Senate confirms David Bernhardt as Secretary of the Interior

Senate confirms David Bernhardt to be the 53rd Secretary of the Department of the Interior

Today, the Senate voted to confirm David Bernhardt to be the 53rd Secretary of the Department of the Interior. The 56-41 vote to confirm largely fell along party lines, with Republicans championing his nomination. Three Democrats and one Independent broke party ranks to vote for Bernhardt. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and Angus King (I-Maine) voted in favor of his confirmation.

The Department of the Interior is home to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education, BLM, and the National Perk Service, among others.

Bernhardt has already played a central role in designing many of Mr. Trump’s policies for expanding drilling and mining. Prior to his nomination, Bernhardt served as the deputy to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned amid numerous ethics investigations. Before joining the Trump Administration, Bernhardt worked in the private sector lobbying for the energy sector and served at the Department of the Interior during the George W. Bush administration.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) named Chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States; Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) named Republican Leader

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) named Chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States; Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) named Republican Leader

Yesterday, the House Natural Resources Committee announced that Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) will chair the House Natural Resources Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States (SIPUS). Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) will lead the minority as the Republican Leader of the subcommittee.

The Subcommittee, known as the Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee during the previous Congress, has exclusive jurisdiction in the House of Representatives over matters related to American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

“As chair of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States, I look forward to working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to find solutions to the pressing issues facing our American Indian and Alaska Native communities,” Rep. Gallego said. “We must work together to improve access to health care, justice, education and sustainable economic growth, to safeguard tribal water rights, and to protect sacred cultural and historical lands.”

Rep. Cook echoed these sentiments. “I’m honored to assume this leadership role on the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States…This subcommittee presents the opportunity for bipartisan work, and I intend on being a problem solver whenever possible.”

Rep. Gallego represents Arizona’s 7th Congressional District, which includes most of southern, western, and downtown Phoenix, along with a portion of Glendale. He is the son of Hispanic immigrants, a veteran, and a community leader. Rep. Gallego was the first in his family to attend college, graduating from Harvard University with a degree in International Relations. He later joined the Marine Corps, serving in Iraq with the well-known combat unit Lima 3/25.

Rep. Cook represents California’s 8th Congressional District, which includes San Bernardino County as well as Mono and Inyo counties. He served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

Both Congressmen serve on the Natural Resources Committee and the Armed Services Committee.

House Democrats Introduce H.R. 1, First Bill of 116th Congress

House Democrats Introduce H.R. 1, First Bill of 116th Congress

On Friday, House Democrats introduced a sweeping anti-corruption bill as the first piece of legislation in the 116th Congress. The bill covers three main planks: campaign finance reform, strengthening the government’s ethics laws, and expanding voting rights.

The House is working with Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) to introduce a companion H.R. 1 bill in the Senate. While the legislation will pass the House, it stands little to no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate or being signed by President Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the press bluntly, “That’s not going to go anywhere.” Below is a breakdown of the various provisions included within the bill. A PDF of the 500+ page bill is attached below.

Campaign finance provisions

  • Creates a 6:1 public financing model for contributions $200 or less.
  • Calls for a constitutional amendment to end Citizens United.
  • Passes the DISCLOSE Act, which would require Super PACs and “dark money” political organizations to make their donors public.
  • Passes the Honest Ads Act, championed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mark Warner (D-VA) and introduced by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) in the House, which would require Facebook and Twitter to disclose the source of money for political ads on their platforms and share how much money was spent.
  • Mandates government contractors disclose any political spending.
  • Restructures the Federal Election Commission to have five commissioners instead of the current four, in order to break political gridlock.
  • Prohibits any coordination between candidates and Super PACs.


  • Requires the president and vice president to disclose 10 years of his or her tax returns. Candidates for president and vice president must also do the same.
  • Stops members of Congress from using taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment or discrimination cases.
  • Gives the Office of Government Ethics the power to do more oversight and enforcement and put in stricter lobbying registration requirements.
  • Creates a new ethical code for the US Supreme Court, ensuring all branches of government are impacted by the new law.

Voting rights

  • Creates a new national automatic voter registration that asks voters to opt0out, rather than opt-in, ensuring more people will be signed up to vote. Early voting, same-day voter registration, and online voter registration would also be promoted.
  • Designates Election Day a holiday for federal employees and encourages private sector businesses to do the same, requiring poll workers to provide a week’s notice if poll sites are changed, and making colleges and universities a voter registration agency (in addition to the DMV, etc), among other updates.
  • Ends partisan gerrymandering in federal elections and prohibits voter roll purging.
  • Beefs up elections security, including requiring the director of national intelligence to do regular checks on foreign threats.
  • Recruits and trains more poll workers ahead of the 2020 election to cut down on long lines at the polls.

Shutdown Update Day 12: House Prepares Bill to Re-Open Government

Shutdown Update Day 12: House Prepares Bill to Re-Open Government

The 116th Congress will be sworn in tomorrow afternoon, and the first order of business under the Democratic-controlled House will be re-opening the unfunded portions of the federal government.

Reports indicate that the House will pass a stopgap-funding bill by 7 PM tomorrow evening. It will fund most of the government through September, but kick DHS funding to February. The Senate has supported this funding arrangement and it should be able to pass. The House and Senate are both in session Tuesday through Friday of next week.

It remains to be seen if the President is willing to accept this deal. He tweeted at Leader Pelosi (D-CA) late Tuesday night indicating he was ready to negotiate, but also sticking to his position on the need for a wall.

Shutdown Update: Day 5

Shutdown Update: Day 5

Shutdown Continues As President And Democrats Remain At Odds Over Funding For Wall

The federal government remains in a partial shutdown as federal workers begin to return from the Christmas holiday. The shut down affects approximately 800,000 government workers. Workers deemed nonessential from the impacted agencies are furloughed, while “essential” workers are required to report to their jobs, but with no guarantee of a paycheck.

While the White House may hold discussions today with congressional leadership, neither side is willing to budge on the President’s wall. The issue remains largely political – the President’s conservative base is strongly in favor of building a wall, while the Democrats feel emboldened to resist the effort after the big wins in November, propelled by voters strongly against the wall. With the Democrats taking control of the House in January, they do not feel the need to concede to the President’s demands.

There have been ongoing negotiations since the beginning of the shut down on Friday evening. On Saturday, Vice President Pence offered Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) a bill to reopen the government that would provide $2.1 billion for fencing and an additional $400 million for Trump’s other immigration priorities; Democrats countered with $1.3 billion (consistent with current spending levels) in fencing and more aid for Puerto Rico as part of a disaster package. The Senate will be back in session tomorrow afternoon and could begin consideration of any negotiated bill then.

Senate Adjourns, Partial Government Shutdown Begins at Midnight

Senate Adjourns, Partial Government Shutdown Begins at Midnight

The Senate has adjourned until 12:00 noon on Saturday, December 22. Government funding will lapse at 11:59 p.m. tonight, triggering a partial shutdown. On Saturday, the Senate will resume consideration of the House-passed CR.

Should Congress and the President be unable to come to an agreement, by law, a new Congress must assemble on January 3rd at noon. If the government is still shut down then the House Democratic Majority may send a clean CR to the Senate, where it will likely pass with a veto proof majority.

Senate to Introduce Short-Term CR to Fund Government Until February 8th

Senate to Introduce Short-Term CR to Fund Government Until February 8th

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced this morning that the Senate would take up a short-term continuing resolution (“CR”) today to fund the government through February 8th.

The plan will push the ongoing debate over immigration and border security into next year, when Democrats will hold control of the House and Nancy Pelosi will likely be Speaker.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “We would have preferred one of our two options, but I’m glad the leader thinks the government should not shut down over the president’s demand for a wall, and Democrats will support this CR” this morning on the Senate floor. Democratic leaders offered two separate proposals to fund the government for a longer period, but Trump has not accepted them.

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond on whether Trump would back a short-term spending bill. On Tuesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president would want to see what Congress passes before he decides whether to sign it.

Partial Government Shutdown Update: Four Days to Strike a Deal

Partial Government Shutdown Update: Four Days to Strike a Deal

With the House in recess until Wednesday evening, time is running out to strike a deal before Friday evening to keep the government operational over the holidays. While 75% of federal agencies are funded for FY19, a shutdown would impact the remaining 25% of the government that has not been funded. That includes the Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, State, Interior, Agriculture, Treasury, Commerce and Justice, and Homeland Security (DHS).

The President’s insistence on $5 billion for the border wall remains the hurdle to a deal. Last week’s meeting between Trump, Pence, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi yielded no tangible agreement on how to move forward. Further complicating matters, Republican leaders are concerned that not enough of the retiring/unseated Members will return from recess to pass a funding measure.

So far this week there has been no indication from the White House that the President is willing to negotiate on the wall and there is no way that Congress will appropriate those funds.

Schumer and Pelosi have lined up behind a plan requesting a one-year continuing resolution (CR) for DHS, while rolling the other six appropriations bills that still need to be passed into one omnibus bill. Democrats, as a fall back plan, have noted that if a partial government shutdown does begin on midnight on Friday they’ll take back over the House on Jan. 3 and will pass their preferred plan, a stopgap gap for DHS, then.

Republicans have said absent a big spending deal, they’d be fine with a short-term stopgap bill because it would “interrupt” the early days of Pelosi’s majority. Trump would be fighting Pelosi on immigration in January or February instead of his own party.

House Passes Farm Bill Reauthorization, Sending Legislation to the President’s Desk

House Passes Farm Bill Reauthorization, Sending Legislation to the President’s Desk

This evening, the House easily passed the Farm Bill reauthorization by a vote of 369-47, sending the bill to President Trump to sign into law. House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) told reporters that he has “all the confidence in the world he’ll [the President] sign it.”

The overwhelming bipartisan vote ends a divisive eight-month long fight over the reauthorization, largely based on disagreements over modifications to the SNAP program. “After a rocky start, I’m just proud to turn a partisan bill into a bipartisan bill,” said House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson (D-MN). “That’s the way Congress is supposed to work.”

Senate Advances Farm Bill Reauthorization

Senate Advances Farm Bill Reauthorization

This evening, Senators voted 87-13 to pass the Farm Bill reauthorization legislation with the final conference report. The bill will now head to the House, where it is expected to pass.

The following Senators voted against the bill:

Cotton (R-AR)
Flake (R-AZ)
Grassley (R-IA)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Rubio (R-FL)
Paul (R-KY)
Lee (R-UT)
Enzi (R-WY)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Toomey (R-PA)
Kennedy (R-LA)
Johnson (R-WI)
Murkowski (R-AK)