LEGISLATIVE AND POLITICAL BRIEF (FEBRUARY)

THE SENATE FLOOR

After the President’s day recess, the Senate will return today at 5:30pm, and there will be a roll call vote on the motion to invoke cloture on nominee Robert McKinnon Califf, to be Commissioner of the FDA. In addition to the FDA Commissioner debate, the Senate may consider the Energy bill and begin consideration of the Judiciary Committee’s legislation dealing with opioids this week.

JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA

The passing of Justice Scalia is likely to dramatically impact the tone and the schedule in the U.S. Senate over the next several months. President Obama plans to nominate a successor, while Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear that the Republican-controlled Senate does not plan to act until after the November election. Democratic appointees have not had a majority on the high court for more than four decades — since President Nixon’s first year in office

BUDGET AND APPROPRIATIONS

President Barack Obama sent his final budget request to Congress on February 9 for FY 2017. Total spending outlays in fiscal 2017 would be $4.1 trillion, up from $4 trillion this year. The budget would generate $308 billion more in revenue in fiscal 2017 compared with this year, and increase spending by $196 billion.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is planning to hold six hearings next week as it begins an examination of fiscal year 2017 spending.

Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) plans to be ready for markups of the 12 regular appropriations bills to begin in April. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is planning to bring all of the measures to the floor before lawmakers depart July 15 for the political conventions.

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION STATE OF PLAY

REPUBLICAN

Donald Trump continues to lead on the Republican side with decisive victories in New Hampshire on February 9 and in South Carolina’s Republican primary on February 20. These victories followed a second place finish to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in Iowa on February 1.

Trump won all of South Carolina’s 50 delegates. More than half of the delegates, 29, are awarded to the statewide winner. The rest, 21, are apportioned based on who wins each of the state’s seven congressional districts.

An interesting fact to note: Since 1980, the winner of South Carolina’s Republican primary has gone on to become the party’s nominee with the only exception in 2012, when Newt Gingrich won over eventual nominee Mitt Romney.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) was nearly written off after a bad debate performance and fifth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary. He won the endorsement last week of South Carolina’s popular governor and finished the primary with a strong second place finish. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) has endorsed him ahead of the Nevada caucus this week.

The big news on the Republican side this week was the exit of former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) from the race. Bush placed no higher than fourth place in any of the first three contests.

This narrows the Republican field down from twelve candidates on February 1 to just five candidates today: Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Carson and Governor Kasich (R-OH).

DEMOCRATIC

After a narrow victory in Iowa, Hillary Clinton suffered a fairly sizeable loss to Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in New Hampshire on February 9. Sanders won with just over 60% of the vote. Clinton came back to win the South Carolina and Nevada caucuses with narrow margins. National polls show Clinton and Sanders are locked in a tight race.

NEXT UP: NEVADA’S REPUBLICAN VOTERS WILL CAUCUS ON FEB. 23. FOLLOWING NEVADA, SUPER TUESDAY IS SCHEDULED TO BE HELD ON MARCH 1. THE PARTICIPATING STATES INCLUDE: ALABAMA, ALASKA REPUBLICAN CAUCUSES, ARKANSAS, COLORADO CAUCUSES, GEORGIA, MASSACHUSETTS, MINNESOTA CAUCUSES, OKLAHOMA, TENNESSEE, TEXAS, VERMONT, VIRGINIA, AND WYOMING REPUBLICAN CAUCUSES.

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