Tagfederal government

In four states, no state or federal officials have tested positive for COVID-19

Between the start of the coronavirus pandemic and March 18, 2021, no elected or appointed state or federal officials announced positive COVID-19 test results in four states—Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, and Vermont. In the 46 other states, Ballotpedia has identified at least one COVID-19 positive state or federal official within our coverage scope. State and federal officials include members of Congress, state legislators, and state executive officeholders.

The first COVID-19 positive state officials identified by Ballotpedia were New York state Reps. Helene Weinstein (D) and Charles Barron (D), who announced positive test results on March 14, 2020. The first members of Congress to test positive were Reps. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fl.), who made their announcements March 18.

Since then, Ballotpedia has identified 215 candidates and officials diagnosed with COVID-19 at the state level, and 69 candidates and officials with COVID-19 at the federal level.

The state with the highest number of publicly identified COVID-19 state and federal officials is Pennsylvania, where two U.S. House members, the governor, and 17 members of the state legislature have tested positive since March 2020.

To read more about federal, state, and local officials and candidates affected by COVID-19, click the link below.



A look back at government responses to COVID-19, March 23-27, 2020

Although the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. 

Here are the policy changes that happened March 23-27, 2020. This list is not comprehensive. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Monday, March 23, 2020:

Stay-at-home orders:

◦ Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued Executive Order No. 20-12, which directed individuals in the state to stay at home unless performing essential activities and placed restrictions on non-essential businesses.

◦ Amy Acton, the Director of the Ohio Department of Health, issued a stay-at-home order on March 22 that directed individuals in the state to stay at home unless performing essential activities and placed restrictions on non-essential businesses. The order went into effect March 23, and was originally set to expire April 6.

School closures:

◦ Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced that the statewide school closure, scheduled to end March 31, was extended through April 20.

◦ Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) announced that the statewide school closure, scheduled to end March 31, was extended to May 1.

Election changes:

◦ Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed S2608 into law, authorizing municipalities to postpone any elections originally scheduled to take place prior to May 30, 2020, to any date on or before June 30, 2020.

◦ Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) announced that absentee voting in the June 2, 2020, primary election would open on April 23, 2020, 40 days before the primary.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020:

Stay-at-home orders:

◦ West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) issued Executive Order No. 9-20, which directed all West Virginians to stay at home and limit movements outside of their homes beyond essential needs.

◦ Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) issued Addendum 6 to Executive Order 01-20 directing residents to limit normal everyday activities outside of the home and to practice social distancing at all times.

Travel restrictions

◦ Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) ordered travelers flying into Florida from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to self-quarantine for two weeks.

School closures:

◦ Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced that schools would remain closed through April 23.

◦ The Hawaii Department of Education announced that the statewide school closure, scheduled to end April 6, was extended through April 30.

Election changes:

◦ Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske (R) announced plans to conduct all voting in the June 9, 2020, primary election by mail.

Federal government responses:

◦ The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced it would use the Defense Production Act to acquire 60,000 coronavirus testing kits.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020:

Stay-at-home orders:

◦ In Wisconsin, Executive Order #12 took effect. The order directed Wisconsinites to stay at home as much as possible and non-essential businesses and operations to cease, with limited exceptions for minimum basic operations and working from home. Gov. Tony Evers (D) signed the order on March 24.

◦ Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) issued a proclamation amending the original state of emergency declaration by directing individuals in the state to stay at home unless performing essential activities and placing restrictions on non-essential businesses.

School closures:

◦ The Oklahoma Department of Education announced that schools would remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.

◦ Maryland State Superintendent Karen Salmon announced that the statewide school closure scheduled to end March 27 was extended through April 24.

Election changes:

◦ Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D) issued a directive authorizing counties to conduct upcoming elections entirely by mail.

◦ The Indiana Election Commission authorized the temporary suspension of the state’s statutory absentee voting eligibility requirements, allowing all voters to cast their ballots by mail in the June 2, 2020, primary election.

Federal government responses:

◦ The U.S. Senate voted 96-0 to pass the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which included individual payments of $1,200 for individuals making up to $75,000 annually.

Thursday, March 26, 2020:

Stay-at-home orders:

◦ In Kentucky, Executive Order 2020-257 took effect. The order directed individuals in Kentucky to stay home except for essential activities and closed nonessential businesses in the state. Gov. Andy Beshear (D) issued the order on March 25.

◦ In Colorado, an order directing individuals to stay home unless performing essential activities and placing restrictions on non-essential businesses took effect. Gov. Jared Polis (D) and Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, issued the order March 25.

Travel restrictions

◦ Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order requiring people flying to Texas from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or New Orleans self-quarantine for two weeks.

School closures:

◦ Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced that schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year. 

◦ Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced that schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year. 

Election changes:

◦ Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) issued an executive order authorizing a candidate and/or campaign to deliver petition sheets to voters electronically. 

◦ The Republican Party of North Carolina postponed its state convention, originally scheduled for May 14, to June 4.

Federal government responses:

◦ President Donald Trump (R) declared major disasters in Maryland and New Jersey.

Friday, March 27, 2020:

Stay-at-home orders:

◦ In Minnesota, an order took effect directing individuals in the state to remain at home unless performing essential activities and placing restrictions on non-essential businesses. Gov. Tim Walz (D) signed the order on March 25.

Travel restrictions

◦ South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) issued an executive order requiring people traveling to South Carolina from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and New Orleans to self-quarantine for two weeks. 

◦ New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed an executive order requiring all travelers who entered New Mexico through an airport to self-quarantine for 14 days. 

School closures:

◦ New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that the statewide school closure scheduled to end April 1 was extended through April 15.

◦ Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) announced that the statewide school closure initially scheduled to end April 3 was extended through April 17.

Election changes:

◦ Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed a bill postponing the state’s primary to June 2, 2020, into law. It was originally scheduled for April 28, 2020.

Federal government responses:

◦ The U.S. House passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on an unrecorded voice vote.

◦ President Donald Trump (R) signed the CARES Act.

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. To get information on vaccine distribution in your state, click here.



Federal Register weekly update: 60 new final rules

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.

From March 1 through March 5—the seventh week of the Biden administration—the Federal Register grew by 1,302 pages for a year-to-date total of 13,148 pages. During the same period of the Trump administration in 2017, the Federal Register grew by 876 pages for a year-to-date total of 13,378 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 547 documents:

• 428 notices

• 12 presidential documents

• 47 proposed rules

• 60 final rules

No proposed or final rules were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to 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. The Biden administration has issued four significant proposed rules and two significant final rules as of March 5.

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.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2019, 2018, and 2017: https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_to_the_Federal_Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2018



White House withdraws first Cabinet nominee

President Joe Biden (D) withdrew the nomination of Neera Tanden for director of the Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday after several senators, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), said they would vote against confirming her. This marks the first failed nomination of Biden’s administration.

Biden said in a statement, “I have accepted Neera Tanden’s request to withdraw her name from nomination for Director of the Office of Management and Budget. I have the utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience and her counsel, and I look forward to having her serve in a role in my Administration. She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work.”

In her withdrawal letter to Biden, Tanden said, “I appreciate how hard you and your team at the White House has worked to win my confirmation. Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities.”

The White House has not yet named a new nominee, although the following individuals are reportedly in consideration:

• Shalanda Young is a former staff director for the House Appropriations Committee. She had a confirmation hearing this week for her nomination for OMB deputy director.

• Gene Sperling was previously in consideration for the position. He was director of the National Economic Council in both the Clinton and Obama administration.

• Ann O’Leary was California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) chief of staff. O’Leary worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

• Martha Coven was the associate director for Education, Income Maintenance, and Labor in the OMB during the Obama administration. She was also involved in Biden’s search committee for the OMB.

• Sarah Bianchi was a deputy assistant to the president for economic policy in the Obama administration and is a longtime Biden policy aide.

The Senate has confirmed 13 of Biden’s Cabinet nominees, including three earlier this week:

• Miguel Cardona for secretary of education (64-33)

• Gina Raimondo for secretary of commerce (84-15)

• Cecilia Rouse for chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (95-4)

Eight other nominees are awaiting committee or confirmation votes. Eric Lander, Biden’s nominee to lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy, is awaiting a confirmation hearing.

Four Republicans have supported all 13 of Biden’s nominees so far:

• Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)

• Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)

• Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)

• Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah)

The following senators have voted against all or most of Biden’s nominees:

• Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) voted against 12 of the 13 nominees. The only nominee he supported was Rouse.

• Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) voted against 11 of the 13 nominees.

• Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) voted against 10 of the 13 nominees.

• Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) voted against 9 of the 13 nominees.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is the only Democrat or independent who caucuses with Democrats to vote against one of Biden’s nominees.

Additional Reading:



Federal Register weekly update: Biden administration’s highest weekly page total to date

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.

From February 22 through February 26—the sixth week of the Biden administration—the Federal Register grew by 1,408 pages for a year-to-date total of 11,846 pages. During the same period of the Trump administration in 2017, the Federal Register grew by 714 pages for a year-to-date total of 12,502 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 673 documents:

• 465 notices

• five presidential documents

• 87 proposed rules

• 116 final rules

One proposed rule from the Agricultural Marketing Service concerning lamb promotion, research, and information as well as one final rule from the Federal Aviation Administration regarding unmanned aircraft operations were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to 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. The Biden administration has issued four significant proposed rules and two significant final rules as of February 26.

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.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2019, 2018, and 2017: https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_to_the_Federal_Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2018



OIRA reviewed 16 significant rules in February

Image of the south facade of the White House.

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) reviewed a total of 16 significant regulatory actions issued by federal agencies in February 2021. The agency approved no rules without changes and approved the intent of eight rules while recommending changes to their content. Agencies withdrew eight rules from the review process.

OIRA reviewed 44 significant regulatory actions in February 2020, 23 significant regulatory actions in February 2019, 20 significant regulatory actions in February 2018, and three significant regulatory actions in February 2017. (During the Obama administration from 2009-2016, OIRA reviewed an average of 40 significant regulatory actions each February.)

OIRA has reviewed a total of 148 significant rules in 2021. The agency reviewed a total of 676 significant rules in 2020, 475 significant rules in 2019, 355 significant rules in 2018, and 237 significant rules in 2017.

As of March 1, 2021, OIRA’s website listed 22 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. To view this project, visit: 

https://ballotpedia.org/Completed_OIRA_review_of_federal_administrative_agency_rules

Additional Reading:



Senate expected to confirm at least two Biden Cabinet nominees this week

Senate confirmation votes are expected this week for two of President Joe Biden’s (D) Cabinet nominees: Tom Vilsack for secretary of agriculture on Feb. 23 and Linda Thomas-Greenfield for ambassador to the United Nations by Feb. 24.

Vilsack previously served as the secretary of agriculture for eight years in the Obama administration. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2009.

Thomas-Greenfield is a veteran diplomat who served in the U.S. Foreign Service for three decades. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced her nomination by a vote of 18-4.

Seven members Biden’s 23 member Cabinet have been confirmed:

  • Tony Blinken, secretary of state
  • Janet Yellen, secretary of the Treasury
  • Lloyd Austin, secretary of defense
  • Pete Buttigieg, secretary of transportation
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of homeland security
  • Denis McDonough, secretary of veterans affairs
  • Avril Haines, director of national intelligence

The following chart compares the pace of Senate confirmations for the main Cabinet members—the 15 agency heads in the presidential line of succession—following the inaugurations of President Donald Trump (R) and Biden. It does not include Cabinet-rank officials that vary by administration.

Nearly five weeks after their respective inaugurations, nine of Trump’s secretaries had been confirmed compared to six for Biden.



Federal Register weekly update: Tops 10,000 pages

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.

From February 15 through February 19—the fifth week of the Biden administration—the Federal Register grew by 1,006 pages for a year-to-date total of 10,438 pages. During the same period of the Trump administration in 2017, the Federal Register grew by 658 pages for a year-to-date total of 11,788 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 436 documents:

• 384 notices

• two presidential document

• 13 proposed rules

• 37 final rules

One proposed rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concerning the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) was deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to 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. The Biden administration has issued three significant proposed rules and one significant final rule as of February 19.

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.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2019, 2018, and 2017: https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_to_the_Federal_Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2018



Final executive clemency update of Trump presidency

The U.S. Constitution, in Article II, Section 2, grants the president the power of executive clemency. Executive clemency includes the power to pardon, in which the president overturns a federal conviction and restores “an individual to the state of innocence that existed before the conviction.” From 2017-2021, Donald Trump (R) issued 143 pardons and 94 commutations. That averages out to about 36 pardons per year and 24 commutations per year. 

Trump’s 143 total pardons are the most by a one-term president since Jimmy Carter (D), who issued 534 total pardons. His 36 average annual pardons are the most of any president since Bill Clinton (D).

Trump issued the second-most commutations since Lyndon Johnson (D), behind Barack Obama who issues 1,715 commutations. Trump’s average annual commutations issued are also second-most since Johnson.

Since 1902, presidents have issued 14,333 pardons (about 120 per year) and 6,641 commutations (about 56 per year). Democratic presidents issued 8,393 pardons and 4,103 commutations, while Republican presidents issued 5,940 pardons and 2,538 commutations. The president to issue the most pardons in that span was Franklin Roosevelt (2,819) and the president to issue the most commutations in that span was Obama (1,715).



U.S. Senate acquits former President Trump of incitement of insurrection

The U.S. Senate acquitted President Donald Trump (R) of incitement of insurrection on Feb. 13. All 50 Democrats and seven Republicans voted guilty. The other 43 Republicans voted not guilty. The seven Republicans to vote guilty were:

◦ Richard Burr (R-N.C.)

◦ Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

◦ Susan Collins (R-Maine)

◦ Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)

◦ Mitt Romney (R-Utah)

◦ Ben Sasse (R-Neb.)

◦ Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)

Trump is the only president to be impeached twice by the House. Trump was previously acquitted of abuse of power by a vote of 52-48 and obstruction of Congress by a vote of 53-47 on Feb. 5, 2020.