Happy New Year! We are changing things up a bit with a new name - the “ABC Beltway Blueprint”, which will be at least a weekly update focusing on legislative action in Congress, executive action in the White House and federal agencies, and the political landscape for upcoming elections with an emphasis on how these events impact ABC members and the construction industry.
117th Congress Kicks Off:
Yesterday, the new members of the 117th Congress were sworn into office and in the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has led her party in the chamber since 2003, was selected to serve as Speaker for the fourth time in her career, in a 216-209 vote between her and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.), with five Democrats voting present or for someone else. It is expected to be Speaker Pelosi’s last term as speaker, where Democrats maintain a slim 222-211 majority. In 2018, to win the support of detractors, she said she would seek a fourth and final term only if she had the support of two-thirds of her caucus. Pelosi also received support from prominent progressives in her caucus in a large show of unification among the Democratic party in the House that is seeking to exploit the Republican infighting over the presidential election results at this time.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), shortly after the speaker's vote, forced his GOP colleagues to take a recorded vote that challenged the seating of the House delegations from Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada over GOP claims of systemic fraud and planned objections from some Republican representatives on Wednesday’s vote to certify the presidential election. Roy has objected to efforts to oppose the certification of the states’ election results for president and his point to some of his House colleagues claiming the election results in those five states were fraudulent, then they must concede that the House elections in those delegations are also rigged. Only two Republicans, Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and Andy Harris (R-Md.), voted against seating their colleagues.
House Democrats also passed a new rules package today that will set the parameters for legislation in the House. The new rules include a provision that will limit the ability of the GOP to pass last-minute amendments to legislation through a motion to recommit. Republicans successfully used the motion to recommit eight times, vexing Democratic leaders by luring in support for the GOP provisions from their own party. The new rule would change the motion to recommit so that it kills legislation, which means Democrats are far less likely to support the last-minute GOP provisions.
Progressives were also pushing for the rules package to eliminate a longstanding pay-as-you-go, or PAYGO, provision that requires legislation that would increase the deficit to be offset. While the rules package does not get rid of PAYGO, it would provide the Budget Committee chairperson the authority to declare legislation providing economic and heath responses to the pandemic, as well as measures designed to combat climate change, as having no cost — effectively a PAYGO exemption for a number of costly Democratic priorities.
The Democratic rules package would also make it an ethics violation for members to knowingly distribute “deep fake” media. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy condemned the rules changes in a speech he delivered Sunday: “These rules throw away over 100 years of representation in our nation’s Capital by effectively killing a key opportunity to amend legislation,” McCarthy said. "Worse, they would penalize any member who shares news or views that liberals and their allies in the media deem 'fake.' They actually make it an ethics violation, which is usually reserved for such unbecoming conduct as bribery and corruption.”
In the Senate, the makeup currently stands at 51 Republican senators and 48 Democrats following the swearing in ceremonies. Should Democrats prevail in both the Georgia runoffs tomorrow, the split would become 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as the tiebreaking vote, giving Democrats the majority.
Republicans Divided on Presidential Election Certification:
Every four years, the House and Senate come together to formally tabulate the electoral votes and raise any final concerns about the results. Normally, it is an obligatory confirmation of the Electoral College vote, however, a number of Republican members of the House and Senate have announced their intention to object to the results in several states where President Trump and his allies have raised dubious objections to the results that have already been rejected by the courts.
In the event of a challenge by a member of the House and Senate, the joint session of Congress would pause and lawmakers would go back to their respective chambers to debate for up to two hours. They would then vote on whether to toss out the electoral results of the state in question. Both chambers would have to agree to reject the votes, something that has not happened since the Reconstruction era, and with Democrats in control of the House, there is no chance that that chamber would vote to overturn the results. Further, while Republicans lead the Senate, several members of the party there have recognized Mr. Biden as the winner of the election, and Majority Leader McConnell and #2 Senate Republican John Thune (R-SD) has made it clear that the effort would not have their support either.
So far, it is estimated that more than 100 House members will object to the election results in at least one state and led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) 11 Republican Senators issued a joint statement about their intention to object. The move has caused infighting among Republicans in Congress with much of the criticism leveled at these detractors are that it is a political and being used to avoid primary challenges or gain favor with Trump supporters ahead of the 2024 presidential elections, with many of those objecting suspected of having presidential aspirations.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), in an open letter to constituents this week, accused the lawmakers of trying to win over the president's supporters, adding, "Adults don’t point a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government." Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) added that objecting during the Wednesday joint session "continues to spread the false rumor that somehow the election was stolen."
Other staunch Trump allies, including Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) have also stated their opposition to objecting to the election results. In a statement, Cotton wrote: “The Founders entrusted our elections chiefly to the states — not Congress. They entrusted the election of our president to the people, acting through the Electoral College — not Congress. And they entrusted the adjudication of election disputes to the courts — not Congress. And, “Under the Constitution and federal law, Congress’s power is limited to counting electoral votes submitted by the state.” Cotton warned that if Congress threw out the electoral votes of states such as Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where President Trump has alleged without sufficient evidence widespread election fraud, it would “take away the power to choose the president from the people.”
Adding to the issue is a recent call from President Trump over the weekend to Georgia’s Secretary of State which has recently been supported on and called into questions the legality and morality of the call from the president and his attempts to pressure state officials over the election results in the state.
Georgia Runoff Elections Tomorrow:
The two U.S. Senate runoff elections tomorrow in Georgia will decide the control of the U.S. Senate over the next two years. The two elections conclude tomorrow as hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent from both sides. Sen. David Perdue (R) will face Jon Ossoff (D), with the winner winning election to a full six-year term. The other Senate contest is a special election between appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) and Rev. Raphael Warnock (D). The winner of this race will serve the balance of the current term and then is eligible to stand for election to a full six-year term in 2022.
State of the Race -
Available public polling has the races in a statistical tie. The mail-in absentee ballots received and early in-person votes cast now total 3,031,963. This is 71% of November’s mail-in absentee ballots total and 78% of its early voting total, for a combined mail-in absentee ballots/early voting total, which is 75% of November’s turnout. Low-propensity voters make up 38.5% of the absentee ballots/early votes: they were 44% in November. Early voting ended Dec. 31; mail-in ballots must be received by 7 p.m. tomorrow.
It is expected to be a late evening for those watching the election results. Mail-in absentee ballots and early votes will be reported first on Tuesday night for most counties. As in Nov., Democrats are expected to dominate the mail-in absentee ballots and the early votes will be narrowly divided between the two parties, so expect the Democratic candidates to lead early in the evening, while Republicans are expected to gain ground throughout the night.
In the November general election, Republicans dominated with voters who turned out Election Day with Sen. Perdue winning 62% of the two-party vote. Both Republican campaigns expect to do slightly better than that Tuesday and will use models to track results. These forecast that the bigger Tuesday’s turnout, the better for the GOP, especially if the remaining Absentee ballots moving through the mail are similar to those received so far. Bottom line: it is all about turnout.
President-elect Joe Biden and President Trump plan to stage dueling rallies in Georgia on today, while Vice President Pence also campaigned in the state earlier today, and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris visited Sunday. However, as President Trump continues to call into questions the election results in the state that voted for President-elect Joe Biden in November, many Republicans are concerned over the impact it could have on the Senate races at a pivotal moment.
ABC’s Political Advocacy –
See below for a quick summary of ABC’s political advocacy efforts in the Georgia U.S. Senate Special Elections
ABC has created helpful handouts for ABC members that feature side-by-side information on the two Senate races and the candidates’ stances on ABC priority issues: Perdue Ossoff web side-by-side, Loeffler Warnock web side-by-side, Palm Cards.
In addition to our ABC of Georgia Chapter endorsements of the two candidates (view here), ABC PAC launched an independent expenditure this morning for both Sens. Perdue and Loeffler. Information can be found on ABC’s home webpage: Click here.
ABC PAC and ABC members also contributed over $201,000 directly to the campaigns and the party committees that are supporting them.
In addition, the Free Enterprise Alliance, an entity of ABC, has invested nearly half a million dollars in issue advocacy and get-out-the-vote activity. Issue advocacy videos highlighting issues that impact Georgians, our families, and our business. You can view FEA’s work by clicking here.
Finally, ABC is hosted a webinar today, Monday, Jan. 4 at 1:00 p.m. EST briefing members on the state of the Georgia races. Thank you to all who were able to join the webinar.
Please review the Georgia Special Election One Pager to learn more about ABC’s involvement.
As a reminder, ABC send the attached letter to SBA and Treasury last week urging immediate action on new guidance for the additional $284 billion in PPP loans as authorized and funded by the COVID relief package. To date there has not been any additional guidance released from these federal agencies, which under the law, have 10 days to provide additional guidance on the program’s implementation.
We have heard that lenders are estimating an early-mid February timeline for new rules to be finalized and banks available to provide loans to businesses. ABC is continuing to monitor any developments on new guidance and will be sure to provide critical updates as necessary.
Statewide Vaccination Plans
ABC’s general counsel, Littler Mendelson, has prepared a chart that provides links to state agency websites, vaccine allocation plans, and other guidance related to the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as basic vaccination plan phases.
The purpose of the information is to give employers a general idea of what vaccine-related actions various jurisdictions are taking. The chart is not all-inclusive and does not cover municipalities, some of which have issued their own guidance
EEOC Releases Q&A Guidance Section on COVID-19 Vaccination Policies
On Dec. 16, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new guidance on COVID-19 vaccination policies. To learn more about the EEOC guidance, see ABC’s general counsel’s analysis, EEOC Issues Guidance on COVID-19 Vaccination Policies.
The EEOC updated its guidance entitled What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws by adding a section “K.” The new section addresses questions on COVID-19 vaccinations and the applicability of equal employment opportunity laws.