Florida’s Senate race is proceeding from a machine recount to a hand recount, the Secretary of State announced Thursday.
It’s the latest development in the drawn-out race between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and his Republican opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, whose margin remains under the 0.25 of a percentage point that automatically triggers a hand recount.
Canvassing boards in each county will have three days to examine “overvotes” and “undervotes” to try to determine how voters intended to vote. Overvotes are when the machine detects too many votes for the same office, and undervotes are when the machines don’t pick up any vote for a particular office. A Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times estimate found there could be anywhere between 35,000 and 118,000 of these ballots.
Democrats are seeking a hand recount of all ballots in Palm Beach County because of problems with the county's vote-counting machines.
Scott’s campaign claims that his lead grew by 865 votes during the machine recount. That would make his margin about 13,400 votes, according to his campaign. Nelson’s campaign believes the margin remains around 12,600.
Scott’s campaign, which has made multiple unfounded allegations of voter fraud in the week since Election Day, is calling on Florida to “move forward.”
But Nelson’s campaign remains optimistic about its chances to win the race and believes more votes need to be counted.
“It has never been our position that there was going to be one silver bullet that would change the margin in this race,” Nelson recount attorney Marc Elias said on a call with reporters Thursday evening.
Besides the hand recount, Elias believes Nelson can pick up votes from voters “curing” what’s known as signature mismatches. That refers to mail-in or provisional ballots that were rejected because the signatures on them did not match the signatures state officials had on record. A district court on Thursday extended the deadline for voters who were belatedly notified of a signature irregularity to correct their signatures on those ballots.
Elias also sees opportunity for Nelson to pick up votes from a pending lawsuit that would allow the counting of mail-in ballots that were cast by Election Day but not delivered in time.
Watch: Bill Nelson Makes a Statement on Florida’s Senate Race Recount
House Republicans on Thursday will consider changes to their internal conference rules, with several amendments targeting the process for selecting committee leaders.
The biggest proposed change comes from Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher, who wants committee members to be able to choose their own chairmen or ranking members.
His amendment would exclude the Rules, Budget and House Administration committees — the heads of which are appointed by the Republican leader — from the member-selection process.
Under the conference’s current rules, the Republican Steering Committee, a panel composed primarily of leadership and regional representatives, nominates committee leaders and the full conference ratifies those recommendations.
If Gallagher’s amendment were adopted, the Steering Committee would still be in charge of assigning members to committees.
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House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, who’s a proponent of allowing committee members to select their leaders, has an alternative amendment should Gallagher’s fail. Meadows’ proposal would at least reduce leadership’s influence in selecting committee leaders.
The North Carolina Republican wants to get rid of an existing rule that would allow the Republican leader’s vote to count as four votes and his deputy’s to count as two votes, so that their combined votes are equal to all other Steering members’ votes.
Meadows also has two other amendments. One would strike an existing rule that allows members who are appointed to the Rules Committee to reserve their seniority on one standing committee they had to leave to join Rules. The other would ensure that if the GOP leader convenes a panel to consider conference rules changes, the members he appoints would be “broadly representative of the diverse perspectives within the Republican Conference.”
Texas Rep. Pete Olson is offering an amendment to prevent committee leaders who reach their three-term limit (an existing conference rule that no one is proposing to change) from leading any of that panel’s subcommittees during the following three Congresses.
Many Republican committee leaders often retire from Congress after reaching their term limits, as five of them did for that reason this cycle. (Three chairmen who were not term-limited retired too). But Olson’s amendment would likely force even more into that decision and thus seems unlikely to be adopted.
Olson does provide a grandfather clause in his amendment that would allow any former committee leader who held subcommittee chairmanships this Congress to continue on in those roles for up to two more terms.
In amendment that is blatantly self-serving, Alaska Rep. Don Young is offering an amendment to allow the dean of the House to serve on the Republican Steering Committee when the dean is a GOP member. Young is the dean, the title ascribed to the longest-serving House member.
The final amendment comes from New York Rep. Elise Stefanik and would require members of elected leadership who decide to run for higher office like governor or senator to vacate their leadership positions after announcing.
It's unclear whether Stefanik’s amendment is meant to target a member of the leadership team the conference elected Wednesday. But it could seen as an insurance policy against Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney — who was elected conference chairwoman for the next Congress — using the leadership post as a platform to run against Sen. Michael B. Enzi for his Senate seat again.
Enzi is up for re-election in 2020. Cheney challenged him when he last ran in 2014 — she was not in Congress at the time — but ultimately dropped out of the race, citing family health issues.
Noticeably absent from the amendment offerings were controversial ones that arose two years ago over restoring earmarks.
At the time House Republicans, who banned earmarks after they won the House majority in 2010, appeared poised to provide a limited restoration of what proponents like to call congressional directed spending. But Speaker Paul D. Ryan urged the members to drop the proposal for further debate, promising a vote in the following months that never happened.
The reason GOP earmark proponents aren’t offering new amendments this year is likely because they’re not in the majority so wouldn’t have much power on their own to use them anyway. Plus, Democrats seem likely to lift the earmark ban as part of the House rules package for the 116th Congress.
House Republicans are already thinking about what to do if more members of their caucus face indictment. A new rules proposal for the conference would force its indicted members of Congress to relinquish leadership assignments and committee roles.
The rules change would require any GOP member facing indictment “for a felony for which a sentence of two or more years imprisonment may be imposed,” to “submit his or her resignation from any such committees to the House promptly.”
The proposed rules would also apply to any House Republican leadership, requiring them to “step aside” if indicted for a felony. Republican lawmakers will vote on the rules package this week.
Two House Republicans, New York’s Chris Collins and California’s Duncan Hunter, were both indicted in August. Hunter won his race, and Collins is ahead in his, although the Associated Press has not declared a winner. Without committee roles, their responsibilities would be pared back significantly.
Hunter and his wife, Margaret, were indicted by a federal grand jury in late August for allegedly using $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses and covering their tracks in campaign finance filings to the Federal Election Commission. The couple is facing 60 federal charges.
Collins faces insider trading charges stemming from his investment in an Australian biotech company where he served on the board of directors. He gained personal benefit and provided nonpublic information to his son Cameron Collins, who sold nearly $1.4 million of Innate Immunotherapeutics shares, according to a complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The other proposed changes include a clarification that committee leaders get to participate in Republican Steering Committee deliberations when the panel is considering removing a member of their committee and language specifying the distribution of Steering Committee votes for when the party is in the minority. In the majority, the speaker has had four votes and the majority leader two, while all other Steering members get one. In the minority the minority leader will get four votes and the minority whip will get two.
Currently, there are no no federal statutes or rules of the House that directly affect the status of a member of Congress who has been indicted for a crime that constitutes a felony.
Officials have yet to determine the winners in one Senate contest and eight House races — a week and a day after the midterm elections.
If the 2000 presidential race is an indication, the outcome of the Florida Senate race could be weeks away as state election personnel recount votes for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Nelson trailed in the initial tally by less than 15,000 votes to his challenger, GOP Gov. Rick Scott.
House Democrats have already passed the threshold for a majority that they haven’t held since 2010. They currently have 227 seats called in their favor with the potential for those 10 not yet called races. But they’ll likely land more around 231 seats — still good for a 27-seat majority.
In the Senate, the GOP flipped seats in Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri — states that President Donald Trump won by double digits in 2016. But Democrats picked up seats in Nevada and Arizona.
Here are the races yet to be called as of 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon that will determine the size of the Republicans’ majority in the Senate and the Democrats’ in the House:
The race for the Senate seat in Florida has turned into a nasty battle of accusations as officials begun a machine recount over the weekend.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott declared victory over three-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson late last Tuesday, but more than a week later the race remains uncalled by The Associated Press. Scott’s margin narrowed since election night as votes from Democratic-leaning Broward County continued to trickle in and absentee and provisional ballots remained uncounted.
A judge tossed out a lawsuit from Scott and the National Republican Senatorial Committee against Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes for failing to turn over information about ballots that have been counted. There has been no evidence of voter fraud in Broward, the judge ruled. Scott has also called for a Florida Department of Law Enforcement Investigation into Broward’s handling of ballots.
President Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio, without citing any evidence, has also accused Broward County officials of voter fraud.
Democratic groups have sued Scott to try to prevent him from being involved as governor in the recount process, which will go to a manual recount if the machine recount yields a margin between the candidates of less than 0.25 percent.
The Mississippi special election for the final two years of former GOP Sen. Thad Cochran’s term is heading to a Nov. 27 runoff after no candidate cleared 50 percent Tuesday night.
Just 1 point separated appointed GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and former Democratic Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, with Hyde-Smith ahead 41 percent to 40 percent. Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel took 16 percent of the vote.
Last weekend, Democratic challengers from the Golden State picked up two other seats, in the 25th and 48th Districts.
Local officials in California are still counting ballots in two other GOP seats, whose results are trending Democratic after Republicans held cushions on Election Day.
In the 45th District, Democrat Katie Porter has overtaken Rep. Mimi Walters by just hundreds of votes, according to results released last night. Walters had a 6,000-vote cushion on Election Night.
In Georgia’s 7th District, Rep. Rob Woodall leads by less than 500 votes over Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux in the Atlanta suburbs.
Utah Rep. Mia Love, who spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention and is the only African-American Republican woman in the House, pulled within half a percent of Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams with 85 percent of precincts reporting in the 4th District.
With just absentee and provisional ballots left to count, Democratic challenger Anthony Brindisi leads Rep. Claudia Tenney by about half a percentage point in New York’s 22nd District. Tenney ran one of the most pro-Trump campaigns of any vulnerable Republican this cycle.
Republican incumbents in Maine’s 2nd District (Bruce Poliquin), New York’s 27th (Chris Collins) and Texas’ 23rd (Will Hurd) hold narrow edges in their respective races, but those contests remained uncalled Wednesday. With none of the candidates taking more than 50 percent in Maine, the race will be decided by the state’s new ranked-choice voting system for the first time.
One open seat held by the GOP remains uncalled. Republican Young Kim holds a narrow lead over Democrat Gil Cisneros for the seat vacated by retiring Rep. Ed Royce in California’s 39th District. Her lead has shrunk from 4,000 votes on Election Night to roughly 700 by Wednesday with more mail-in ballots left to count. Experts have predicted Cisneros will overtake Kim.
Watch: Bill Nelson Makes a Statement on Florida’s Senate Race Recount
Most House Democrats in the next Congress will be new to the majority and an overwhelming majority of Republicans will be new to the minority — a dynamic that could create a steep learning curve for members as they grapple with party strategy and messaging changes under the new power structure.
Even more significant is that a majority of leadership candidates for both parties have not served in a Democrat-led House.
Republicans have controlled the House since 2011, and next year’s power shift will be new territory for old and new members alike.
Of the 227 Democrats who are guaranteed to be serving in the 116th Congress — 10 House races remained uncalled at press time — 58 percent will be new to the majority. That includes 79 members who have served in Congress already and 53 new members. Only 95 Democrats returning next year have experienced life in the majority.
The numbers of Republicans serving in the minority for the first time is even more staggering. Of the 198 Republicans elected so far, 73 percent will be new to the minority.
Even a majority of returning Republican members — 112 — will be serving in the minority for the first time; another 32 are incoming freshmen. Only 54 Republicans serving next Congress have been in the minority before.
“There will be a learning curve on both sides,” said Molly Reynolds, a governance studies fellow at the Brookings Institution.
The House is a majority-run institution that, unlike the Senate, provides the minority with little power.
Democrats who have never served in the majority don’t know what it’s like for their party to be able to decide what issues committees get to work on, what bills come to the floor and what amendments are made in order, Reynolds said.
“Republicans, the flip side is true,” she said. “You’ve only ever been in the chamber where your party gets to make those decisions.”
House Republicans will have to adjust their strategy and messaging since they’ll no longer be operating from the same playbook as they have the past two years under unified Republican control of Congress and the White House.
“They have mainly been focusing on trying to legislate,” Reynolds said.
While that would seemingly be the Democrats’ role in the majority, they won’t be able to do too much of that with Republicans still in control of the Senate and the White House.
Rather, much of the Democrats’ legislative and messaging decisions will be aimed at laying the groundwork for what would happen if they have unified party control in 2020, Reynolds said.
Toward the end of the Obama administration, Republicans, who controlled both chambers of Congress by then, tried that — to varying degrees of success — with “trial runs” on repealing the 2010 health care law and other priorities, she said.
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Republicans will also need to familiarize themselves with procedural tools of the minority, like the motion to recommit — a move to send legislation back to the committee, which gives minority-party lawmakers the opportunity to suggest how they would have handled the issue.
Another major difference in the parties flipping power is the operation of committees. Democrats will get more seats and staff, while Republicans will get fewer.
There are other “more mundane logistical things” that the majority party benefits from, such as better office space and preferential treatment for room rentals, Reynolds said.
While there would seem to be a major experience gap, some members have backgrounds serving in state and local legislative bodies where they’ve experienced the power structure they’ll encounter in the House next year.
Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, who came to Congress in 2013, noted that he spent some time in the majority during his time in the Wisconsin State Assembly.
The co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus also said that Democrats are more prepared for holding the majority because they’ve been proactively developing policy proposals while in the minority.
“The good part is our caucus has always been not just about opposition but about trying to put forward progressive, bold ideas,” he said. “Now the challenge will be to convince our colleagues.”
For Democrats, working to develop consensus on legislation, rather than vote uniformly — or occasionally, not — against Republican bills will also be new to many members.
Interestingly enough, most of the Democrats running for leadership positions in the House have never served in the majority.
That doesn’t include the candidates for the top three positions — speaker, majority leader and majority whip — who have all served in the majority before.
The races for the No. 4 and No. 5 slots each include one candidate who has served in the majority — New Mexico’s Ben Ray Luján for assistant Democratic leader and California’s Barbara Lee for Democratic Caucus chair — and one candidate who hasn’t — Rhode Island’s David Cicilline for assistant leader and New York’s Hakeem Jeffries for caucus chair.
Nor have any of the four candidates running to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Reps. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York and Suzan DelBene and Denny Heck of Washington were all elected in 2012 and have only ever campaigned from the minority position.
Likewise, the only declared Republican running to chair the National Republican Congressional Committee, Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, has never served in the minority. He was first elected in 2014.
And the three candidates running for House Republican Conference leadership positions — Wyoming’s Liz Cheney for chair, North Carolina’s Mark Walker for vice chair and Missouri’s Jason Smith for secretary — have also never been in the minority.
Only the Republican candidates seeking the top two leadership positions — California’s Kevin McCarthy and Ohio’s Jim Jordan running for minority leader and Louisiana’s Steve Scalise running for minority whip — have served in the minority before.
Retiring Rep. Sander M. Levin drove away from the Courtyard Marriott in Southeast Washington, leaving his son on the curb in front of the hotel.
It was a true first day of school moment for Michigan Rep.-elect Andy Levin, who will be succeeding his father. As the Democrat made his way into the lobby around 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, the official orientation for new members of Congress was just getting started.
Checking in was the first task of the week. It also offered a moment to see old friends or make some new ones.
When Colin Allred, who beat Republican incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions to represent Texas’ 32rd District, was registering at the front of the hotel, he spotted Lauren Underwood. She defeated GOP Rep. Randy Hultgren to represent Illinois’ 14th District.
After a round of hugs, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey walked up. “How are you guys? So exciting,” she said.
Other newly elected members echoed the sentiment.
Hugs, Luggage and Getting Dropped Off By Dad: New Members Arrive For Orientation
“We’re all very excited to take part in making history,” Democrat Susan Wild said of herself and the four other women elected this cycle to represent Pennsylvania. They’re breaking up the state’s all-male delegation.
Tennessee Republican Tim Burchett took some time to have fun with the media.
“I haven’t been on ‘Saturday Night Live,’” he joked, referencing his colleague-to-be Dan Crenshaw. The Texas Republican, who lost his eye while serving as a Navy SEAL in Afghanistan, appeared on the show this week after comedian Pete Davidson joked about his eye patch.
The orientation gives newly elected House members their first taste of what life will be like on Capitol Hill, from interacting with media to hiring staff.
“Today we’re just going to get our feet wet,” California Democrat Mike Levin told the media.
Republican Dan Meuser of Pennsylvania described what getting his feet wet means for him. “We need to understand the rules,” he said. “Hey, the more information the better.”
Some members-elect arrived on Monday, or earlier, for various events.
Back at the hotel, Iowa Democrat Cindy Axne greeted Susie Lee in the lobby. “It’s good to see you here and not at a fundraiser!” Well, “at least for a few weeks,” she added. “We’ll be back fundraising in December.”
A heavy police presence surrounded the hotel, and officers stood guard inside as well. Guests were told they the hotel was closing for a private event at 11 a.m. so there was no extended checkout or storage for guests beyond then.
An officer stood at the door and asked for identification as aides walked in to meet their bosses. Reporters were stationed right outside the entrance and went through a security sweep.
Katherine Tully-McManus and Thomas McKinless contributed to this report.Correction 2:05 p.m. | An earlier version of this story misidentified Rep.-elect Cindy Axne’s party affiliation.