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Legislative Update

Senate. The Senate will continue to take up judicial nominations and also plans to hold a confirmation vote on Judy Shelton to be a member of the Federal Reserve Board.

House. The House will vote on dozens of non-controversial bills under suspension of rules. Both chambers will be in recess next week for Thanksgiving.

House Democratic Leadership Races. House Democrats will hold three days of virtual organizing meetings this week, beginning Tuesday. On Wednesday, they will vote to return Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, and Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries to their leadership posts. (The official vote for Speaker will take place in January on the House floor, with both parties participating.) On Thursday, the Democratic caucus will hear speeches from candidates for two contested races and then vote to select the winners. Caucus members will vote for their leaders using a special phone app that is encrypted to keep the vote secret.

The first race to be decided will be for Assistant Speaker, a post now held by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, who is leaving the House for the Senate. The two candidates are Reps. Katherine Clark (Mass.) and David Cicilline (R.I.). Rep. Tony Cardenas (Calif.) dropped out of the race and is now running to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The other contested race is for Caucus Vice Chair, now held by Clark. The two candidates vying for that post are Reps. Pete Aguilar (Calif.) and Robin Kelly (Ill.). Rep. Deb Haaland (N.M.) dropped out of the race Sunday. The race to head the DCCC pits Rep. Cardenas against Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.) and will take place the week of Nov. 30, the same week that House Democrats will select new chairs for three committees – Agriculture, Appropriations, and Foreign Affairs.

House Republican Leadership Races. Unlike Democrats, who are conducting their elections virtually, House Republicans will meet in person, on Tuesday from 1 to 5 p.m., and re-elect their leadership – Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Conference Chair Liz Cheney, and National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Tom Emmer.

FY 2021 Appropriations. Last Tuesday, Nov. 10, the Senate Appropriations Committee posted its versions of the 12 spending bills for FY 2021. The top-line numbers for each bill, known as 302(b) allocations, are different from those in the House bills, so a first step in talks between House and Senate staff will be reaching agreement on those spending levels. Once there’s agreement, negotiations will begin on the details of each bill. The overall spending for FY 2021 is limited by budget caps, but House Democrats included $235 billion in emergency spending, which is exempt from the caps, for Covid-related programs. The Senate Appropriations bills do not include that extra spending. The current continuing resolution runs through Dec. 11.

Covid-Relief Package. The President tweeted on Saturday that “Congress must now do a Covid Relief Bill. Needs Democrats support. Make it big and focused. Get it done!” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agrees that a Covid-relief package should be big, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agrees that it should be focused. Beyond that, there is no meeting of the minds, and no negotiations yet between Pelosi and McConnell.

Defense Spending. Before adjourning in December, lawmakers hope to approve the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2021. The House and Senate passed their versions on July 21 and 23, respectively, and informal negotiations have taken place since then. Conferees have not been named, but that could happen as soon as this week. One of the biggest issues to be addressed is that President Trump opposes language in the Senate bill that has bipartisan support in both chambers and would require the renaming of military bases currently named after Confederate leaders.

Political Update

House Margins. With votes still being counted in 10 races, the divide between the parties stands at 219Ds/206Rs (this includes the LA-05 runoff race between two Republicans). No incumbent Republican lost, and Republicans defeated 10 incumbent Democrats – Reps. Gil Cisneros (CA-39), Harley Rouda (CA-48), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26), Donna Shalala (FL-27), Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), Collin Peterson (MN-07), Xochitl Torres Small (NM-02), Max Rose (NY-11), Kendra Horn (OK-05), and Joe Cunningham (SC-01).

Republicans picked up the open seat held by retiring Independent (and former Republican) Rep. Justin Amash (MI-03), and Democrats picked up three open Republican seats held by Reps. Rob Woodall (GA-07), George Holding (NC-02), and Mark Walker (NC-06). The races to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and retiring Republican Rep. Peter King (NY-02) are both too close to call.

Of the other eight races that have not yet been finalized, six are held by Democratic incumbents – Reps. T.J. Cox (CA-21), Tom Suozzi (NY-03), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), Antonio Delgado (NY-19), Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), and Ben McAdams (UT-4). Only two are held by Republican incumbents – Reps Mike Garcia (CA-25) and Lee Zeldin (NY-01).

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