The Golden Apple – February 19, 2021

Life on Mars?
It was not exactly a snow—er, slow news week, and we send our warmest wishes to friends in Texas who are still waiting for power, water, and a break in the weather. But the most exciting news of the week was the Perseverance Mars Rover landing, 140 million miles away. The average temperature on the surface of Mars is about -80F, just for comparison.House Budget Committee releases reconciliation text, sets markup for Monday
Today the House Budget Committee released a new report on and the full text of legislation to implement S.Con.Res. 5, the budget reconciliation agreement that would implement President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. “We are in a race against time, and aggressive, bold action is needed before our nation is permanently scarred by the human and economic costs of inaction,” said Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY). “We have the plan and the fiscal space, we have the American people behind us, and now we have the bill to get it done.” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said that the House will vote on the bill next week, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has promised that the Senate will complete its work on the bill by March 14.Biden extends foreclosure moratorium, mortgage forbearance through June 30
President Biden announced on Tuesday that the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs, and Agriculture are extending their forbearance and foreclosure relief programs through June 30. Borrowers who entered forbearance on or before June 30, 2020, may apply for up to six months of additional forbearance, in three-month increments. These programs will cover 70 percent of existing single-family mortgages. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website offers centralized information for homeowners seeking assistance.Brown says 117th Congress will prioritize working families
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) opened his first hearing with a promise to get help to “all people — to stay in their homes, and pay their bills.” At a hearing that focused on the need to provide additional relief to businesses and smaller cities hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown said the pandemic had worsened racial and gender disparities and economic inequality. “Ohio and the rest of the country do not have to settle for a Wall Street-first recovery,” he said. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), the Committee’s ranking member, called President Biden’s American Rescue Plan “wasteful, poorly targeted, and largely unrelated to COVID,” and warned that raising the minimum wage to $15/hour could cost up to 3.7 million jobs.House panel grills Robinhood, Reddit execs on the GameStop bubble
After social media drove the stock price of GameStop and other companies to artificially high levels last month, House Financial Services Committee ranking member Patrick McHenry (R-NC) was among the first to call for hearings into exactly what happened. Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) obliged by calling the first of what she said would be a series of hearings on the episode yesterday. The CEOs of Robinhood, Reddit, Citadel, and Melvin Capital Management appeared alongside Keith Gill, the retail investor known as Roaring Kitty on Reddit, for more than five hours of questioning by all 54 members of the committee. Chairwoman Waters said that future hearings would include testimony from the new SEC Chair, once confirmed, and from other industry and regulatory representatives. Rep. McHenry said that the GameStop incident had shown the relative sophistication of US retail investors, and was the result of “years of pent-up frustration” with restrictions such as the accredited investor rule.
Confirmations, Nominations, Departures
President Biden nominated James Kvaal as Undersecretary of Education. Kvaal was deputy domestic policy adviser in the Obama White House, where he worked on college affordability and student debt issues. He has held senior staff positions at the Department of Education, the US House of Representatives, and the US Senate, and is currently president of the Institute for College Access & Success.
The Week Ahead
The House and Senate are back in town next week, and making up for lost time.

February 22 at 9:30 a.m. Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to be Attorney General of the United States.

February 22 at 1:00 p.m. House Budget Committee will mark up the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

February 23 at 9:30 a.m. Senate Committee on Energy & National Resources holds a hearing on the nomination of Debra Haaland to be Secretary of the Interior.

February 23 at 10:00 a.m. Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Adewale O. Adeyemo to be Deputy Secretary of the Treasury.

February 23 at 10:00 a.m. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government holds a hearing on oversight of the Internal Revenue Service.

February 23 at 10:00 a.m. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) holds a hearing on the nomination of Xavier Becerra to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.

February 23 at 10:00 a.m. 
Senate Judiciary Committee continues its hearing on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to be Attorney General.

February 23 at 10:00 a.m. 
Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs holds a hearing to receive the Fed’s Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell.

February 24 at 10:00 a.m. 
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform holds a hearing on “Legislative Proposals to Put the Postal Service on a Sustainable Financial Footing.”

February 24 at 10:00 a.m. House Small Business Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Regulations holds a hearing on “Perspectives from Main Street: Raising the Wage.”

February 24 at 10:00 a.m. House Financial Services Committee hears testimony from Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell on “Monetary Policy and the State of the Economy.”

February 24 at 3:00 p.m. House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations holds a hearing on “How Invidious Discrimination Works and Hurts: An Examination of Lending Discrimination and its Long-Term Impacts on Borrowers of Color.”

February 25 at 9:30 a.m. Senate Banking Committee holds a hearing on “The Coronavirus Crisis: Next Steps for Rebuilding Main Street.”

February 25 at 10:00 a.m. Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing on the nomination of Katherine C. Tai to be U.S. Trade Representative.

February 25 at 10:00 a.m. 
House Financial Services Subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy holds a hearing on “Dollars Against Democracy: Domestic Terrorist Financing in the Aftermath of an Insurrection.”

February 25 at 10:15 a.m. Senate Budget Committee holds a hearing on “Should Taxpayers Subsidize Poverty Wages at Large Profitable Corporations?

February 25 at 2:00 p.m. House Financial Services Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship, and Capital Markets holds a hearing on “Climate Change and Social Responsibility: Helping Corporate Boards and Investors Make Decisions for a Sustainable World.”
The Ellis Insight – Jim Ellis on political news
PRESIDENT
Nevada: Last week we reported upon former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid beginning action to convert Nevada’s presidential caucus, now the third state to vote on the political calendar, into a primary with the goal of at least becoming the premier western nomination venue. Earlier this week, the Nevada Democratic Party fell into line with an endorsement of a particular state Assembly bill that would change the caucus structure to a primary and attempt to move the state into the prime early position with a proposed election date of January 23, 2024. 
 
The state can easily convert into a primary system, as most are, but it will take much more to usurp New Hampshire as the first-in-the-nation primary. Long ago, Granite State lawmakers ensured that their state would remain the first by allowing the Secretary of State to schedule and move the state’s presidential primary at will.

SENATE 
Alabama: Responding to Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R) retirement announcement, former US Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard (R) yesterday declared her candidacy for the open Senate seat and said she is putting $5 million of her own money into her race. The Republican primary is expected to be crowded with the eventual winner becoming a clear favorite to win the November 2022 election.
 
Georgia: Former Georgia Sen. David Perdue (R), who lost his seat in the January runoff election to current Sen. Jon Ossoff (D), may be preparing for an early comeback. He has filed a 2022 US Senate committee with the Federal Election Commission in order to potentially challenge freshman Sen. Raphael Warnock (D), who won the special Senate election also in the January runoff. The filing of a campaign committee, however, does not commit an individual to file as a candidate.
 
Ohio: While admitting to considering running for open Ohio Senate seat, five-term Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus) confirmed this week that she will not become a statewide candidate. At this point, the Democratic door appears open for Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/Youngstown) to begin as the leading candidate for the party’s Senate nomination. Mr. Ryan says he plans to officially announce his statewide campaign in March.
 
In an expected political move, former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken, who resigned her position just last week in anticipation of organizing a campaign, confirmed that she will enter the open US Senate race next year. This is another critical open contest that expects to draw a large field of GOP primary candidates. Sen. Rob Portman (R) is retiring. 
 
Pennsylvania: In what is expected to be a crowded field, the first Republican capable of spending resources announced his candidacy. Businessman Jeff Bartos, the GOP nominee in 2018 for Lt. Governor, announced that he will run for the Senate. 

Other individuals mentioned as considering the race are former Reps. Jim Gerlach and Ryan Costello, who consecutively represented the state’s 6th CD, and defeated congressional candidate Sean Parnell, among others. For the Democrats, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is an announced candidate and state Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia), son of former Philadelphia mayor John Street, is a likely contender.
 
Wisconsin: Alex Lasry, who is a Senior Vice President for the Milwaukee Bucks professional basketball franchise and son of the team’s billionaire co-owner, is also a former White House aide to President Barack Obama. Yesterday, Mr. Lasry announced that he will enter the 2022 US Senate race. Incumbent Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R), who originally pledged to serve only two terms, has not yet announced whether he will retire or seek a third term. 
 
The Wisconsin Senate race promises to be one of the most important campaigns on the 2022 election docket, and we can expect more Democrats coming forward to declare their candidacies, along with an active Republican primary should Sen. Johnson choose to retire.

HOUSE
Redistricting: Late last week, Census Bureau representatives announced another delay in sending the new 2020 population data to the states. The state legislative leaders have been informed not to expect data until September 30th at the earliest. Before, July 30th was the target date. Usually, states begin receiving their data early in the first odd-numbered year of the decade, in this case 2021, so that redistricting maps can be configured for ensuing elections.
 
Two states, New Jersey and Virginia, are always the first to receive their data because they have odd-numbered year elections for the state legislature. Both states have already adopted contingency plans to conduct the 2021 elections in their current districts. New elections could be ordered once the redistricting process is completed. States like Texas, California, North Carolina, and Illinois, which have March primaries, will probably have to move their nomination elections to later dates in order to provide enough time to draw maps and pass them through the legislative process. 
 
The state reapportionment announcement, at this point, is still scheduled for April 30th. Apportionment assigns the number of congressional seats that each state will have for the current decade. At least ten CDs are expected to shift states. 
 
CO-3: Just a month into this congressional session, freshman Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Silt) has already drawn her seventh 2022 Democratic challenger. Now coming forward is state Rep. Donald Valdez (D-La Jara) who announced his candidacy yesterday complete with a congressional campaign website. The most prominent candidate in the field is state Senate President Pro Tempore Kerry Donovan (D-Gunnison). She, too, has already produced a campaign video. Legislators Donovan and Valdez are the only elected officials so far in the burgeoning congressional candidate field.
 
IL-1: Jahmal Cole has come to local notoriety in Chicago as a community activist and one of the most influential people in Chicago city politics. His organization, My Block, My Hood, My City, is a service organization that has drawn honors and positive reviews. Veteran Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago), however, is no stranger to primary opposition during his 15 terms in Congress, particularly in the last decade. This will be his fourth Democratic primary challenge since the 2012 election cycle. In the previous three races, Mr. Rush has been victorious with an average vote of 75.6%.
 
NC-9: State Rep. Charles Graham (D-Lumberton), who claims to be one of the most conservative Democrats in the North Carolina legislature, announced earlier in the week that he will challenge Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte) next year. 
 
Mr. Bishop won an expensive special election in 2019 when the seat was declared vacant because of voter fraud charges levied against the previous apparent winner. He then clinched a full term last November with a 56-44% victory margin. With North Carolina gaining another congressional seat in reapportionment, the 9th District, and many others in the state, could look very different come the 2022 election. Therefore, it’s conceivable that a Bishop-Graham contest will not occur even if both run for the House.
 
WA-3: Former Trump Administration Selective Service System official Wadi Yakhour (R) announced a challenge to five-term Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-Battle Ground/Vancouver) late this week. Rep. Beutler is one of ten Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump after the Capitol insurgence. 
 
Because Washington utilizes a top-two jungle primary structure, this is not a traditional nomination challenge. As a result, the system makes it more difficult for any challenger to deny an incumbent such as Rep. Beutler from advancing into the general election from what evolves into a multi-candidate August 2022 qualifying election.
 
WA-9: Washington educator Stephanie Gallardo (D), a national board member of the National Education Association, announced that she will enter the 2022 congressional race to challenge veteran Democratic Congressman Adam Smith (D-Bellevue), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Assuming the 9th District is not drastically changed in redistricting, the chances of two Democrats advancing into the general election from the August qualifying election are relatively high, meaning this particular challenge could develop into a cycle-long campaign.

GOVERNOR
California: Organizers of the “Recall Gavin 2020” operation announced over the holiday weekend that they have now exceeded the 1.5 million mark in petition signatures for a recall election of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). The threshold is significant in that the minimum number of valid California registered voter signatures to force the election is 1,495,709, or 12% of the number of people voting in the last gubernatorial election (2018). 
 
At this point, validity rate is running at 84.4%, meaning the organizers will need at least 233,330 more signatures if this acceptance rate remains consistent throughout the verification process. The signature submission deadline is March 17th but could be qualified earlier if the Secretary of State validates the overall minimum number prior to the deadline. The Recall Gavin 2020 movement has a goal of submitting at least two million signatures for verification.
 
Producing a much different result from the University of California at Berkeley poll we covered last week that projected voters would reject recalling Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom from office (45-36% against) should the petition effort against him ultimately qualify for the ballot, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R) countered with his WPA Intelligence survey (2/12-14; 645 likely CA recall voters; interactive voice response system). This poll finds a 47-43% margin in favor of ousting Mr. Newsom. The most surprising aspect portends 26% of self-identified Democrats saying they would support such a recall ballot proposition. 
 
Florida: While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is making a name for himself with conservatives by wanting to fight any travel restriction upon the state that President Biden may initiate, Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) released a video talking about how Florida “could be doing better” in handling the pandemic. 
 
It was long thought that Ms. Fried, the state’s lone Democratic officeholder, would run for Governor in 2022 and her early moves suggest she is moving in that direction. Though Gov. DeSantis was elected by a very small plurality, 32,463 votes statewide, Ms. Fried’s margin was even less: 6,753 votes from more than 8 million cast ballots.
 
Illinois: Former state Senator and 2014 Attorney General nominee Paul Schimpf announced this week that he will enter the 2022 Governor’s race in an attempt to unseat first-term incumbent J.B. Pritzker (D). In his one statewide effort, Mr. Schimpf lost to then-Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D), 59-38%. The Illinois voting patterns have grown even more Democratic since then, suggesting that any GOP gubernatorial nominee will have a very difficult task of being seriously competitive in the next election.

STATES 
Illinois House: State Rep. Mike Madigan (D-Chicago), until earlier this month, had served 36 non-consecutive years as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, which is a national political record. Yesterday, he resigned his seat in the state House. Mr. Madigan, 78 years of age and also the Illinois Democratic Party chairman, leaves the elected office he first won in the 1970 election. 
 
In the leadership organizing election for this term, Mr. Madigan fell short of obtaining the necessary support to retain the Speakership from within his own party caucus, ultimately losing the post to state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Westchester) thus ending the Madigan era. He will continue in his role as state party chairman, however, along with maintaining his local ward party chairmanship. The latter post allows Mr. Madigan to appoint his successor in the state House. Illinois does not hold special elections to fill vacant state legislative seats.