Democrats’ expanded Senate majority boosts Harris
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DEMOCRATS PULLED OFF a big win with the reelection of Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) this week, but it could also be a boon to Vice President Harris as she looks to build her political profile.
With Democrats now set to have a 51-member majority (thanks to two independents who caucus with them), Harris will have more flexibility to travel and be on the road on behalf of the administration, instead of staying around to cast tie-breaking votes.
That carries extra importance entering the 2024 presidential cycle, with President Biden indicating he’s interested in seeking a second term, though he hasn’t made a final decision.
“She has plenty to do, believe me,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters Wednesday, referring to Harris.
The VP’s office didn’t immediately respond to NotedDC’s request for more information on how the change will affect her sweeping portfolio, which has ranged from immigration issues to voting rights.
Harris has had to keep a flexible schedule the past two years that would allow her to be in Washington for votes that fall on the 50-50 split.
“Our caucus has been greatly deeply grateful for Vice President Harris’s constant schedule juggling to preside over a 50-50 Senate,” Schumer said. “It’s part of her job, but I think she’s done a lot of other good things and now she’s going to have a little more time to do those things because the need for her to be here will be less.”
Other changes ahead: Schumer has had to rely heavily on keeping his voting bloc together, often making deals with conservative Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) to push through legislation. The extra vote following Warnock’s win gives more breathing room on that front, as well.
“They don’t always agree with us on certain issues,” Schumer said Wednesday, “but they are tremendous contributors to our caucus.”
He also noted that committees will be fortified because of the additional member in the majority ranks.
“Committees will have greater oversight ability with subpoena power,” he said. “Subpoena power can deal with corporate corruption and inequities and other problems throughout the country.”
“It gives us just a lift. The fact that we got the 51 votes gives us just a great feeling, enthusiasm, unity, encouragement in that way.”
How Georgia helps Democrats’ 2024 Senate map
RAPHAEL WARNOCK’S runoff win in Georgia Tuesday gives Democrats looking ahead to 2024 some relief as the party faces a tough Senate map: The GOP will now need a net gain of two seats instead of just one to win control in 2024.
- As Kyle Kondik of Sabato’s Crystal Ball noted last month, “Even given the Republicans’ re-emerging problem of nominating weak candidates in winnable races … you’d think, at a bare minimum, Republicans should be able to flip at least a single seat next cycle.”
- The GOP’s ability to flip two seats “seems likelier than not, but it’s harder to just pencil it in as happening,” Kondik said, noting that Democrats outperformed expectations in these midterms.
Big picture: Democrats are defending seats in three states that former President Trump won in 2020 — Montana, Ohio and West Virginia — while Republicans aren’t running for reelection in any states President Biden won.
- While the Democrats representing those states have proven formidable — Jon Tester, Sherrod Brown and Joe Manchin — all three are vulnerable in 2024.
- In the last two presidential election years, Maine’s Susan Collins (R) was the only senator to win a state that the other party’s presidential candidate won.
Most of the other Senate races expected to be competitive are for seats Democrats currently hold. In Florida, which may be among the most competitive on the GOP side, Sen. Rick Scott (R) said Tuesday he plans to run for reelection.
Lawmakers under pressure to avert shutdown
CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS are wrestling over a push for a bipartisan omnibus deal to fund the government, with no plan reached yet as lawmakers stare down a Dec. 16 deadline to avert a shutdown.
“Unfortunately, the Senate has not passed any appropriations bill and there was no agreement on a top line,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said this week. He said passing another continuing resolution would be an “admission of failure.”
House Republicans have pushed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to wait until they take control of the lower chamber in January, when they’ll have more sway when setting funding levels, before passing a longer-term bill. Democrats, meanwhile, say they want to pass a larger omnibus bill during the lame-duck.
“It harms every agency and department of government,” Hoyer said of passing a temporary stop-gap spending plan. “It makes them unable to plan on what resources they have available to do what they are required by law.”
GOP Whip Steve Scalise (La.) lamented “just waiting until the midnight hour” but said he’s optimistic the new Congress — with a GOP-led House and Democratic-led Senate — will have better luck.
Question marks loom in Dems’ nominating calendar
THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE‘s (DNC) Rules and Bylaws Committee voted Dec. 2 to offer five states waivers to hold their presidential nominating contests before the first Tuesday in March 2024. President Biden weighed in the day before, saying voters of color need to be a part of the process earlier.
The DNC panel’s proposal 1) boots Iowa from the early window, 2) adds Michigan and South Carolina and 3) puts New Hampshire — usually the nation’s first primary — second alongside Nevada and behind South Carolina:
- South Carolina – Feb. 3
- New Hampshire and Nevada – Feb. 6
- Georgia – Feb. 13
- Michigan – Feb. 27
THE LAST TIME AROUND: In 2020, Biden finished a distant 4th in Iowa, 5th in New Hampshire and then 1st in South Carolina, where his campaign turned around.
LOOKING AHEAD: The party’s waivers are contingent on states meeting requirements laid out by the Rules and Bylaws Committee by Jan. 5. The full DNC will then vote on the calendar in February. States that deviate from that calendar — and candidates who campaign in those states — may face consequences.
- DNC counsel Graham Wilson explained states that deviate lose half their delegates.
- A candidate who campaigns in such a state “receives no pledged delegates or delegate votes from that state,” Wilson said, and the DNC chair is “empowered to take any other appropriate steps to enforce these rules.”
LINGERING HURDLES: Some states might not comply with the plan. Who controls contest scheduling varies by state, and some states have laws about scheduling.
Also, parties have to hold their contests on the same day in some states — and the GOP plans to stick to the usual calendar in 2024.
Political scientist Josh Putnam told NotedDC that South Carolina, Nevada and Michigan have pretty clear paths to holding Democratic primaries on the Rules and Bylaw panel’s chosen dates. “So that leaves the questions of whether Iowa and New Hampshire are going to play along and how to get Georgia into the early window.”
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) sets the primary date, and both parties’ primaries must be held the same day. Raffensperger would risk a delegate penalty for Republicans if he moved the primary, making the move unlikely, Putnam said.
The Iowa Democratic Party is responsible for scheduling its contest and said, “Our state law requires us to hold a caucus before the last Tuesday in February, and before any other contest” and that it would adhere to the law.
Then there’s New Hampshire, where the secretary of State schedules the primary and state law says it must be the first such contest.
“Usually with a state party stuck like that, the DNC [Rules and Bylaws Committee] will work with a cooperative party and be lenient about penalties,” Putnam said. “However, the early reviews don’t make it look like New Hampshire Democrats are going to be cooperative.”
State Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley said holding the nation’s first primary is more important than the state’s delegate number.
University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala told NotedDC that campaigning in the Granite State has “always been about publicity,” not delegates.
Scala said, “[W]hat would worry me more from a candidate’s perspective is the prospect of, say, being banned from participating in national debates as a result of campaigning” there.
The professor also mentioned possible “informal sanctions” for candidates, like being seen as undermining Biden’s stated principle of “giving voters of color their due” if they campaign in New Hampshire.
Scala added, “We may be in this weird spot where the Democratic Party has made significant changes to the rules, and yet we don’t know how they’re going to play out until 2028,” since Biden may run in 2024 without significant primary opposition.
The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee proposed the committee go through the process of granting waivers again ahead of 2028.
ZELDIN CALLS FOR RNC SHAKEUP
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) says he won’t challenge Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel in the GOP’s upcoming leadership election — but he also thinks someone else should take over the reins of the national party committee.
McDaniel, who is backed by former President Trump and others in the party, already faces a challenge from Harmeet Dhillon, an RNC member and lawyer with ties to Trump. MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has also tossed his name into the race.
Zeldin, who launched a competitive challenge to Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) in deep-blue New York last month, called McDaniel’s reelection “pre-baked.” Yet he panned her four years at the help of the GOP, citing “disappointing results” in “every election during her tenure, including yesterday in Georgia.”
“Change is desperately needed, and there are many leaders, myself included, ready and willing to step up to ensure our party retools and transforms as critical elections fast approach,” Zeldin said in a statement.
2022’S TOP LOBBYISTS
The Hill has released its list of top lobbyists for 2022. Here’s a peek at some of the big names in each category:
- Gina Adams and Lance Mangum, FedEx Corp
- Molly Ahearn Allen, 7-Eleven
- Angela Ambrose and Jesse Tolleson, GM Defense
- Bryan Anderson and Jeanne Wolak, Southern Company
- Kevin Avery, ConocoPhillips
- Craig Albright, BSA | The Software Alliance
- Mark Ames, American Industrial Hygiene Association
- Adrian Arnakis, Association of American Railroads
- Todd Askew, American Medical Association
- Meredith Attwell Baker, CTIA
- Dean Aguillen, Ogilvy Government Relations
- Saat Alety and Katie Phillips, Federal Hall Policy Advisors
- Kai Anderson, Barry Rhoads and Jordan Bernstein, Cassidy and Associates
- Cristina Antelo, Mark Williams and Debra Dixon, Ferox Strategies
- Madison Arcangeli, Forza DC
- Alexandra Adams and John Bowman, Natural Resources Defense Council
- Carmiel Arbit and Dan Granot, Anti-Defamation League
- Dana Atkins, Military Officers Association of America
- Chelsea Barnes, Appalachian Voices
- Johnathan Benton, Allied Pilots Association
The Hill’s Karl Evers-Hillstrom also has a roundup of new hires in the lobbying world … some of the names on the list this week: former Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) has joined Ervin Graves Strategy Group as a senior vice president … Jordan Evich, a former deputy chief of staff to outgoing Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), has been hired as a principal and head of Monument Advocacy’s appropriations practice … Virgilio Barrera has joined Cassidy & Associates as a senior vice president.
The Hill’s ‘A More Perfect Union’ festival
The Hill editor-in-chief Bob Cusack and contributing editor Steve Scully are moderating a three-part event Dec. 7-9 dedicated to the theme of American Reinvention.
WEDNESDAY’S EVENT focused on emerging technologies, with NLX CEO Andrei Papancea and more speakers.
THURSDAY will center on small business and e-commerce. The American Enterprise Institute’s Robert Doar will be among the speakers.
And on FRIDAY, Forward Party co-chairs Andrew Yang and Christine Todd Whitman and former Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) will join others to discuss the theme of consensus building.
- Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel is urging Republicans to stop telling voters not to vote early or by mail.
- The Hill’s John Kruzel updates us on the “independent state legislature” theory case before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
- Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) continues his push to get permitting reform into the National Defense Authorization Act as the House excludes the proposal from its draft legislation.
- From a low Housing Market Index to a high mortgage interest rate, a look at the U.S. housing recession.
“I’m proud to live openly as a Jew. I am not afraid. I refuse to be afraid.”
– second gentleman Doug Emhoff during an event with Jewish leaders at the White House on Wednesday.
NUMBER TO KNOW
Votes cast for Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) in the Georgia Senate runoff race. Read more takeaways from the election via The Hill here.
One more thing
Reps. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) and Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) made the best out of being confused for one another recently in conference, putting out a holiday card “From Frank and Mark Amodei.” Politico’s Olivia Beavers has the photo here.
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