This Week/Next Week
Inauguration, new senators, state legislative elections, power in the Senate, and Trump.
Welcome to “This Week/Next Week”, your weekly rundown of the three most important election stories this week and a quick look at three I’ll be watching next week. Thanks for reading, and please send this around to your friends or family who might be interested. It’s the very best way to help us out.
New Pres, VP
The big news this week is the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris. You’ve probably heard or seen enough on this, so I won’t go into much detail.
One question I did have, though, was whether Biden officially became President at 11:48, when he took the oath of office, or at 12:00, as the 20th Amendment of the Constitution stipulates. The answer is apparently unambiguous: even though Biden took the oath 12 minutes early, he didn’t officially assume the office of the President until noon. As George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told the Washington Post, “The oath is required but it is not the act that makes Biden the next president,”
So, as of this email being sent, Biden and Harris have officially been in office for 48 hours, not 48 hours and 12 minutes.
3 New Senators
Vice President Kamala Harris swore in three new Senators Wednesday afternoon, bringing the Senate to a 50-50 split between Republicans and Democrats. Two of the Senators—Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock—were elected in the January 5 Georgia elections. The third, Alex Padilla, is taking over Harris’s own seat representing California.
Because the VP has the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, Democrats control the chamber for the first time since Republicans flipped it in the 2016 election. Since Harris won’t be in the Senate all the time to break ties, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will need to come up with a power-sharing agreement that allows the chamber to run its day-to-day operations.
On Jan 8, when the filing deadline passed for the special election for Louisiana’s State House District 35, Republican Brett Geymann was the only candidate who had qualified. Since he was the only candidate, the state canceled the February 6 primary and the March 20 general election, and Geymann was elected without an election. According to Ballotpedia, Louisiana is one of just 15 states that allow elections to be canceled
Republicans now have a 66-36 majority in the Louisiana House and also hold the Senate. But John Bel Edwards, the state’s governor, is a Democrat, which means that neither party has complete control in the state.
Power-sharing in the Senate
With the Senate split 50-50, Democrats and Republicans will need to come up with a power-sharing deal that lets them run the day-to-day business of the Senate. A tie like this has only happened three times in American history—in 1881, 1953, and, most recently, in 2001.
Since Kamala Harris won’t be around every day to cast tie-breaking votes, the agreement will lay out the basics of Senate operations: how committee membership is divided between the parties, how legislation moves out of committees in case of a deadlock, how committee budgets are split between the parties.
For his part, Mitch McConnell is pressuring Chuck Schumer to make a promise to uphold the Senate Filibuster, which requires 60/100 votes to pass most legislation. Some Democrats are pressuring Schumer not to capitulate, saying that doing so would give McConnel the upper hand from the get-go and would demoralize Democratic voters hoping for big, progressive legislation.
The Democrats were scheduled to have a caucus phone call last night, so some details on this may have been sorted out. I’ll be watching next week to see how the parties will split the Senate’s power and if Schumer can thread the needle on the Fillibuster.
Elections in Texas and Iowa
Two state legislative elections are coming up this week. Tomorrow, Texas voters in State House District 68 will be choosing a new representative. On Tuesday the 26th, Iowa voters in State Senate District 41 will be doing the same.
In Texas, five candidates— four Republicans and one Democrat—are competing for the third most Republican-leaning House district in the entire state (it went to Trump 83-14 in 2016). Unless one of them wins a majority tomorrow, the election will go to a runoff between the top two vote-getters. The current front-runner is Republican David Spiller, an attorney who has fundraised around 100,000 and has the endorsement of former Texas Governor Rick Perry.
The race in Iowa is to fill the seat of Mariannette Miller-Meeks, the Republican who was seated in Congress earlier this month even as her opponent, Rita Hart, sent a petition to Congress to challenge the election. Unlike the race in Texas, the candidates in this race were chosen by their parties through candidate conventions. Democrats chose Mary Stewart, who ran for the seat in 2018; Republicans chose Adrian Dicky, who works for his family’s transportation company and whose father was mayor of his hometown of Packwood. This race could be close—Miller-Meeks beat out Stewart by just 3% in 2018. It’ll be an interesting first look at how things are going in a swing district as we enter the Biden presidency.
What does Trump do?
Things have been pretty quiet from Mar-a-Lago ever since Trump arrived there on Wednesday, but who knows how long that will last. Trump doesn’t have his favorite communication tool—blasting out Tweets—but he can still call up pretty much any show on Fox or conservative talk radio.
As Biden begins to unwind the Trump legacy—something he’s already started to do with a stack of executive orders—I’ll be watching how Trump responds and if he tries to rally his party’s Senators or Representatives to push back.
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