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Legislative Update

Senate. The Senate is in recess and will return Nov. 30. Soon thereafter, a new Senator will be sworn in. Democrat Mark Kelly defeated Senator Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) in a special election and can take the oath of office after Arizona certifies its election results, which is scheduled for Nov. 30. McSally was appointed to the seat in December 2018, following the resignation of former U.S. Senator Jon Kyl, who had agreed to fill the seat on a temporary basis following the August 2018 death of Senator John McCain. When Kelly is sworn in, the margin in the Senate for the lame duck session will be 52 Republicans/48 Democrats.

Senate Energy. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) announced Wednesday he plans to be the lead Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the next Congress. The panel is currently chaired by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who is term-limited by Republican conference rules. With Barrasso’s move, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) is expected to take his spot as the lead Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee.

House. The House will return to session on Dec. 1. Last week, House Democrats chose Nancy Pelosi as their nominee for Speaker and re-elected Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, and Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries. In contested races, Democrats selected Reps. Katherine Clark (Mass.) as Assistant Leader, Pete Aguilar (Calif.) as Caucus Vice Chair, and Colin Allred (Tex.) as Caucus Leadership Representative, a position reserved for members who have served five terms or less. House Republicans, meanwhile, re-elected their leaders – Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise, and Conference Chair Liz Cheney.

FY 2021 Appropriations. House and Senate appropriators had hoped to reach an agreement by this time on the top-line numbers for the 12 individual appropriations bills, but that effort has been delayed by a disagreement over how to classify spending for veterans medical care. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy objects to classifying $12.5 billion for veterans care as emergency spending, which would exempt it from the budget caps. Until an agreement is reached on the top-line numbers, known as the 302(b) allocations, negotiators can’t hammer out the details of the individual bills.

Earmarks. In a Nov. 20 interview with Roll Call, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that House Democrats are planning to bring back earmarks (i.e., congressionally directed spending) in the next Congress. How to do so, Hoyer said, “will largely be up to the new chair of the Appropriations Committee and the subcommittee chairs and very frankly the members of the Congress.” Last year, Senate Republicans made permanent their ban on earmarks, but Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and others support bringing the practice back. House Democrats will begin the process of selecting the new chair of the Appropriations Committee next week.

Biden Legislative Team. President-elect Biden has named Louisa Terrell as White House Director of Legislative Affairs, where her deputies will be Reema Dodin and Shuwanza Goff. Terrell served in the legislative affairs office in the Obama administration and also worked for Senators Cory Booker and Joe Biden. Dodin most recently was Deputy Chief of Staff and Floor Director for Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, while Goff served as Floor Director for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

Political Update

House Elections. Following tabulations of absentee ballots, three New York Democrats have held onto their seats – Reps. Tom Suozzi (NY-03), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), and Antonio Delgado (NY-19). In Utah, Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams (UT-04) has lost his race.

There are still eight races that the Associated Press has not called. Of those eight, Republicans have declared victory in five of them, including wins over Democratic incumbent Reps. Max Rose (NY-11) and TJ Cox (CA-21). The other three seats remain in Republican hands, with incumbent Reps. Lee Zeldin (NY-01) and John Katko (NY-24) returning to Congress and Republican Andrew Garbarino replacing retiring Republican Rep. Peter King (NY-02). The defeats of Rose and Cox bring the GOP net gain to 10 seats and result in a House breakdown of 222 Democrats and 210 Republicans.

The races in CA-25 (Republican Rep. Mike Garcia) and NY-22 (Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi) are still too close to call. In IA-02, all 24 counties are currently performing a hand recount after the margin in the race to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack was under 40 votes. The recount must be completed by Nov. 28, according to the Iowa Secretary of State.

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