Tagfederal tap

The Federal Tap: Federal court blocks Biden administration’s healthcare worker vaccine requirement

Our weekly summary of federal news highlights a federal court blocking the Biden administration’s healthcare worker vaccine requirement and SCOTUS’ December argument sitting. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the Federal Tap.

Congress is in session

Both the House and Senate are in session next week. Click here to see the full calendar for the first session of the 117th Congress.

SCOTUS is in session

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in five cases next week. To learn about the 2021-2022 term, click here.

Where was the president last week?

On Monday, Biden remained in Washington, D.C.

On Tuesday, Biden delivered remarks on the bipartisan infrastructure law in St. Paul, Minnesota.

On Wednesday, Biden remained in Washington, D.C. 

On Thursday, Biden delivered remarks on COVID-19 at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. 

On Friday, Biden departed Washington, D.C., for Camp David, Maryland.

Opinion polling comparison during the Trump and Biden administrations

President Biden’s approval rating for the 44th week of his term was 42%, down 0.6 percentage points from the week before. President Trump’s approval rating at the same point in his term was 38.2%, down 0.1 percentage points from the week before.

Federal Judiciary

  • 78 federal judicial vacancies
  • 26 pending nominations
  • 37 future federal judicial vacancies

Upcoming Article III Judicial Vacancies

According to the latest vacancy data from the U.S. Courts, there were 37 total announced upcoming vacancies for Article III judgeships. The earliest vacancy announcement was on Jan. 21, 2021, when U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas Judge Vanessa Gilmore announced that she would retire on Jan. 2, 2022. The most recent was on Dec. 1, 2021, when U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit Judge David Hamilton announced he would assume senior status upon the confirmation of his successor. Twenty vacancy effective dates have not been determined because the judge has not announced the date they will leave the bench. 

The next upcoming vacancies will occur on Dec. 27, when U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon Judge Michael Mosman assumes senior status.

For historical comparison, the week of Nov. 29 through Dec. 5, 2020, there were 58 federal judicial vacancies and five upcoming vacancies in the federal judiciary reported by the U.S. Courts.

SCOTUS begins December argument sitting

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) began its December sitting of the 2021-2022 term on Nov. 29. The court heard arguments in person and provided audio livestreams of arguments.

Nov. 29

Nov. 30

Dec. 1

Next week, SCOTUS will hear arguments in five cases. To date, the court has agreed to hear 50 cases this term. Four cases were dismissed and one case was removed from the argument calendar. Nine cases have not yet been scheduled for argument.

Federal court blocks Biden administration’s healthcare worker vaccine requirement

On Nov. 30, U.S. District Court Judge Terry A. Doughty, who was appointed to the court by former President Donald Trump (R), issued an injunction against the Biden administration’s national vaccine requirement for healthcare workers. The requirement had been set to take effect Dec. 6.

The requirement was originally issued on Nov. 4, and would require vaccinations of eligible staff at healthcare facilities that participate in the Medicare or Medicaid programs. Doughty wrote in his opinion: “There is no question that mandating a vaccine to 10.3 million health care workers is something that should be done by Congress, not a government agency. […] It is not clear that even an act of Congress mandating a vaccine would be constitutional.” The lawsuit was filed by 14 states, led by Louisiana.

A final ruling in the case has not been issued pending oral arguments. Additionally, a ruling in this case could be appealed to a higher court.

Redistricting update: Connecticut Supreme Court assumes control over congressional redistricting

The Connecticut Supreme Court assumed control over the state’s congressional redistricting process on Dec. 1 after its Reapportionment Commission failed to complete redrawing maps by the Nov. 30 deadline. The Commission announced that it had decided to formally request that the state’s highest court grant it a three-week extension to finish congressional redistricting. According to The Westerly Sun, “Both Republicans and Democrats said they’re optimistic they’ll reach an agreement on a bipartisan congressional plan by Dec. 21.”

After the 2010 census, the Reapportionment Commission did not complete congressional redistricting by the deadline and the state supreme court approved a plan developed by a special master on Feb. 10, 2012. Connecticut completed its state legislative redistricting process last month when the Reapportionment Commission approved new district boundaries for both the state House and Senate. 

Also, three states—Maryland, New Mexico, and South Carolina—will hold special legislative sessions during the week of Dec. 6 to consider redistricting plans in each state. Maryland’s and New Mexico’s sessions will commence on Dec. 6. The South Carolina House began its special session on Dec. 1 while the state Senate will start work on Dec. 6.



The Federal Tap: Biden signs Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law

Our weekly summary of federal news highlights the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act becoming law and a judicial ruling against the American Rescue Plan Act’s tax provision. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the Federal Tap.

We won’t publish the Tap next week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Our next edition will be on Dec. 4.

Biden signs Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law

President Joe Biden (D) signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law on Nov. 15. The law allocates $1.2 trillion in new and regular annual infrastructure spending. It includes provisions to invest $89.9 billion in new infrastructure funding and reauthorizations, $66 billion in funding for Amtrak maintenance and development, and $65 billion to create universal access to reliable high-speed internet.

The bill was approved by the Senate on Aug. 10 in a 69-30 vote. All 48 Democrats and the two independents who caucus with Democrats voted in favor of the bill, along with 19 Republicans. Thirty Republicans voted against the bill and one abstained.

The House voted 228-206 to pass the bill on Nov. 5. The yeas consisted of 215 Democrats, who were joined by 13 Republicans, while the nays were made up of 200 Republicans and six Democrats.

Prior to the House passage of the bill, Democratic leaders in the chamber had been waiting on holding a vote until a vote could also be held on the final legislative language of the Build Back Better Act. On Nov. 6, the House voted to approve consideration of the Build Back Better Act.

U.S. district judge rules against American Rescue Plan Act tax provision

On Nov. 15, U.S. District Judge Scott Coogler, who was nominated to the court by George W. Bush (R) in 2003, blocked the enforcement of a provision in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that prevented states from using relief funds to offset tax reductions or credits. 

The lawsuit was brought by 13 states, led by West Virginia and Alabama. The other plaintiff states were: Arkansas, Alaska, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah. In their suit, they argued the provision in question violated the Constitution’s spending clause and the 10th Amendment.

In his ruling, Coogler said, “The language of the Tax Mandate makes it impossible for States to ‘make an informed choice’ about the costs of receiving ARPA funds because it is impossible to know how to exercise taxing authority without putting ARPA funds at risk.” He went on to say that, “any ARPA funds the Plaintiff States receive could be viewed as indirectly offsetting any reduction in net tax revenue from a change in state law or policy.”

Coogler’s ruling prevents the U.S. Treasury Department from enforcing the ARPA provision in any of the states that were plaintiffs in the suit. As of Nov. 18, the Department of Justice had not said whether it would seek to appeal the ruling.

Members of Congress not seeking re-election in 2022

Thirty-two members of Congress—six members of the U.S. Senate and 26 members of the U.S. House—have announced they will not seek re-election. Twenty members—six senators and 14 representatives—have announced their retirement. Five retiring Senate members are Republicans and one is a Democrat, and of the retiring House members, 10 are Democrats and four are Republicans.

Biden issues no pardons or commutations through Sept. 30

From his inauguration through Sept. 30, President Joe Biden (D) issued no pardons or commutations. Since 1902, the other presidents not to issue a pardon or commutation in that same window of time were Barack Obama (D), George W. Bush (R), Bill Clinton (D), and Richard Nixon (R). Obama, Bush, and Clinton did not issue a pardon or commutation until their third year in office. As of November 2021, presidents have issued an average of 120.4 pardons and 55.8 commutations annually.

The U.S. Department of Justice maintains a record of statistics about pardons and commutations. These figures are broken down by fiscal years, which run from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. When presidential transitions occur (such as between Donald Trump and Biden), both presidents can issue pardons and commutations in the same fiscal year.

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.” Executive clemency also includes the power of commutation, which allows a president to shorten or reduce a federal prison sentence.

Nevada is 14th state to enact new congressional maps; authority over redistricting in Washington passes to state supreme court

Nevada: Governor Steve Sisolak (D) signed the state’s new congressional and legislative maps into law on Nov. 16, which will take effect during the 2022 election cycle.

The Nevada Senate approved the redistricting plans by a 12-9 vote on Nov. 14 followed by the state Assembly voting 25-17 on Nov. 16. The maps were passed largely along party lines, with Democrats voting to approve and Republicans voting against.

After signing the maps, Sisolak said, “After a thoughtful, efficient and productive session, I am proud to sign these bills into law today. These maps reflect Nevada’s diversity and reflect public feedback gathered throughout the legislative process.” State Assm. Jill Dickman (R) said, “This bill is universally disliked, but the reason has nothing to do with compromise because there was none.” 

Nevada is the 14th state to enact congressional maps after the 2020 census. During the 2010 redistricting cycle, Nevada enacted its congressional map on Oct. 27, 2011, 20 days earlier than this year. Congressional redistricting is now complete for 111 of the 435 seats (25.5%) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Washington: On Nov. 16, the Washington Redistricting Commission announced that it did not produce new congressional and legislative redistricting plans by its Nov. 15 deadline. According to state law, the authority to draw new maps now rests with the Washington Supreme Court, which has until April 30, 2022, to produce new maps. Although past the deadline, the commission ultimately agreed upon map plans on Nov. 16 and submitted them to the state supreme court for consideration.

In Washington, congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn by a five-member non-politician commission that was established by a constitutional amendment in 1983. The majority and minority leaders of the state Senate and House each appoint one registered voter to the commission. These four commissioners then appoint a fifth, non-voting member to serve as chair.

After the 2010 census, the commission agreed upon new congressional and legislative district plans on Jan. 1, 2012, which was the deadline for them to approve maps before authority over redistricting would have passed to the state supreme court.

Upcoming Article III judicial vacancies

According to the latest vacancy data from the U.S. Courts, there were 35 total announced upcoming vacancies for Article III judgeships. The earliest vacancy announcement was on Jan. 21, 2021, when U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas Judge Vanessa Gilmore announced that she would retire on Jan. 2, 2022. The most recent announcement was on Nov. 4, when U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit Judge Susan Carney announced that she would assume senior status upon the confirmation of her successor. As of Nov. 19, 18 vacancy effective dates were unknown because the judge had not announced the date they would leave the bench. The next upcoming vacancy is scheduled to occur on Nov. 23, when U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Judge Raymond Alvin Jackson assumes senior status.

For historical comparison, the week of Nov. 15-21, 2020, there were 61 federal judicial vacancies and three upcoming vacancies in the federal judiciary reported by the U.S. Courts.

Congress is out of session

Both the House and Senate are out of session next week. Click here to see the full calendar for the first session of the 117th Congress.

SCOTUS is out of session

The Supreme Court will not hear oral arguments next week. To learn about the 2021-2022 term, click here.

Where was the president last week?

On Monday, Biden remained in Washington, D.C. 

On Tuesday, Biden delivered remarks on the infrastructure law in Woodstock, New Hampshire. 

On Wednesday, Biden delivered remarks on the infrastructure law at General Motors’ Factory ZERO, Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center in Detroit, Michigan.  

On Thursday, Biden remained in Washington, D.C. 

On Friday, Biden departed Washington, D.C., for Wilmington, Delaware. 

Federal Judiciary

  • 77 federal judicial vacancies
  • 26 pending nominations
  • 35 future federal judicial vacancies


Previewing the FL-20 special Democratic primary

Our weekly summary of federal news previews Tuesday’s special Democratic primary in FL-20 and highlights SCOTUS’ acceptance of two cases related to Texas’ abortion law. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the Federal Tap.

Enjoy all the Halloween candy this weekend. We think accurate political information is even sweeter. Click here to donate today!

Congress is in session

Both the House and Senate are in session next week. Click here to see the full calendar for the first session of the 117th Congress.

SCOTUS is in session

The Supreme Court will hear five hours and 10 minutes of oral arguments in five cases next week. To learn about the 2021-2022 term, click here.

Where was the president last week?

On Monday, Biden delivered remarks on the Build Back Better agenda and infrastructure deal in North Plainfield and Kearny, New Jersey.

On Tuesday, Biden campaigned for Terry McAuliffe in Arlington, Virginia. 

On Wednesday, Biden remained in Washington, D.C.

On Thursday, Biden departed Washington, D.C., for Rome, Italy. 

On Friday, Biden had an audience with Pope Francis and held bilateral meetings with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and President Emmanuel Macron in Rome, Italy. 

Opinion polling comparison during the Trump and Biden administrations

President Biden’s overall approval average at this point in his term is 51.2%, 10.1 percentage points higher than President Trump’s average of 41.1% at this point in his term.

Federal Judiciary

  • 79 federal judicial vacancies
  • 25 pending nominations
  • 31 future federal judicial vacancies

Upcoming Article III Judicial Vacancies

According to the latest vacancy data from the U.S. Courts, there were 31 total announced upcoming vacancies for Article III judgeships. The earliest vacancy announcement was on Dec. 1, 2020, when U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas Judge Paul K. Holmes announced that he would assume senior status on Nov. 10, 2021. The most recent was on Oct. 13, 2021, when U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi Judge Michael Mills announced that he would assume senior status on Nov. 1, 2021. Thirteen vacancy effective dates have not been determined because the judge has not announced the date they will leave the bench. The next upcoming vacancy will occur on Nov. 1, when Mills and U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Judge John Gibney assume senior status.

For historical comparison, the week of Oct. 25-31, 2020, there were 66 federal judicial vacancies and two upcoming vacancies in the federal judiciary reported by the U.S. Courts.

Seven nominees confirmed to Article III judgeships

This week, the U.S. Senate confirmed seven of President Joe Biden’s (D) federal judicial nominees to lifetime Article III judgeships:

To date, 26 of Biden’s appointees have been confirmed. For historical comparison since 1981, the following list shows the date by which the past six presidents had 26 Article III judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate:

As of this writing, six Article III nominees are awaiting a confirmation vote from the U.S Senate, six nominees are awaiting a Senate Judiciary Committee vote to advance their nominations to the full Senate, and 13 nominees are awaiting a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

FL-20 special Democratic primary preview

Eleven candidates are running in the Nov. 2 special Democratic primary for Florida’s 20th Congressional District. The special election on Jan. 11, 2022, will fill the vacancy left by Alcee Hastings (D), who died in April. Hastings had been in office since 1993. As of September, Inside Elections rated the special election Solid Democratic

The primary field includes five current elected officials: state Rep. Bobby DuBose, state Rep. Omari Hardy, Broward County Commissioners Dale Holness and Barbara Sharief, and state Sen. Perry Thurston. A sixth candidate, Priscilla Taylor, previously held office as a Palm Beach County commissioner.

The five current officeholders were among the top six fundraisers as of Oct. 13. The fundraising leader was Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick with $3.8 million, $3.7 million of which she loaned her campaign. Cherfilus-McCormick ran against Hastings in the 2020 and 2018 Democratic primaries, receiving between 26% and 31% of the vote. Sharief was second in fundraising with $895,000, including $756,000 she loaned her campaign.

All five elected officials had endorsements from state legislators. DuBose also had an endorsement from U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.). The Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida endorsed Hardy. SEIU Florida endorsed Holness, and the Florida AFL-CIO backed Thurston. Sharief received endorsements from U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) and the group Elect Democratic Women. The local chapter of the Communications Workers of America along with Brand New Congress endorsed Cherfilus-McCormick.

Satellite groups have gotten involved in the week ahead of the primary. The Florida Democratic Action PAC spent $102,000 on a cable ad supporting Hardy. The Democratic Majority for Israel PAC ran a newspaper ad criticizing Hardy. 314 Action Fund, a group that aims to get more scientists elected, aired an ad supporting Sharief. Expenditure amounts weren’t available for the latter two ads.

Florida’s 20th Congressional District includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Two states enact congressional, legislative redistricting proposals

Two states—Texas and West Virginia—enacted congressional and legislative redistricting plans this week.

Texas

Texas enacted new congressional districts on Oct. 25 when Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed a proposal approved by the Texas House and Senate into law. This map will take effect for Texas’ 2022 congressional elections. The legislature approved a final version of the map on Oct. 18 with the Senate approving, 18-13, and the House approving the plan, 84-59. Texas was apportioned 38 seats after the 2020 census, a net gain of two seats as compared to apportionment after the 2010 census.

The Texas House and Senate approved maps for each other’s districts on Oct. 15. The House approved the Senate plan by an 81-60 vote, and the Senate approved the House map by an 18-13 vote.

West Virginia

West Virginia enacted new congressional districts on Oct. 22 when Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed a proposal approved by the House of Delegates and Senate into law. On Sept. 30, the House and Senate Redistricting Committees released 18 congressional district map proposals. The West Virginia Senate passed a plan on Oct. 13 by a 30-2 vote that Sen. Charles S. Trump IV proposed. The House voted 84-12 to approve the proposal on Oct. 14. West Virginia was apportioned two seats after the 2020 census, a net loss of one seat as compared to apportionment after the 2010 census.

West Virginia also enacted new state legislative districts on Oct. 22 when Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed map proposals approved by both legislative chambers. The Senate Redistricting Committee approved its map by a 31-2 vote on Oct. 19, and the House approved that map, 72-19. A single-member district map proposal for the West Virginia House of Delegates passed that chamber on Oct. 13, 79-20, and that proposal passed the state Senate on Oct. 18 by a 28-5 vote.

Six states have adopted congressional maps, one state’s congressional map is awaiting approval by the state supreme court, six states were apportioned one congressional district (so no congressional redistricting is required), and 37 states have not yet adopted congressional maps after the 2020 census. Congressional redistricting has been completed for 66 of the 435 seats (15.2%) in the U.S. House of Representatives. At this point in the 2010 redistricting cycle, 24 states had enacted new congressional maps.

Eight states have adopted legislative maps, one state’s legislative map is awaiting approval by the state supreme court, one state enacted its legislative boundaries based on Census estimates which will be revised in an upcoming special session, and 40 states have not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans after the 2020 census. Nationwide, legislative redistricting has been completed for 304 of 1,972 state Senate seats (15.4%) and 758 of 5,411 state House seats (14%). At this point in the 2010 redistricting cycle, 26 states had enacted state legislative maps.

FDA panel recommends emergency use authorization of Pfizer vaccine for 5-11 year-olds

On Oct. 26, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee recommended emergency use authorization of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine in children ages 5-11. The committee voted to recommend the authorization in a 17-0 vote, with one member abstaining.

In order for the emergency use authorization to be fully approved for that age group, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must formally authorize the vaccines for children. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is expected to decide whether to recommend emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for children under 12 during a meeting set for Nov. 2, meaning vaccinations for that age group could begin as soon as Nov. 3.

SCOTUS accepts two cases related to Texas’ S.B. 8; schedules argument for Nov. 1

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) accepted two new cases on Oct. 22 for review during its 2021-2022 term. Both cases relate to Texas’ abortion law S.B. 8 and have been scheduled for oral argument on Nov. 1.

  1. Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson concerns a state’s ability to avoid federal judicial review of state law by creating a private enforcement mechanism. The question before the court is: “[W]hether a State can insulate from federal-court review a law that prohibits the exercise of a constitutional right by delegating to the general public the authority to enforce that prohibition through civil actions.” Whole Woman’s Health originated from the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
  2. United States v. Texas concerns the federal government’s right to challenge Texas law S.B. 8 in federal court. The question presented to the court asks: “May the United States bring suit in federal court and obtain injunctive or declaratory relief against the state, state court judges, state court clerks, other state officials, or all private parties to prohibit S.B. 8 from being enforced.” The case originated from the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

Both cases came to the Supreme Court on a writ of certiorari before judgment, which means the Supreme Court will consider the cases before the lower appellate court reaches a final judgment. In contrast, a typical grant of certiorari involves the Supreme Court hearing a case only after the lower appellate court has issued its judgment. According to Supreme Court Rule 11, a writ of certiorari before judgment “will be granted only upon a showing that the case is of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this Court.”

The Supreme Court began hearing cases for its 2021-2022 term on Oct. 4. It heard arguments in nine cases during its October sitting and is scheduled to hear arguments in 10 cases during its November sitting, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 1. The court has agreed to hear 43 cases this term. Three cases were dismissed, and one case was removed from the argument calendar. Ten cases have not yet been scheduled for argument.



The Federal Tap: Biden announces plans to offer COVID-19 booster shots

Our weekly summary of federal news highlights Biden’s announcement of plans to offer COVID-19 booster shots and the SCOTUS November argument calendar. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the Federal Tap.

Congress is in session

The House is in session next week. Click here to see the full calendar for the first session of the 117th Congress.

SCOTUS is out of session

The Supreme Court will not hear oral arguments next week. To learn about the 2020-2021 term, click here.

Where was the president last week?

On Monday, Biden traveled to Washington, D.C., from Camp David, Maryland, and returned to Camp David that evening. 

On Tuesday, Biden departed Camp David, Maryland, for Washington, D.C. 

On Wednesday and Thursday, Biden remained in Washington, D.C. 

On Friday, Biden departed Washington, D.C., for Wilmington, Delaware. 

Federal Judiciary

  • 85 federal judicial vacancies
  • 22 pending nominations
  • 32 future federal judicial vacancies

U.S. Supreme Court announces November argument calendar

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on Aug. 16 released its calendar for the November sitting for the October 2021-2022 term, scheduling nine cases for argument. The court will hear nine hours of oral argument between Nov. 1 and Nov. 10. 

Click the links below to learn more about the cases:

Nov. 1

Nov. 2

Nov. 3

Nov. 8

Nov. 9

Nov. 10

To date, 11 cases that have been granted review during the term have not yet been scheduled for argument. Two cases were dismissed after they were accepted. The court has agreed to hear 31 cases total during the 2021-2022 term.

Biden announces plans to offer COVID-19 booster shots, requires medical staff working with ​​Medicare and Medicaid enrollees to be vaccinated 

On Aug. 18, President Joe Biden (D) announced a plan to offer a third COVID-19 vaccine booster shot to Americans beginning Sept. 20. According to the plan, booster shots will only be available to people at least eight months after their second shot.

For the plan to go into effect, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices would need to approve booster shots for the general population. On Aug. 12, the FDA approved booster shots for some immunocompromised people. Biden also announced he would direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to withhold federal Medicare and Medicaid funds from nursing homes that do not require staff to be fully vaccinated.



Voters to decide runoff election in Texas’ 6th Congressional District

The Federal Tap

This week Ballotpedia launched its first-ever store! Now you can share your love of informed voting by rocking our gear. See what we have in store for you!

Our weekly summary of federal news highlights the runoff election in the special election for Texas’ 6th Congressional District and the primaries for the special election for Ohio’s 15th Congressional District. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the Federal Tap.

Congress is in session

Both the House and Senate are in session next week. Click here to see the full calendar for the first session of the 117th Congress.

SCOTUS is out of session

The Supreme Court will not hear oral arguments next week. To learn about the 2020-2021 term, click here.

Where was the president last week?

On Monday and Tuesday, Biden remained in Washington, D.C. 

On Wednesday, Biden participated in a CNN town hall in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

On Thursday, Biden remained in Washington, D.C. 

On Friday, Biden departed Washington, D.C., for Wilmington, Delaware. 

Federal Judiciary

  • 82 federal judicial vacancies
  • 22 pending nominations
  • 31 future federal judicial vacancies

Ballotpedia’s polling index shows presidential approval at 51%, congressional approval at 23%

Ballotpedia’s polling index showed President Joe Biden (D) at 51% approval and 43% disapproval as of July 22. At this time last month, his approval rating was at 52%.

The highest approval rating Biden has received during his tenure is 55%, last seen on May 26. This week’s approval rating matches his lowest of 51% on March 29.

Congressional approval is at 23% and disapproval is at 56%, according to our index. At this time last month, congressional approval was at 19%.

The highest approval rating the 117th Congress has received is the 36% received last week (July 15). The lowest approval rating it has received is 19%, last seen on June 23.

At this time during the tenure of former President Donald Trump (R), presidential approval was at 41% and congressional approval was at 19%. To see more comparisons between Biden and Trump administration polling, click here.

Voters to decide runoff election in Texas’ 6th Congressional District on July 27

Texas’ 6th Congressional District will hold a special election runoff on July 27. Jake Ellzey (R) and Susan Wright (R) are running to fill the vacancy left by Rep. Ronald Wright (R), who died from COVID-19 related complications on Feb. 7. The district is located in the northeastern portion of the state and includes Ellis and Navarro counties and an area of Tarrant County.

Susan Wright is Ronald Wright’s widow. Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed her on April 26. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) endorsed Ellzey.

Since both runoff candidates are Republicans, the district will not change party hands as a result of the election. The two advanced from a 23-candidate special election on May 1. Wright received 19.2% of the vote, while Ellzey received 13.8% of the vote.

Three special elections to the 117th Congress have taken place so far in 2021. The election in Texas’ 6th is one of four more currently scheduled.

New Jersey chief justice asks political parties to submit consensus candidate for congressional redistricting commission

On July 20, New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner asked Democrats and Republicans to reconvene and select a consensus candidate as the 13th member of the state’s congressional redistricting commission

According to state law, 12 of the 13 commissioners are appointed by the majority and minority leaders of the legislature and the chairs of the state’s two major political parties. These 12 commissioners then appoint the last commission member. If they cannot agree on an appointment, the commissioners must submit two names to the state supreme court and the court must then appoint the final commissioner. 

According to The New Jersey Globe, “This is the first time the two parties haven’t agreed on a thirteenth member for congressional redistricting. The Supreme Court option wasn’t involved in 1991, 2001 and 2011.” Chief Justice Rabner gave the commissioners until July 30 to respond with a consensus candidate. If they do not, the state supreme court will pick a tie-breaker candidate by Aug. 10.

Primaries for the special election to Ohio’s 15th Congressional District on Aug. 3

Ohio’s primary on Aug. 3 is less than two weeks away, and in the state’s 15th Congressional District, four Republican candidates are leading media attention and endorsements: Mike Carey, Ruth Edmonds, Jeff LaRe, and Bob Peterson

The Republican nominee will face the winner of the Democratic primary in a special election on Nov. 2, 2021. Greg Betts and Allison Russo are running in the Democratic primary.

The special election will fill the vacancy left by Steve Stivers (R), who resigned to become the president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, effective May 16, 2021. Stivers had held the district since 2011 and won his last re-election in 2020 with a 26.8 point margin-of-victory against Joel Newby (D).

Carey, past president and chairman of the Ohio Coal Association and U.S. Army National Guard veteran, has said he will “bring back America First policies and rebuild the American economy.” He was endorsed by former President Donald Trump (R).

Endorsed by the Right Women PAC, Edmonds is an ordained minister and former president of the Ohio NAACP. She has said she is “Committed to Life [and] to ending the hateful rhetoric around race.”

Private security executive and member of the Ohio state legislature, LaRe has said his “top priority is keeping our communities and our families safe.” He was endorsed by the previous officeholder, Steve Stivers.

Peterson was endorsed by the Ohio Right to Life PAC. A farmer and member of the Ohio state legislature, he has said he is a “tireless advocate for faith, family and freedom.” 

The seven other candidates also running in the primary are: John Adams, Eric M. Clark, Thad Cooperridder, Ron Hood, Tom Hwang, Stephanie Kunze, and Omar Tarazi.

As of July 2021, the Ohio House delegation consisted of three Democrats and 11 Republicans, with two seats up for special election this year. The overall partisan composition of the U.S. House is 220 Democrats and 211 Republicans. The general election is rated as Solid Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.

Campaign finance data has not yet been released on the race, but on July 14, Politico cited advertising data to report that Rep. Stivers had “spent nearly $300,000 in remaining funds from his campaign account” on LaRe’s campaign, while the Protect Freedom PAC had reserved $216,000 in advertising time for Hood.

To learn more about the candidates’ platforms or to find out what other races are on your ballot, check out Ballotpedia’s Sample Ballot Lookup tool.

Vice President Harris casts eighth tie-breaking vote in Senate

Vice President Kamala Harris (D) cast her eighth tie-breaking vote in the Senate on July 21 to confirm Jennifer Ann Abruzzo as general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board. The Senate voted 50-50 along party lines.

Harris previously cast tie-breaking votes related to the confirmation processes of Kiran Ahuja for director of the Office of Personnel Management and Colin Kahl for under secretary of defense for policy.

In the past four decades, vice presidents have cast a total of 40 tie-breaking votes. Vice President Mike Pence (R) cast the most during this time period with 13 tie-breaking votes.

John Adams cast the first tie-breaking vote on July 18, 1789. In total, there have been 276 tie-breaking votes from 37 vice presidents. Twelve vice presidents, including Joe Biden (D) and Dan Quayle (R), never cast a tie-breaking vote during their time in office.



The Federal Tap: Early voting begins in runoff in Texas’ 6th Congressional District

The Federal Tap

Our weekly summary of federal news highlights the start of early voting in the special runoff election between two Republicans in Texas’ 6th Congressional District and the Supreme Court’s announcement of the list of cases it will hear at the start of the October 2021-2022 term. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the Federal Tap.

Early voting begins July 19 in runoff in Texas’ 6th Congressional District

Voters in Texas’ 6th Congressional District may vote early from July 19 to July 23 in the district’s special election runoff. Jake Ellzey (R) and Susan Wright (R) are running in the July 27 race to fill the vacancy left when the previous incumbent, Ronald Wright (R), died from COVID-19 related complications on Feb. 7. The district is located in the northeastern portion of the state and includes Ellis and Navarro counties and an area of Tarrant County.

Susan Wright is Ronald Wright’s widow. Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed her on April 26. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) endorsed Ellzey.

Since both runoff candidates are Republicans, the seat will not change party hands as a result of the election. The two advanced from a 23-candidate special election on May 1. Wright received 19.2% of the vote while Ellzey received 13.8% of the vote. 

U.S. Supreme Court releases October 2021 argument calendar

The Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) released its argument calendar for the 2021-2022 term’s October sitting on July 13. The court will hear nine hours of oral argument in nine cases between Oct. 4 and Oct. 13. 

Click the links below to learn more about each case:

October 4, 2021

October 5, 2021

October 6, 2021

October 12, 2021

October 13, 2021

To date, 20 cases that have been granted review during the term have not yet been scheduled for argument. Two cases were dismissed after they were accepted. The court has agreed to hear 31 cases so far during its 2021-2022 term.

Where was the president last week?

  • On Monday, Biden remained in Washington, D.C.
  • On Tuesday, Biden delivered remarks in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Biden remained in Washington, D.C. for the rest of the week.

Federal Judiciary

  • 83 federal judicial vacancies
  • 23 pending nominations
  • 31 future federal judicial vacancies

Leading Democrats announce campaign appearances in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District special election

Two Democratic candidates have announced campaign appearances by nationally known figures ahead of the special Democratic primary election in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District on Aug. 3. The election is being held to fill the vacancy left when Biden appointed former incumbent Marcia Fudge (D) secretary of housing and urban development. Thirteen candidates are running in the Democratic primary.

Nina Turner announced on July 15 that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) will campaign for her in Northeast Ohio on July 24. Ocasio-Cortez is one of six representatives that refer to themselves as The Squad, along with Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). All have endorsed Turner, a former state senator and co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) 2020 presidential campaign.

National Journal columnist Josh Kraushaar tweeted that House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus will be in the 11th District the weekend ahead of the election to campaign for Shontel Brown, a member of the Cuyahoga County Council and chair of the county Democratic Party.

Michigan Supreme Court rejects independent commission’s request to extend redistricting deadlines

The Michigan Supreme Court rejected a request on July 9 by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to extend the state’s constitutional deadlines for adopting new redistricting plans. This means that the constitutional deadlines–presentation to the public by Sept. 17 and adoption by Nov. 1–remain in effect. 

The commission had argued that it would “not be able to comply with the constitutionally imposed timeline,” due to delays in receiving detailed redistricting data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The commission had asked the state supreme court to order the commission to propose plans within 72 days of the receipt of redistricting data and to approve plans within 45 days thereafter.

In its unsigned order, the court said that it was “not persuaded that it should grant the requested relief.” In her concurring opinion, Justice Elizabeth Welch wrote, “The Court’s decision is not a reflection on the merits of the questions briefed or how this Court might resolve a future case raising similar issues. It is indicative only that a majority of this Court believes that the anticipatory relief sought is unwarranted.”

Congress is in session

Both the House and Senate are in session next week. Click here to see the full calendar for the first session of the 117th Congress.

SCOTUS is out of session

The Supreme Court will not hear oral arguments next week. To learn about the 2020-2021 term, click here.

Ballotpedia’s polling index shows presidential approval at 52%, congressional approval at 36%

Ballotpedia’s polling index showed President Joe Biden (D) at 52% approval and 43% disapproval as of July 15. At this time last month, his approval rating was at 53%.

The highest approval rating Biden has received during his tenure is 55%, last seen on May 26. The lowest approval rating he has received is 51% on March 29.

Congressional approval is at 36% and disapproval is at 55%, according to our index. At this time last month, congressional approval was at 26%.

The 117th Congress’ current approval rating of 36% is the highest it has received. The lowest approval rating it has received is 19%, last seen on June 23.

At this time during the tenure of former President Donald Trump (R), presidential approval was at 41% and congressional approval was at 20%. To see more comparisons between Biden and Trump administration polling, click here.

President Biden signs proclamations commemorating Atomic Veterans Day, Captive Nations Week

President Joe Biden (D) signed a proclamation on July 15, declaring July 16 as National Atomic Veterans Day. The commemoration honors veterans of the armed forces who were exposed to radiation between 1945 and 1962 in the course of their military service. President Ronald Reagan (R) was the first president to recognize National Atomic Veterans Day, doing so on July 16, 1983.

Among the honorees are service members who were in or near Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the time of the atomic bombings, and those who worked at nuclear test sites in the U.S. The United States detonated the first nuclear device in world history on July 16, 1945, in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
On July 16, Biden signed a proclamation declaring July 18 through 24 as Captive Nations Week. Biden said the week was dedicated to awareness and remembrance of people living in undemocratic nations and specifically mentioned ongoing unrest in Belarus, China, Burma, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Ukraine. President Dwight Eisenhower (R) was the first president to recognize Captive Nations Week in 1960.



Federal Tap: Senate confirms first Biden-appointed judges

Our weekly summary of federal news highlights Biden’s first judges confirmed by the U.S. Senate and Val Demings’ announcement that she’s running for the U.S. Senate seat from Florida. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the Federal Tap.

Status of the Federal Branches

Is Congress in session?

Both the House and Senate are in session next week. Click here to see the full calendar for the first session of the 117th Congress.

Is the Supreme Court in session?

The Supreme Court will not hear oral arguments next week. To learn about the 2020-2021 term, click here.

Where was the president last week?

  • On Monday and Tuesday, Biden remained in Washington, D.C.
  • On Wednesday, Biden delivered remarks to U.S. Air Force personnel and their families stationed at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, United Kingdom.
  • On Thursday, Biden participated in a bilateral meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom.

What’s the latest with the federal judiciary?

  • 83 federal judicial vacancies
  • 15 pending nominations
  • 30 future federal judicial vacancies

U.S. Supreme Court accepts case for next term

The U.S. Supreme Court issued orders on June 7 emanating from their June 3 conference. The court accepted one new case to be argued during the upcoming 2021-2022 term: Federal Bureau of Investigation v. Fazaga. The case concerns the state-secrets privilege and originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. 

Three residents of Southern California who practice Islam filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. district court against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). They alleged that the FBI paid a confidential informant to surveil Muslims based solely on their religious identity for more than a year as part of a counterterrorism investigation and that the program included unlawful searches and anti-Muslim discrimination. The FBI asserted the state-secrets privilege and moved to dismiss the case. The district court dismissed all but one of the plaintiffs’ claims. On appeal, the 9th Circuit upheld in part and reversed in part the district court’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings to review the case’s evidence for privilege.

To date, the court has accepted 19 cases for argument next term. Including FBI v. Fazaga, the court has granted review in four cases originating from the 9th Circuit. 

SCOTUS issues rulings in two cases

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued rulings in two cases. Sanchez v. Mayorkas was decided on Monday, June 7, and Borden v. United States was decided by the court on Thursday, June 10.

Sanchez v. Mayorkas concerned grants of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to non-citizens. In a unanimous ruling, SCOTUS upheld the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s ruling, holding that a TPS recipient who unlawfully entered the country is not eligible for lawful-permanent-resident (LPR) status solely based on their TPS grant. Justice Elena Kagan authored the court’s majority opinion. 

Borden v. United States concerned the “use of force” clause in the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). In a 5-4 opinion, the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that a reckless offense cannot qualify as a “violent felony” if it only requires a mens rea of recklessness–a less culpable mental state than purpose or knowledge. Justice Elena Kagan delivered the court’s majority opinion, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil Gorsuch. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion. Justice Brett Kavanaugh filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Amy Coney Barrett.

To date, the court has decided 44 cases, and 21 are yet to be decided this term.

Senate confirms first Biden-appointed judges

Last week, the U.S. Senate confirmed three of President Joe Biden’s (D) federal judicial nominees to Article III courts, marking the first federal judicial confirmations of the Biden administration. Two were confirmed on June 8, and one nominee was confirmed on June 10.

  • Julien Xavier Neals, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, by a 66-33 vote.
  • Regina Rodriguez, U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, by a 72-28 vote.
  • Zahid Quraishi, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, by an 81-16 vote.

The three confirmed nominees were officially nominated by Biden on April 19 and had their nomination hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 28. Each of the nominees was rated as well qualified by the American Bar Association.

The confirmed nominees will join their respective courts upon receiving their judicial commissions and taking their judicial oaths.

Ballotpedia’s polling index shows presidential approval at 53%, congressional approval at 26%

Ballotpedia’s polling index showed President Joe Biden (D) at 53% approval and 41% disapproval as of June 11. At this time last month, his approval rating was also at 53%.

The highest approval rating Biden has received during his tenure is 55%, last seen on May 26. The lowest approval rating he has received is 51% on March 29.

Congressional approval is at 26%, and disapproval is at 60%, according to our index. At this time last month, congressional approval was at 30%.

The highest approval rating the 117th Congress has received is 30%, last seen on May 11. The lowest approval rating it has received is 20%, last seen on March 3.

At this time during the tenure of former President Donald Trump (R), presidential approval was at 42%, and congressional approval was at 18%. To see more comparisons between Biden and Trump administration polling, click here.

Demings announces run for U.S. Senate from Florida

U.S. Rep. Val Demings (D) officially announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate on June 9. Demings currently represents Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Marco Rubio (R) is Florida’s incumbent U.S. Senator who is up for election in 2022. He was first elected to the Senate in 2010.

Demings announced she was running in a three-minute video in which she discussed how her upbringing and experiences had given her “tireless faith that things can always get better.” Demings said in the video, “I have never tired of representing Florida. Not for one single moment.”

Demings first ran for Florida’s 10th Congressional District seat in 2012, losing to incumbent Daniel Webster (R), 51% to 48%. She ran again in 2016 to represent District 10 after Webster decided to run in the 11th District. Demings defeated Thuy Lowe (R), 65% to 35% in 2016. She was re-elected in 2018 and 2020.

Demings is the 12th member of the House of Representatives to announce they are retiring or seeking another office. Six of those are Democrats, and six are Republicans. Demings is one of four members who are seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Biden makes first overseas trip to Europe as president

President Joe Biden (D) began his first trip abroad as president on June 9 with a trip to the United Kingdom, where he met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson the following day. Biden will remain overseas until June 16. Here’s the rest of his schedule:

  • June 11-13: Biden will attend the G7 summit and hold bilateral meanings with other G7 leaders. He will also meet with Queen Elizabeth II.
  • June 14: Biden will be in Brussels, meeting with NATO leaders and holding a private session with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
  • June 15: Biden will continue to attend NATO meetings before flying to Geneva.
  • June 16: Biden will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.