Terri A Sewell

At the Races: Trial vs. Trail

By Simone Pathé, Stephanie Akin and Bridget Bowman 

Welcome to At the Races! Each week we’ll bring you news and analysis from the CQ Roll Call team that will keep you informed about the 2020 election. Know someone who’d like to get this newsletter? They can subscribe here.

Census estimates: Redistricting ahead for California, New York and Texas
Projections suggest AZ, CO, FL, MT, NC, OR and TX could gain seats

Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, speaks at a rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Census Bureau gave a peek at a coming battle within states nationwide over the shape of the country’s congressional district map, with its latest population estimates hinting at fights within Texas, New York, California, Alabama and other states.

Those estimates give demographers and mapmakers the last hint of how the 2020 census will divvy up 435 congressional seats nationwide before the agency releases the official results later this year. The results will determine winners and losers for both the distribution of the districts as well as $1.5 trillion in federal funds each year.

Voting rights, a partisan issue? Yes, Republicans have fallen that far
‘Party of Lincoln’ seems to believe it can only win by placing as many obstacles to voting as possible

Reps. John Lewis, right, and Terri A. Sewell and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy at a news conference before the House passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act on Dec. 6. Only one Republican voted for the bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — Stacey Abrams has it right, for right now. She lost her 2018 race to be the governor of Georgia to Republican Brian Kemp, who as secretary of state was in charge of the election, a situation that would not pass the sniff test in North Korea.

OK, that comparison is a little far-fetched, but only a little.

Pelosi and Pence eye voters with USMCA agreement
Democrats and Trump appear to see the agreement as a rallying issue as they head into 2020 elections

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., conduct a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal agreement on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed victory for House Democrats Tuesday, saying they had reshaped a trade agreement designed to replace the long vilified 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement that organized labor has blamed for manufacturing jobs lost to Mexico.

In a sign of the potential political importance of the agreement to a core constituency, Pelosi and House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., repeatedly thanked Richard Trumka, president of the influential AFL-CIO, for prodding Democrats to get the best deal possible for enforcement of new ambitious labor laws in Mexico that include workers’ right to form unions to negotiate for better pay and work conditions.

Craft distillers, retailers wait anxiously for tax extenders
Stakeholders predict layoffs, hiring freezes if deal is not struck by end of year

Rep. Denver Riggleman says it would be “disastrous” for his wife’s Virginia distillery if a 2017 provision that cut excise taxes is not extended past its Dec. 31 expiration date. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman says a looming tax increase on small craft distillers will lead to layoffs at the distillery his family operates in Afton, Virginia, where they make a handful of spirits with colorful names like Strange Monkey Gin and Blackback Bourbon.

And Jeff Quint, a Swisher, Iowa, distillery owner who makes bourbon from corn grown on his family farm, says the demise of the small distillers’ break will force him to rethink new hires he’d been planning.

House panel to take up $10B vaping tax Wednesday
Measure would offset the cost of health care-related tax break proposals

Rep. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., cited statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing 1,479 cases of lung illness and 33 deaths stemming from vaping and e-cigarette usage. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Legislation that would impose the first federal tax on vaping products is slated for a House Ways and Means Committee vote Wednesday, along with several other health care-related tax measures.

The bipartisan bill, from New York Reps. Tom Suozzi, a Democrat, and Republican Peter T. King, would tax “any nicotine which has been extracted, concentrated or synthesized” at the same rate cigarettes are currently taxed, or the equivalent of $50.33 per 1,810 milligrams of nicotine.

Intel chief calls whistleblower complaint ‘unprecedented’
Acting director of national intelligence Maguire explains to House Intelligence Committee why he didn’t release complaint to Congress

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on the Capitol on Thursday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The acting director of national intelligence on Thursday told the House Intelligence Committee that he did not forward to the panel a whistleblower complaint regarding President Donald Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Biden family, as he first needed clarification if the complaint was one that could be superseded by executive privilege.

Joseph Maguire detailed the process he undertook after receiving the complaint, saying his staff spent the last several weeks working with the White House legal counsel to determine whether the president’s executive privilege would prevent him from sending the complaint to Congress.

Hey Congress, there’s an app for that!
Students swarm Capitol Hill, showcase computer science skills

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#HouseOfCode, a Computer Science Festival on Capitol Hill, welcomed 232 students from 129 congressional districts who all assembled in a packed room inside Rayburn. These high-tech middle and high schoolers wore their “congressional app challenge” cotton tees with pride, favoring computer applications over the typical D.C. attire. The task was to showcase their contributions to computer science and, once I showed up, explain “coding.”

“Coding ... is a language where you’re trying to write an application,” high school senior Ryan Lee began explaining before his galactic-themed game, “Space Exploration,” caught my attention. (I’m a sucker for space and, full disclosure, he lost me at “language.”)

Democrats close but still short votes needed to pass $15 minimum wage
Proponents of bill to double existing minimum wage over five years confident they’ll get there

House Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. Scott, D-Va., is confident he can convince enough uncommitted Democrats to support his bill to incrementally increase the federal minimum wage to $15 over five years for it to pass the chamber. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Proponents of a $15 minimum wage are bullish about the prospects of the House passing a bill to incrementally double the current $7.25 federal standard over five years, despite Democrats seemingly being short the votes to do so.

“We’re working to make sure that we have consensus, but we’re going to pass that bill with enough Democratic votes to make sure that it passes out of the House,” House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer told reporters during House Democrats’ retreat in Leesburg, Virginia, earlier this month. 

Sarah Sanders won’t say if Trump really thinks ‘Democrats hate Jewish people’
In rare briefing, press secretary merely says president has ‘laid out clearly his position’

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did nothing Monday to walk back President Trump reportedly saying he thinks "Democrats hate Jewish people." (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday opted against walking back President Donald Trump’s contention that congressional Democrats are an “anti-Jewish party.”

Trump on Friday told reporters that recent controversial remarks about the influence of Jewish donors on politicians by freshman Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent comments show “the Democrats have become an anti-Israel party” and an “anti-Jewish party.”