Last week saw the Georgia Senate results came in, and a seditious insurrection waged on the Congress by devoted followers of the President. Both will have significant impacts on the politics and policies this year, and while much has been written about the attack on the Capitol, we want to spend a moment discussing the near and long term impacts of unified Democratic control of the Federal government.
First, and foremost, it is my opinion Democrat “control” of the Senate will not bring the panacea of policy changes that the progressive wing of the party seeks. However, it will have some direct and immediate impacts, primarily that President Biden will have an easier time confirming his Cabinet and other key positions requiring Senate confirmation, and that he will be less constrained by the political leanings of those he wishes to appoint.
Second, Democratic control of the Senate means that that use of the reconciliation process and the Congressional Review Act (CRA) are on the table, as both only require a 51 vote majority for passage.
In terms of the larger agenda, absent a change to the filibuster – and at the moment there does not appear to be enough Democratic support to sustain that change – any of the other substantial policy changes sought by the progressive wing, such as increasing the size of the Supreme Court or adding DC statehood are not feasible, because they require 60 votes in the Senate to end debate.
Ultimately, much of the agenda for the Biden Administration and the Democratic Congress for the next year depends on the lens through which Democrats view the political landscape. While it is all but certain the far left will demand massive change and seek to do as much as possible in first 24 months- perhaps justifiably so due to legitimate concerns that either the House or Senate majorities could be removed in the next election, there failure to drive votes in the congressional districts that matter may complicate their message.
Conversely, moderates will argue that bipartisan deals and incremental achievements, likely augmented by a President Biden who continues to position himself as a consensus builder and shepherd to a calmer America, is the path to maintaining a majority. Managing these polarities will be a challenge for both Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer (who may have to fend off a 2022 progressive primary challenge), while simultaneously trying to maintain their respective majorities.
Another factor will be the role that Congressional Republicans want to play -complete obstructionists or strategic partners on certain issues. In the House, McCarthy clearly sees the gavel in his grasp. Prior to to Wednesday’s events, one would have argued that that path to a House majority was by staying close to Trump and using the President to drive small dollar contributions, and eventually turnout in the mid-term elections. Whether that remains true today, tomorrow or in the leadup to the inauguration remains TBD. And the path to the majority for Republicans in the Senate is more complicated as Republicans have six more seats to defend, including two open seats in swing states.
All of these factors, combined with the remote nature of work for the next 6-9 months at a minimum, means it will be critical to keep a finger on the pulse of what is happening, as it is shaping up to be another bumpy year. If you have any questions, or if we can be of any further assistance, please just reply to this email.
Finally, let me conclude by noting that today marks the latest anniversary of my personal trip around the sun. Birthdays are often a time to reflect on the past year and the year ahead. My birthday wish is for all of us to spend more time outside of our houses with friends and family and for a return to normal.
New House Committee Assignments
While any final decisions over the size of the Committees is contingent on an agreement between Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy over the ratios, during the past few weeks, the Democrats have announced a series of appointments to various Committees, both for Freshman and more senior members. We anticipate more announcements as waiver requests for exclusive committees, like the House Financial Services Committee continue to come in, but as of now, new House Majority Committee assignments stand as follows:
- Congressman Adriano Espaillat of New York
- Congressman Josh Harder of California
- Congresswoman Susie Lee of Nevada
- Congressman David Trone of Maryland
- Congresswoman Lauren Underwood of Illinois
- Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton of Virginia
Armed Services Committee:
- Congressman Joseph Morelle of New York
- Congressman Kai Kahele of Hawaii
- Congresswoman Sara Jacobs of California
Education and Labor:
- Congressman-elect Jamaal Bowman of New York
- Congresswoman-elect Teresa Leger Fernandez of New Mexico
- Congresswoman-elect Kathy Manning of North Carolina
- Congressman-elect Frank Mrvan of Indiana
- Congressman Mondaire Jones of New York
Energy and Commerce:
- Congresswoman Angie Craig of Minnesota
- Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher of Texas
- Congresswoman Kathleen Rice of New York
- Congresswoman Kim Schrier of Washington
- Congresswoman Lori Trahan of Massachusetts
- Congressman-elect Ritchie Torres of New York
- Congressman Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts (waiver)
- Congresswoman Nikema Williams of Georgia (waiver)
- Congresswoman-elect Sara Jacobs of California
- Congressman Andy Kim of New Jersey
- Congresswoman Kathy Manning of North Carolina
- Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland of Washington
Homeland Security Committee:
- Congressman Ritchie Torres of New York
- Congresswoman-elect Cori Bush of Missouri
- Congressman-elect Mondaire Jones of New York
- Congresswoman-elect Deborah Ross of North Carolina
- Congresswoman-elect Teresa Leger Fernandez of New Mexico
- Congresswoman Katie Porter of California
Oversight and Reform Committee:
- Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York
- Congresswoman Katie Porter of California
- Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan
- Congresswoman Cori Bush of Missouri
Science, Space and Technology Committee:
- Congressman Jamaal Bowman of New York
Small Business Committee:
- Congressman Dean Phillips of Minnesota
- Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia
- Congresswoman Marie Newman of Illinois
Transportation and Infrastructure:
- Congressman-elect Jake Auchincloss of Massachusetts
- Congresswoman-elect Carolyn Bourdeaux of Georgia
- Congressman-elect Kai Kahele of Hawaii
- Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts
- Congresswoman-elect Marie Newman of Illinois
- Congresswoman-elect Marilyn Strickland of Washington
- Congresswoman-elect Nikema Williams of Georgia
Veterans Affairs Committee:
- Congressman Frank Mrvan of Indiana
Ways and Means:
- Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands
Last Week in Congress
On Sunday, Jan. 3, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was elected to her fourth term as Speaker of the House by a vote of 216-209 vote, almost entirely on party lines.
Members also convened on Monday to vote on the rules package for the new Congress. Passing along party lines by a vote of 217-206, the package includes a key provision that waives statutory “pay-as-you-go” requirements for COVID-19 and climate change-related legislation. The new rules also bring back the proxy voting system implemented as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as reform to a procedural tool known as the motion to recommit. For more on the House rules package for the 117th Congress, click here to read the Rules Committee summary.
Late Wednesday, Congress formally certified President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election following a chaotic day on Capitol Hill. The process was delayed after seditious rioters broke into the Capitol building, forcing an hourslong lockdown that pushed the certification process into the early morning hours. After repeatedly stating that he will not concede the election and supporting GOP lawmakers’ efforts to overturn results in several states, President Donald Trump issued a statement after the certification saying “there will be an orderly transition” to the incoming Biden administration. However he also announced that he would not be attending the inauguration. While the aftermath, including the possibility of a second impeachment, or the Vice President invoking the 25th amendment to remove the President, what is certain is that at this point, President-elect Biden will be sworn into office on Wednesday, January 20.
Speaker Pelosi recently announced the creation of the Select Committee on Economic Disparity & Fairness in Growth, which she stated, “will be an essential force in Congressional Democrats’ action to combat the crisis of income and wealth disparity in America.”
In Case You Missed It
With so much activity occurring during the last two weeks of 2020, we just wanted to offer a handy summary in case you were able to get some much needed down time and wanted to catch up.
— TRUMP REVERSES COURSE, SIGNS OMNIBUS PACKAGE. Just days after a scathing White House address where he criticized key elements of the omnibus and coronavirus relief package, President Donald Trump signed the $2.3 trillion measure into law on Sunday Dec. 26. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were left flummoxed by the President’s pre-holiday rebuke of the spending measure — the results of months of bipartisan negotiations — which he argued should include direct payments of $2,000 per person, up from $600. However, after a series of phone calls with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), as well as a discussion with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), President Trump was ultimately convinced to get to “yes” on the spending package.
— HOUSE OVERRIDES NDAA VETO. House lawmakers voted on Dec. 28 to override Trump’s rejection of the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), by a vote of 322-87 — well past the two-thirds majority required for a veto. On New Year’s Day, the Senate followed with an 81-13 successful vote to override the veto. The $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act then became law, despite the objects by President Trump over Section 230 issues. Notably, this was the first veto override of Trump’s presidency.
— TRUMP PUSHES $2,000 CHECKS, ELECTION FRAUD CLAIMS, SECTION 230. President Trump, as part of his statement announcing that he’d signed the omnibus bill, continued to focus on several of his priorities including his push for $2,000 checks and repealing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. “The Senate will start the process for a vote that increases checks to $2,000, repeals Section 230, and starts an investigation into voter fraud,” he said in his statement. The House will passed a Dec. 28 vote on legislation that would change the $600 in the coronavirus relief-omnibus package to $2,000, by a vote of 275-134. The Senate did not take up the bill, and so the 116th Congress adjourned, leaving the issue for the next Congress.
Last Week in the Administration
Attorneys General Sue Over True Lender Rule
On Tuesday, eight state attorneys general filed a lawsuit against the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s (OCC) True lender Rule, warning that it could lead to more predatory loans by helping payday lenders evade state interest rate caps. The regulation, which was finalized in October, loosens restrictions on loans made by banks in partnership with other firms, such as online lenders. by clarifying a broad range of circumstances in which the bank should be considered the “true lender.” The lawsuit, led by New York and including the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina and the District of Columbia, stated: “In adopting the True Lender Rule, the OCC exceeded its statutory authority by offering an unreasonable interpretation of federal law, and acted in a manner contrary to centuries of case law, the OCC’s own prior interpretation of the law, and the plain statutory language of the federal statutes it purports to interpret.”
FinCEN Anti-Money Laundering Rule
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) recently proposed a new rule that would require cryptocurrency wallets hosted by financial institutions in the U.S. to be tied to verified identities. banks and money services businesses (MSBs) would be required to submit reports, keep records, and verify the identity of customers in relation to transactions above certain thresholds involving convertible virtual currency (CVC) or digital assets with legal tender status (LTDA) wallets not hosted by a financial institution. Under this rule, FinCen seeks “protect national security and aid law enforcement by increasing transparency in digital currencies and closing loopholes that malign actors may exploit.”
The House and Senate were supposed to be on recess this week, however in the aftermath of a seditious rebellion that resulted in the death of at least five people, including two Capitol Hill police officers, the House is slated to return this week to debate articles of impeachment. It is unclear whether the Senate will also return this week, though a memo circulated by Leader McConnell late Friday, threw cold water on the likelihood of the Senate taking up Impeachment before the inauguration of President-elect Biden.