The Golden Apple – August 6, 2021

This is not the Senate floor, but the Chicago River, where approximately 70,000 rubber ducks fought it out yesterday in the annual Chicago Ducky Derby. This looks like more fun.

The Senate did not finish work on its infrastructure bill yesterday, but will return to it tomorrow (they broke today for the funeral of former Senator Mike Enzi). Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will try to push for a quick resolution, but it’s entirely possible that work will continue into next week. A few Senate committees have scheduled hearings next week, as well.
 
Administration extends pause on student loan payments
The Department of Education announced late this afternoon that it is extending the pause on federal student loan payments from its original expiration date of September 30 to January 31, 2022. The Department will notify borrowers of this final extension in the next week or so, and provide information about how and when to resume payments next year.

CDC issues new eviction moratorium  
On Tuesday the Centers for Disease Control issued a new moratorium on evictions in counties with “substantial and high” levels of COVID-19 transmission, to extend to October 3. Unfortunately, that’s most of the country. White House officials met with groups representing landlords and tenant advocates this week to emphasize the need for landlords to work with tenants, get feedback about problems with access to emergency rental assistance, and inform stakeholders about available resources. Separately, Treasury renewed its call for state and local governments to speed up delivery of emergency rental assistance.

Warner, Rubio warn US businesses against advocating for China
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence held an unusual public hearing on Wednesday to hear testimony from experts about how the government of China is pursuing world dominance through the legal and illegal acquisition of sensitive US technology via joint ventures, acquisitions, mergers, strategic investments in US firms, partnerships with universities, and outright theft. Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) expressed frustration with US companies that are compromising American values in exchange for access to Chinese markets. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the Committee’s ranking member, said that China had “weaponized a corporate lust for profits,” and that China is using American banks, investment banks, and big businesses to act as its lobbyists in Washington, and even at state and local levels. Warner said he had no objection to US companies investing in China, “as long as it’s not at the price of your values.”

HUD nominees pledge to focus on affordable housing, face Republican opposition 
Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA), ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, made it clear at the beginning of yesterday’s confirmation hearing that he and his colleagues will vote against the nominations of Julia Gordon to be Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and FHA Commissioner, David Uejio to be Assistant Secretary of HUD for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, and Solomon Greene to be Assistant Secretary of HUD for Policy Development and Research. Social media posts criticizing the police disqualified Gordon and Greene from office, Toomey said, and Uejio, currently Acting Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, had failed to respond appropriately to Toomey’s requests for information about recent personnel actions within the Bureau. Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said he had rarely seen more qualified nominees, entering into the record 115 letters of support for Ms. Gordon, 40 letters of support for Mr. Uejio, and 31 letters of support for Mr. Greene. All three nominees said they would focus on increasing the supply of affordable housing for rental and homeownership; Gordon and Greene identified bulk purchases of distressed homes by investors as one factor in this shortage. Brown said he would ask the Committee to vote on the nominations as soon as possible when the Senate returns in September.
 
Regulators continue work on CRA reform, Senators urge Comptroller nomination
Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA) and Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) both called on President Biden to prioritize the nomination of a new Comptroller of the Currency at Tuesday’s
Senate Banking Committee hearing on oversight of the federal financial regulators. Todd Harper, Chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, said that the agency was emphasizing the need for credit unions to work with members experiencing hardship, while also heightening cybersecurity efforts and working to strengthen its consumer financial program. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chairman Jelena McWilliams said they were encouraged by the industry’s overall condition, but are watching commercial real estate (CRE), agriculture, consumer lending, and cybersecurity closely. Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu said that the agency was addressing four areas he considered urgent: guarding against complacency, reducing inequality, adapting to digitalization, and acting on climate change. McWilliams and Hsu were optimistic about work on a multiagency revision to Community Reinvestment Act regulations, which Hsu said the agencies were approaching with a sense of urgency.

Senate panel discusses restoring bankruptcy protection for student loans
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) are cosponsoring the FRESH START through Bankruptcy Act, which got a Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday. The bill would make federal student loans eligible for discharge in bankruptcy ten years after the first payment is due; currently, debtors may discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy only in cases of “undue hardship,” an undefined threshold that is rarely granted. The Durbin-Cornyn proposal would preserve and clarify the “undue hardship” standard for student loans under ten years’ maturity. It would also require colleges and universities to refund to the government some portion of student loans discharged in bankruptcy if more than one-third of their students are receiving student loans. Republican Committee members were more receptive to the idea of bankruptcy reform than to calls for student debt forgiveness. Witnesses highlighted the need to simplify and align the income-driven repayment programs currently offered by servicers, which too few borrowers realize are available.
 
Gensler calls for more investor protection in cryptocurrency, foresees Bitcoin ETFs
Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler offered a broad overview of his thoughts about the regulatory framework for digital assets at the Aspen Security Forum this week. Cryptocurrency “has been and could continue to be a catalyst for change in the fields of finance and money,” Gensler said, but the “asset class is rife with fraud, scams, and abuse.” Tokens offered and sold as securities must be registered and regulated that way. To the extent that stablecoins are securities and investment companies, the SEC “will apply the full investor protections of the Investment Company Act” to them. Gensler also believes that crypto trading platforms may or should be covered by securities, commodities, and/or banking laws, and “there are significant gaps in investor protection.” He would welcome legislation to give regulators additional authority over crypto trading, lending, and DeFi platforms. Because mutual funds are already investing in Bitcoin futures, Gensler expects to see filings for Bitcoin exchange-traded funds. Finally, he said the agency will “maximize regulatory protections” for custody of crypto assets, and the SEC is seeking comment on crypto custody arrangements now.
 
Interagency appraisal task force holds first meeting
The Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (PAVE) held its first principals-level meeting yesterday to discuss how appraisal practices contribute to disparity in housing values, and how comparative valuations can serve as a proxy for racial profiling. President Biden created the Task Force in June; its co-chairs are Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge and Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy Susan Rice. Its members include the Director of the National Economic Council, the Attorney General, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Labor, Education, and Veterans Affairs, the federal banking regulators, the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and the Appraisal Subcommittee.
Confirmations, Nominations, Departures
Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) announced that he will not seek a seventh term in Congress, but will run for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Senator Roy Blunt (R).
The Week Ahead
The House remains in recess until September.
 
August 11 at 10 a.m.  Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works holds hearings on the nominations of Amanda Howe, David M. Uhlmann, and Carlton Waterhouse to be Assistant Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency.
 
August 11 at 1 p.m.  The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau holds a public Combined Advisory Board meeting via WebEx to review the Bureau’s Unified Regulatory Agenda, recent CFPB initiatives related to the COVID-19 recovery, and trends in the mortgage and student lending marketplaces.
 
August 12 at 9 a.m.  Senate Committee on the Judiciary meets to vote on S. 1787, which would prevent the transfer of antitrust actions in which a state is a complainant, and S. 2502, which would allow first-time, low-level, nonviolent simple possession offenders to expunge their convictions after completing probation.
The Ellis Insight – Jim Ellis on political news
Senate 
Alaska: A new Alaska Survey Research poll (7/11-21; 947 AK registered voters; online) finds Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) in much better position than previous studies. The ASR data finds the Senator leading former State Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka (R), 36-27%, with state Rep. Elvi Gray-Jackson (D-Anchorage) and former Senate nominee Joe Miller trailing with 19 and 18%, respectively. Under Alaska’s new top-four primary system, all four of these candidates would advance into the general election.
 
Former Governor and 2008 Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin surfaced again, telling a group of evangelical leaders, “if God wants me to run for the US Senate next year, I will.”  She went onto scold the leaders saying, “I would say you guys better be there for me this time, because a lot of people were not there for me last time.”  Should Ms. Palin enter the race, the political situation would drastically change, but at this point it is difficult to predict in what manner.
 
Iowa: The Iowa statewide political picture became a bit clearer this week as US Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Des Moines), a potential US Senate candidate, attended an event for former Congresswoman and announced Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer (D). As part of the event agenda, Rep. Axne publicly endorsed Ms. Finkenauer. 

The move takes Rep. Axne out of the Senate picture but does not close the door on a potential gubernatorial run. Decisions will be made after the redistricting map is drawn and released. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) promises a decision about whether he will seek an eighth term before November 1st.
 
Missouri: US Rep. Billy Long (R-Springfield), who had been on the verge of entering the open US Senate primary ever since incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt (R) announced his retirement, officially became a statewide candidate with his declaration late this week. He joins former Gov. Eric Greitens, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and US Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville/ Columbia) as strong candidates for the party nomination. 
 
Ohio: WPA Intelligence, testing the Ohio Republican Senate primary for the Club for Growth (7/27-29; 500 OH likely Republican primary voters; live interview), finds a unique ballot test result within the open Buckeye State GOP field. This means a new trend may be forming, or the poll is an outlier. According to WPAi, former state Treasurer and 2012 Senate Republican nominee Josh Mandel is developing a commanding lead. Their data finds him holding 40% support while his closest opponent, author J.D. Vance (whom the CfG supports), draws just 12 percent.
 
The biggest changes from previous polling are Mandel gaining significant support and former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken, who had been polling near the top, falling all the way to 8% in third place. More data is required to determine if the race is significantly shifting.

Wisconsin: State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), a former Minority Leader, announced yesterday that he is withdrawing from his short-lived US Senate campaign and will instead endorse Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) for the position. Sen. Larson said he is leaving the race to keep from “splitting the progressive vote.” 

State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, Milwaukee Bucks senior executive and ex-Obama White House aide Alex Lasry, Milwaukee Alderwoman Chantia Lewis, and five minor candidates remain in the Democratic primary race. Sen. Ron Johnson (R) has not formally declared for re-election. 

House 
AZ-2: Earlier this week, Juan Ciscomani (R), a senior aide to Gov. Doug Ducey (R) and former Hispanic Chamber of Commerce executive, announced that he is joining the crowded open seat Tucson anchored congressional contest. Mr. Ciscomani becomes the tenth Republican to enter the party primary, a race that won’t be decided until a year from now, on August 2, 2022. Democrats have nine candidates, including one state Senator and two state Representatives. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Tucson) is retiring. 
 
FL-20: The Data for Progress research group conducted a poll of the special election scheduled in South Florida’s 20th District for November 2nd, which will be the first step in replacing the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Delray Beach). The poll was conducted during the July 6-7 period, but released only now. The group surveyed 314 likely Democratic special election voters via text and weighted the responses. With the August 10th candidate filing deadline approaching, 15 Democrats have already announced for the safe Democratic seat.
 
The DfP survey found Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness leading the Democratic field, but with only 17% support, with fellow Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief close behind at 14% preference. State Rep. Omari Hardy (D-West Palm Beach) is the only other candidate reaching double-digits, at 10 percent. 
 
ME-2: Former Maine Congressman Bruce Poliquin (R) announced yesterday that he will attempt to regain his former position, saying he will challenge Rep. Jared Golden (D-Lewiston) in a re-match from their 2018 contest. 

Mr. Poliquin was first elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2016. He lost to Rep. Golden two years hence, once the Ranked Choice Voting system put the Democratic challenger over the top after several rounds of counting. The original count, which would have re-elected Rep. Poliquin under previous Maine election law, would have yielded a 49-48% win. Because the leading total was under 50%, the ranked choice process took effect. A new Golden-Poliquin campaign promises to become a 2022 toss-up.
 
MO-2: State Rep. Trish Gunby (D-Ballwin), who was elected to the Missouri House in a 2019 special election but survived her 2020 re-election contest with just a 406-vote margin, announced that she will challenge five-term US Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin) next year. In 2020, Congresswoman Wagner turned back a strong challenge from state Sen. Jill Schupp (D-Ladue) in which more than $10.4 million was raised and spent to support the Democratic nominee or oppose the incumbent. 

Businessman and former gubernatorial aide Ben Samuels is already an announced Democratic candidate, in addition to a minor contender, so there will be an August Democratic congressional primary in this St. Louis suburban district.
 
MT-1: While the focus has been on who will run for Montana’s new congressional district, which is expected to occupy the western part of the state, current at-large Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Glendive) has drawn an opponent. Considering Rep. Rosendale resides in the far eastern part of the state, it is presumed he would seek re-election in the eastern CD, which we will temporarily label as MT-1. 

Outdoor sportsman journalist and conservationist Jack Ballard (D) said yesterday that he plans to challenge Rep. Rosendale in the eastern district. Both seats are expected to favor Republicans.
 
NY-24: Of the ten Republicans who voted in favor of impeaching then-President Trump in relation to the January 6th Capitol disturbance, New York Rep. John Katko (R-Syracuse) was the only one who did not draw immediate Republican primary opposition. That situation has changed. This week, US Air Force veteran John Murtari (R), an engineer and parental rights activist, announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination. 
 
OH-11: Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown won the special Democratic primary in the Cleveland-Akron vacated district, defeating ex-state Senator Nina Turner, a former national co-chair of the Bernie Sanders for President campaign. The fairly substantial victory margin of 50-44% capped an impressive comeback win for Ms. Brown, who in addition to her service on the County Council is the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party chair. At the beginning of the race, Ms. Turner held a 50-15% lead in the first poll and will end the campaign outspending the contest winner by a better than 2:1 margin.
 
Ms. Brown now advances to the special general election on November 2nd, where she is heavily favored to defeat her Republican opponent, Cleveland political activist Laverne Gore. The 11th District was an 80%+ CD for both President Biden in 2020 and Hillary Clinton in 2016. 
 
OH-15: In what turned into a strong night for Ohio Coal Association president Mike Carey and former President Donald Trump who endorsed him, the former man easily captured the GOP special congressional nomination on a 37-13% count over state Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester). Former state Rep. Ron Hood and state Sen. Bob Peterson (D-Sabina) finished closely behind Mr. LaRe.
 
Democratic state Rep. Allison Russo (D-Columbus) won her Democratic primary in a landslide, but will be a severe underdog to Mr. Carey in the November 2nd special general election. GOP turnout of just over 50,000 people was low but dwarfed the Democratic participation figure of 16,130 voters. Mr. Carey’s victory was complete, as he won 11 of the district’s 12 counties, losing only small Fayette to hometown state Senator Peterson.
 
SC-7:Of the ten Republican House members who voted to impeach former President Trump over the January 6th violent disturbance at the US Capitol, South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice (R-Myrtle Beach) has drawn the most GOP primary opposition. On Friday, state Rep. Russell Fry (R-Surfside Beach) became the 13th Republican to enter the 2022 GOP primary, attempting to deny Rep. Rice a fifth term. Fanning the political fires, the South Carolina Republican Party officially censured the Congressman over his impeachment vote.

Governor 
California: Core Data Analytics (7/27-29; 804 CA registered voters; online) and Emerson College (7/30-8/1; 1,000 CA likely recall voters; combination text, interactive voice response system; online) released their new recall poll findings this week. Within the entire Core Data sampling universe, the split breaks 48-39% in Gov. Newsom’s favor. Among those who say they will definitely vote in the recall election, however, the division breaks evenly, 41-41%. The result is 38-38% for those who say they are likely to vote. 
 
Emerson also finds a tight margin. They see the Governor surviving the recall with only a 48-46% margin. In the replacement election, both pollsters find conservative commentator and radio talk show host Larry Elder leading the huge group of 46 candidates.
 
Idaho: Bonner County Commissioner Steven Bradshaw became the eighth Republican to enter the 2022 Republican gubernatorial primary against incumbent Brad Little. Of the eight, only two—Mr. Bradshaw and Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin—are elected officials. 
 
Florida: St. Pete Polls released their latest statewide survey (8/2/3; 3,952 FL likely voters; online) and finds a tightening of the 2022 Governor’s race. The results show Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in a virtual dead heat with Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg), a former Republican Governor, as he slightly trails 45-46%. Opposite state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D), Mr. DeSantis holds a 45-42% edge. Florida’s voting history suggests that we will see close polling results all the way through the midterm election.
 
Ohio: Former Congressman Jim Renacci (R) released his early gubernatorial campaign finance figures according to the Daily Kos Elections website, and while his total receipt column shows over $1 million, only $22,000 came from donors other than himself. Mr. Renacci is challenging Gov. Mike DeWine in the 2022 Republican primary and principally attacking him over his highly restrictive response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, US Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Troy) says he will decide in September if he will challenge Gov. DeWine.

Localities 
Detroit: Mayor Mike Duggan (D) easily placed first in this week’s non-partisan jungle primary, scoring 72% of the vote in a field of ten candidates. He advances into the general election against former Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams (D) who managed just 10% of the vote. Mayor Duggan is the prohibitive favorite to win a third term in the November general election.
 
Los Angeles: California Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) confirmed that she is considering running for Los Angeles Mayor next year, saying many people have been urging her to do so. Incumbent Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) has been appointed as Ambassador to India and will resign upon his confirmation to the foreign post. 

The Council has three options for filling a vacancy in the mayor’s office. They can order a special election, appoint an interim Mayor, or allow the City Council President to serve as Acting Mayor. This complicates the 2022 election since there will likely be at least an acting incumbent in office.