to uphold it. Leading up to the 2020 election, Republicans had an 8-2 majority on the board.
There are no statewide ballot measures in Kansas in 2020.
Witnesses or notaries are not required to sign absentee/mail-in ballots in Kansas.
Voters can return their absentee/mail-in ballots by mail or in person. If returned in person, ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3. If returned by mail, ballots must be postmarked on or before Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 6. Click here to check the status of your ballot.
At the federal level, Washington voters will elect 12 presidential electors and 10 U.S. Representatives. Nine state executive offices are up for election: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction, commissioner of public lands, commissioner of insurance, treasurer, and auditor. Both chambers of the state legislature are on the ballot, with 25 out of 49 seats up for election in the state Senate and all 98 state House districts. One state Senate seat is also up for special election. Four seats on the state supreme court and seven seats on the state court of appeals are up for election. Voters will also decide on six statewide ballot measures.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton (D) defeated Donald Trump (R) 53% to 37% in Washington. Ronald Reagan was the last Republican to win the state in a presidential election in 1984.
Five of Washington’s 39 counties are Pivot Counties, accounting for 4.8% of the state’s population. Pivot Counties voted for Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012 and Donald Trump (R) in 2016.
Both of Washington’s Senators—Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell—are Democrats.
Democrats represent seven of the state’s U.S. House districts and Republicans represent three.
Washington’s governor and attorney general are Democrats, while its secretary of state is a Republican, meaning it is one of 14 states without a state government triplex. Washington last had a Republican triplex, which was broken when Democrats took the governorship, in the 1984 elections.
Democrats have a 29-20 majority in the state Senate and a 57-41 majority in the state House. Because the governor is also a Democrat, Washington is one of 15 states with a Democratic trifecta. Democrats gained a trifecta when they won a majority in the state Senate in a special election in 2017.
Ballotpedia has identified one battleground race in Washington this year:
Secretary of State: Incumbent Kim Wyman (R) and Gael Tarleton (D) are running for secretary of state. Wyman was first elected in 2012 and won re-election 55% to 45% in 2016. No Democrat has won the office since 1960.
Opponents of a comprehensive sexual health education bill (Senate Bill 5395) collected signatures to place the bill on the ballot as Referendum 90 for voter approval or rejection. Referendum 90 is one of four statewide veto referendums in the country this year.
Washington conducts its elections predominantly by mail.
Witnesses or notaries are not required to sign mail-in ballot return documents in Washington.
Voters can return their ballots in person or by mail. If returned in person, ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Nov. 3. If returned by mail, ballots must be postmarked on or before Nov. 3. Click here to check the status of your ballot.
Robert Franklin (D) and Kwanza Hall (D) will advance to a December 1, 2020 runoff in Georgia’s 5th Congressional District special election. As of 9:25 p.m. EST, The New York Times called the race with 70% precincts reporting. Franklin had received 27.1% of the vote and Hall had received 32.4%. Mable Thomas (D) received 19.7% and Keisha Sean Waites (D) received 12.4%. No other candidate received more than 10% of the vote.
The winner of this race will serve the remainder of John Lewis’ (D) congressional term through January 3, 2021. Since the election advanced to a runoff, the winner’s tenure in Congress will last 33 days. The Democratic and Republican nominees for the November election in Georgia’s 5th, Nikema Williams (D) and Angela Stanton King (R), opted to not run in the special election.