US House Has No Members, No Rules As Speaker Race Drags On

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Republicans continue to squabble over who will be the next speaker, there are essentially no members in the U.S. House of Representatives — only members-elect.

Without a speaker, none of the them can be sworn in, and the 118th Congress can’t convene or vote on any rules. Parliamentary procedure has been jettisoned in favor of controlled chaos. Members of both parties are unsure whether they can call votes or make motions on the floor because there is no speaker to rule on their requests. Committees can’t be formed and legislation can’t be passed.

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“I don’t know what my status is,” said Democrat Ted Lieu of California. “I don’t know if I have health care, I don’t know if my staff get paid. We’re looking at all of that now because this hasn’t happened for 100 years.”

Former Rep. Billy Long of Missouri, who just retired, has been tweeting about what he calls “Bizaroland.” At one point he openly wondered in his Twitter bio whether he was still a congressman (he isn’t).

The rule-less, member-less House may only be a blip in history if Republicans are able to find a way forward this week and elect a new speaker. While that remains a strong possibility, a resolution to the standoff seemed distant on Wednesday, as Republican Kevin McCarthy of California lost a second day of roll call votes on the floor. Supporters and opponents all appeared dug in.

The uncertainty added to the surreal, looser-than usual atmosphere on the House floor Wednesday as members sat in their seats for vote after vote, hour after hour, negotiating, gossiping and wondering what comes next. Some relaxed with books or newspapers, or scrolled their phones. Some took photos and selfies, a practice that is usually forbidden by the rules.

Others still had children with them in the chamber, a holdover from Tuesday’s proceedings when family often accompany members to watch them be sworn in. Only they weren’t sworn in on the first day of the new Congress — the first time that had happened in a century.

In 1923, the process of selecting a speaker lasted for three days. In 1855, it dragged on for two months, with 133 ballots.

“It’s a very strange limbo,” said Democrat Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania, who had hoped her visiting grandchildren would get to see her sworn in on Tuesday. “We are operating by precedent.”

On the House floor, clerk Cheryl Johnson is holding the gavel, not the Republican majority.

“Madam speaker,” Republican Chip Roy of Texas said at one point, addressing the rostrum as members usually do, before correcting himself. “Madam clerk,” he amended.

Off the floor, members are operating under the rules for the last Congress — they think. No one really seems to know, and there are concerns about what would happen if the stalemate were to last until mid-January, when paychecks are expected. Some staff are in limbo — only provisionally employed if they are new hires or switching jobs.

Republican Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the incoming chairman of the House Rules Committee, said that members-elect were operating under the rules of the previous Congress, when Democrats were in control. But he added: “I don’t know if that’s written down.”

Without a speaker, “there’s a lot we can’t do,” Cole said. Staff and members will be paid, he said, “but at some point it shuts off.”

As the hours ticked by, members started to ponder what-if scenarios. Lieu said he worried that lawmakers aren’t able to look at classified documents important to national security, and wouldn’t be able to respond to a world crisis. Could websites be updated? Would emails continue to work?

“Who can legally help any and all of our citizens with issues we normally handle everyday?” tweeted Long, the former Missouri congressman. “Passports, IRS, #Veteran’s issues, SBA, Post Office, Immigration issues, Corps of Engineers, etc. who’s getting paid?”

Click here to read the full article in AP News

House Approves Bill Allowing Puerto Ricans to Choose Statehood Status

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to let Puerto Ricans decide the island territory’s governing status — over the objections of most Republicans who said Congress should be focused on other priorities in the final days of the legislative session.

The legislation, which passed 233-191 with 16 Republicans voting in favor, frames the terms of a plebiscite on one of three options that would alter Puerto Rico’s status — full statehood, independence, or sovereignty in free association with the US.

The latter designation would put Puerto Rico on the same footing as the Marshall Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia. 

Bronx and Queens Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has Puerto Rican ancestry, presided over the vote and announced the final tally.

The bill is likely to fall short of approval in the 50-50 Senate, which left many Republicans questioning why Democrats rushed to hold an apparently quixotic vote when Congress is scrambling to avert a partial government shutdown by midnight Friday.

“I do have to say, with only a few legislative days left in this Congress, no path forward in the Senate, I’m not sure why this matter warrants an emergency meeting of the Rules Committee when so many outstanding issues remain,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) told Fox News Wednesday. 

House lawmakers approved a short-term spending bill late Wednesday that would give Congress another week to negotiate a federal spending plan for the rest of the fiscal year. 

The Senate was expected to take up that measure later Thursday.

“It is crucial to me that any proposal in Congress to decolonize Puerto Rico be informed and led by Puerto Ricans,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, which oversees affairs of US territories.

“For far too long, the people of Puerto Rico have been excluded from the full promise of American democracy and self-determination that our nation has always championed,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who has worked on the issue throughout his career.

Puerto Rico, with a population of more than 3.2 million, has been a US territory since 1898.

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, traveled to Washington for the vote. “It’s going to be a historic day because it’s going to create a precedent that we hadn’t had until now,” he said.

 Puerto Rico has held seven non-binding referendums on its political status, with no overwhelming majority emerging. The last referendum was held in November 2020, with 53% of votes for statehood and 47% against, with only a little more than half of registered voters participating.

Pablo José Hernández Rivera, an attorney in Puerto Rico, said approval of the bill by the House would be “inconsequential” like the approval of previous bills in 1998 and 2010.

“We Puerto Ricans are tired of the fact that the New Progressive Party has spent 28 years in Washington spending resources on sterile and undemocratic status projects,” he said.

Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, the island’s non-voting member in the House, praised the bill and said it would provide the island with the self-determination it deserves.

Click here to read the full article in the NY Post

New House Democratic Leader Defends Calling Trump ‘Illegitimate’ President

Newly elected House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries defended past remarks calling Donald Trump’s 2016 election “illegitimate” against Republican criticism, noting that he voted to certify his presidency.

“I will never hesitate in criticizing the former president,” Jeffries said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “I think I’m in good company there across the world.”

Jeffries said Republicans “are going to have to work out their issues” with Trump after his comment Saturday on his Truth Social social-media site that his loss in 2020 should be overturned and that “rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution” should be terminated. Jeffries called it “a strange statement.”

“Suspending the Constitution is an extraordinary step, but we’re used to extraordinary statements being made by the former president,” Jeffries said of Trump, who is running for the 2024 Republican nomination for president.

For their part, Republicans have criticized Jeffries after Democrats selected him to succeed Speaker Nancy Pelosi, citing tweets in which he said that Russian interference made the 2016 presidential election “illegitimate” and questioned whether Trump was a “fake president.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Jeffries an “election denier,” a term typically used to describe Trump and allies who refuse to accept his loss in 2020.

Jeffries said that he voted to certify Trump’s 2016 win, attended his inauguration and worked with his administration on issues like a treaty with Mexico and criminal justice reform.

“That track record speaks for itself,” he said.

The White House harshly criticized Trump’s latest claim of election fraud, calling the US constitution a “sacrosanct document.”

“Attacking the Constitution and all it stands for is anathema to the soul of our nation, and should be universally condemned,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement. “You cannot only love America when you win.”

Former Trump adviser John Bolton, who has since become one of his harshest critics, said on Twitter that “all real conservatives” should oppose his 2024 campaign, citing that statement.

“No American conservative can agree with Donald Trump’s call to suspend the Constitution because of the results of the 2020 election,” he wrote.

Republican Representative David Joyce, who chairs the moderate Republican Governance Group, said on “This Week” that he wasn’t going to respond to Trump’s latest statement, even if it was a call for suspending the US constitution.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

GOP’s Duarte Takes California Central Valley US House seat

Republican John Duarte defeated Democrat Adam Gray on Friday in a new California U.S. House district in the Central Valley farm belt that produced the closest congressional contest in the state this year.

With virtually all of the ballots counted, Duarte has just over 50% of the vote. Gray conceded in a statement, saying, “I accept the results and have called to congratulate my opponent.”

“This was one of the closest races in the country. More than 130,000 ballots were cast, and the outcome will be decided by just a few hundred votes,” Gray said.

Duarte said in a statement, ”“I promised our Valley families that I would be their bipartisan champion in Washington, D.C. by fighting for food on our tables, gas in our tanks, and water on our farms. That is exactly what I am going to go there to do.”

Earlier, Republicans regained control of the House. With Duarte’s victory, Republicans will hold 221 seats next year, Democrats 213, with one Colorado race undecided and going to a recount.

The 13th District has a prominent Democratic tilt and a large Latino population, similar to other districts in the sprawling farm belt region. But the most likely voters tend to be white, older, more affluent homeowners, while working-class voters, including many Latinos, are less consistent in getting to the polls.

That provided an opening for the GOP, despite the 14-point Democratic registration advantage.

Duarte, a businessman and major grape and almond farmer, was the top finisher in the June primary. His priorities included obtaining adequate water supplies for farmers in the drought-wracked state — a perennial issue in the Central Valley — along with addressing inflation and crime.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

As Pelosi Backs Away, A New Generation of Democrats Steps Forward

One day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced she would step back from leading the House Democratic caucus, a changing of the guard began, led by a crop of Democrats tasked with charting a new path for the party as it reaches a generational inflection point.

Seasoned and newer Democratic lawmakers eagerly embraced the prospect of a fresh start that could usher in a new era for the Democratic Party, as new leaders Friday announced their intention to fill the vacancies left by Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), and Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (S.C.). The first major reshuffle of House Democratic leadership in decades will not only affect which policies Democrats pursue, but also bring with ita shifting view of how leadership should function.

Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), Katherine M. Clark (Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (Calif.) have emerged as the expected leaders of the next chapter, officially announcing their candidacies for the Democratic caucus’s top three positions on Friday. Besides the appeal of their relative youth — all are younger than 60, while the current top three are all older than 80 — the trio more robustly represents the diversity within the Democratic Party. Jeffries, 52, would break barriers as the first Black person to lead any party in either chamber of Congress. Clark, 58, could become the second woman to serve as minority whip, and Aguilar, 43, would be the second Hispanic lawmaker to chair the caucus if elected this month.

“In the 118th Congress, House Democrats will be led by a trio that reflects our beautiful diversity of our nation. Chair Jeffries, Assistant Speaker Clark and Vice Chair Aguilar know that, in our Caucus, diversity is our strength and unity is our power,” Pelosi said in a statement endorsing the candidates Friday.

Roughly two dozen Democratic lawmakers who spoke to The Washington Post this week were hopeful about the new generation of leaders expected to take charge, while many also noted that they hoped to elect colleagues to the rest of the large Democratic leadership slate who will expand age, cultural and regional diversity.

House Democrats overwhelmingly recognize, however, that no one leader in the new generation can be as powerful as Pelosi, who maintains the ability to achieve legislative results by coaxing members in the direction needed.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who has known Pelosi for almost four decades, acknowledged Pelosi’s style of “tough love” is what forged consensus to achieve historic feats like passing the landmark Affordable Care Act, several priorities of President Biden’s agenda and other bills that required sacrifices from members who may not have agreed with all provisions.

“She’s been a leader, a speaker, that has led through many, many difficult days,” Lee said. “But yes, she has always risen to the occasion and has shepherded through this Congress transformational legislation.”

A post-Speaker Pelosi House

Without that tight grip, members privately have mused over the past year, the new reality couldcreate a scenario where no one can control members’ demands.

“If no one’s living in fear of the speaker of the House, then maybe it’s a complete s—show,” one Democratic lawmaker said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to be candid.

But that is a risk many Democrats see as worth taking. They have grown tired of what several described as top-down governance, and they want to see new leaders engage more often with the ideological factions of the caucus before decisions are made, avoiding last-minute spats over legislation.

Reverence also was expressed toward Pelosi for shattering the marble ceiling, an acknowledgment that without her, Hoyer and Clyburn, members would not have such a structurally strong foundation on which to build and expand the caucus.

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), a member of “The Squad,” made up largely of liberal women of color, wants to see the new leaders make more inroads with the most progressive members of the caucus, noting that their lived experiences aren’t routinely considered.

“Sometimes I feel treated as if my background — and it’s not just me, there are others, I can speak personally for myself — is like something that should be put in the corner,” she said, noting her background as an unhoused single parent working for low wages, as well as experience with domestic and sexual violence.

Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar spent much of the past term forging relationships throughout the caucus and acknowledging they would rely on one another’s strengths to bring all viewpoints to the decision-making table. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) credited the team, particularly Jeffries, for working in an inclusive manner and seeking input from colleagues.

“Having the first African American leader of either political party, I think, is really significant,” he said. “On top of that … [Jeffries is] extraordinarily talented, an amazing messenger of our values, a strong strategist, and someone who is inclusive and seeks input from his colleagues.”

Many older members in the caucus took the passing of the torch in stride, echoing Pelosi’s words read from Scripture during her Thursday speech, that there is “a time and a season” for everything. It’s a realization Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) had this year when he decided to retire after 15 years in the House. Before doing so, he called Morgan McGarvey, 42, to inquire if he would run for his seat in Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District because of his skill — and age.

“The world is moving at 100 miles an hour. Congress at its max, at its optimum efficiency, moves at 10 miles. So you need people who are more accustomed to the pace of change and adapting to the pace of change,” he said just hours after he was officially kicked out of his office in the Cannon Office Building. “Because if this body doesn’t figure out how to do that, it’s going to become irrelevant.”

Help from the ‘old guard’

While there is an overwhelming eagerness to start anew, several members were glad to hear that the “old guard” would still be around next term. It served as a relief for several, who had previously expressed worry that the new generation has not had enough time to harness their legislating and negotiating chops. The expected new top three in the caucus have served a collective 27 years in Congress, compared with the 58 years combined that Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn have served in leadership alone.

“I think for one thing, when you’re in the minority, it really is time to train people to be in the majority,” Hoyer said in an MSNBC interview Friday, echoing what many members have expressed about a transitional time being beneficial to new leaders.

Moreover, Hoyer retains a respectful relationship with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who earned the GOP conference’s nomination to be speaker next term. Both McCarthy and Jeffries have acknowledged not having a solid relationship, as both have often spent the past several years trading barbs.

Several Democratic lawmakers who spoke to The Post say Jeffries has proved himself to be a reliable antagonist against Republicans and their policies, a role he will have to play in the minority. But the ability to legislate and negotiate will be a test for the new trio as Republicans begin to acknowledge that they will have to rely on Democrats to approve must-pass legislation to overcome their razor-thin majority.

During a weekly news conference days before Pelosi stepped aside, Jeffries said House Democrats have always shown a willingness to work with the GOP, noting that the caucus previously worked with the Trump administration on policies “because we understood it was the right thing to do for America.” But where they engage depends on the proposals Republicans put forth.

“I think the metric of this caucus is: Does the policy help our communities, and does it help our country?” Aguilar said. “But if Republicans are going to engage in the continued extremism that we’ve seen over the past few years, then I don’t know if there’s an appetite.”

While the old guard will be around to give advice — particularly Clyburn, who is expected to remain in leadership — Pelosi said in an interview Thursday that she does not want to encroach on how Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar choose to lead the caucus.

“I have no intention of being the mother-in-law in the kitchen saying, ‘My son doesn’t like the stuffing that way. This is the way we make it in our family.’ They will have their vision. They will have their plan,” she said.

Instead, her closest confidants are hoping the new guard will allow Pelosi to step back and relax.

Click here to read the full article in the Washington Post

Democrat Christy Smith, Losing Ground, Blames Her Own Party

With Mike Garcia winning blue district again, she says she got ‘next to zero’ help.

The race for a hotly contested Los Angeles-area congressional district had not been called, but Democrat Christy Smith sensed she would end up on the losing end. And she felt there was a clear reason why.

“Our campaign got next to zero outside resources to fight this battle. In fact, I was fighting the institutional power of my own party from the outset of this race,” Smith said in a scathing series of remarks on Twitter.

With no help on the airwaves and little elsewhere from Democratic Party committees and PACs, she said, “we didn’t stand a chance.”

Smith is no different from scores of other candidates who believe victory would’ve been theirs if not for stingy support from Washington. But her unusually blunt remarks Sunday highlighted the stark turn of events in the campaign for California’s 27th District — a contest in which Democrats were expected to mount an all-out effort to oust incumbent Rep. Mike Garcia after he barely eked out a win two years earlier.

“This is a massive screw-up on their end,” said political consultant Brandon Zavala, who ran Smith’s 2020 campaign but did not work on this year’s race. “We’re looking here at a Biden plus-12 [district] that we’re about to hand to Republicans.”

The typical postelection second-guessing of spending decisions has sharpened with Democrats exceeding expectations in this midterm election. Instead of losing control of the House in a rout, the party nearly held the GOP to a draw, with Republicans probably now on track to have a bare-bones majority.

Now, it appears every spending decision in close races in California and across the country could have tipped the balance enough for Democrats to keep House control.

Veterans of past midterm elections cautioned that such armchair quarterbacking misses the whole picture of how parties decide where to devote resources.

“In hindsight in any election, the easiest thing to say is, ‘I wish I had done more of X,’ ” said Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist and a former top official for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “The hardest thing is, ‘I would’ve done less of Y’ in order to pay for it.”

Smith’s woes underscored a particular challenge for candidates running in the Los Angeles media market, where reaching voters via television can be prohibitively expensive. In a year when Democrats were playing defense all across the country, the party opted to stay out of Los Angeles’ broadcast market entirely — a decision that reverberated through closely watched congressional races.

In Orange County, Democrat Jay Chen was outspent by roughly $5 million, according to AdImpact, a firm that tracks TV and digital ads, in his unsuccessful bid to unseat GOP Rep. Michelle Steel, who got millions of dollars of assistance from the House GOP campaign arm and allied outside groups. GOP Rep. Young Kim had around $500,000 more in advertising than her Democratic challenger, Asif Mahmood, whom she easily defeated.

Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, who remains locked in a close contest with Republican challenger Scott Baugh in Orange County, also got no advertising help from the House’s Democratic campaign committee, although her commanding fundraising meant she had plenty of funds to outspend her opponent.

In Riverside County, Will Rollins, the Democrat who challenged incumbent Republican Rep. Ken Calvert, had a slight advantage on-air, but his unexpectedly narrow loss made some allies wonder whether more party help could’ve made a difference.

“With greater investment from the party leadership, Democrats could have flipped the [seat]. We hope the close nature of this race leads to a meaningful investment in this district — and in breakthrough candidates like Will — moving forward,” the liberal nonprofit group Square One said in a statement.

The Rollins and Mahmood campaigns declined to comment about party spending decisions. A Chen spokesman praised the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for its help reaching the district’s multicultural voters, including with digital advertising in Vietnamese, Korean and Mandarin. “While the outcome in this race fell short of what we had hoped for, the DCCC … was an engaged partner,” spokesman Orrin Evans said.

Los Angeles was one of the most expensive media markets in the nation even before a flood of advertising for the city’s mayoral race and statewide gaming initiatives pushed prices higher.

Sheri Sadler, a veteran Democratic media buyer, said the market was so expensive that she didn’t place ads in L.A. for state controller candidate Malia Cohen. “You have to have a war chest in L.A.; that’s just the way it is,” Sadler said, adding that the effectiveness of broadcast ads is declining as viewing habits change.

“The prices keep going up and the ratings keep going down,” she said.

Drew Godinich, a Democratic strategist, said such costly media markets can “act as protective bubbles for incumbents.”

“For challenger candidates, it’s a high barrier to entry — the cost of first defining yourself positively, and then defining your opponent, is nearly prohibitively expensive,” said Godinich, who worked for the DCCC in California in 2018.

Nowhere was the party’s absence more acute than in the 27th Congressional District, which includes Santa Clarita, the Antelope Valley and parts of the San Fernando Valley. The once-solidly GOP region has grown more Democratic as Los Angeles residents moved there for affordable housing. Redistricting — the every-decade redrawing of congressional maps following the census — made the district even bluer by excising conservative Simi Valley.

Garcia handily beat Smith in a special election in 2020 and by just 333 votes for a full term later that year. In that election, Smith, along with the DCCC and House Majority PAC, which is affiliated with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), spent nearly $10 million.

Soon after winning reelection, Garcia joined 146 other House Republicans in objecting to the full counting of electoral college votes in January 2021 an effort to overturn Biden’s win in the presidential election. The vote came just hours after supporters of then-President Trump overran the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Garcia maintained a conservative voting record: He opposed impeaching Trump for his role in the insurrection, voted against citizenship for “Dreamers” and co-sponsored legislation that would have in effect banned abortions nationwide.

But he also worked on issues tailored to the district, particularly regarding military families and veterans — a potent issue in a region with deep ties to the armed forces and the aerospace industry. His ads highlighted his background as a former Navy fighter pilot and focused on fiscal issues such as lowering taxes.

Smith, in an interview, said she lacked the money to tell voters about his record, a message she believes could have tipped the race.

“Absolutely, it would have made a difference,” she said, adding she had gotten “hammered” by outside Republican groups’ TV ads.

With the possibility that the district would be “the tipping point to hold the House,” Smith said on Twitter, “the utter lack of investment made no sense.”

Smith also faulted national Democrats for recruiting former Navy intelligence officer John Quaye Quartey to run against her in the primary. (Quartey’s campaign declined to comment on the issue, as did the DCCC.) Smith said she and her allies had to spend heavily in the primary to defeat Quartey, who ultimately received single-digit support.

Garcia and GOP groups spent over $7 million on advertising between Labor Day and election day, while Smith spent less than $1 million; Democratic allies spent under $50,000 on digital ads, according to AdImpact.

This year, the House Majority PAC initially booked $3.3 million in television time in Los Angeles, but canceled it, as they did in other races around the country. A spokesman for the committee did not respond to a request for comment.

The DCCC never booked a dime. A spokeswoman said the committee faced unprecedented spending by Republican groups.

“We had to make tough calls and fully invest in the candidates we believed could not only get close, but win difficult races in California and nationwide,” said Maddy Mundy, a DCCC spokeswoman.

The National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund, which spent heavily promoting Garcia, did not respond to requests for comment. Nor did Garcia’s campaign.

As of Tuesday evening, the race had not been called by the Associated Press. Republicans remained on the cusp of capturing the House majority, needing only one more win.

Garcia declared victory the day after the election and applauded Smith for “jumping in the ring again.”

While Smith has not conceded, she acknowledges that overcoming Garcia’s lead is unlikely. She said in an interview that she felt it was important to speak out before the race is called.

“I wanted to put the narrative out at a time when hopefully it didn’t seem like sour grapes,” Smith said. “Regardless of the outcome of this particular race, I still have a responsibility as a Democratic leader in the state to highlight areas where we could be doing better.”

Jacob Rubashkin, an analyst with Inside Elections, a nonpartisan campaign newsletter, said he was sympathetic to Smith, but he also recognized why national Democrats pulled back.

“You have to consider, any Democrat that’s losing any Democratic district, that is being won by a Republican despite Joe Biden carrying it by double digits, has to be considered a missed opportunity,” he said. “But I’m not surprised at all by this result.”

He said Smith’s history in the district explained the party’s decisions.

“I think Democrats took a look at 2020, when Joe Biden won the [district] by 11 points or so — they spent $10 million to support Christy Smith trying to beat Mike Garcia. Then she came up just short. Then they looked at how her campaign was going over the summer. And they triaged. They decided that the money was better spent elsewhere,” Rubashkin said.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

California Wins Leave GOP Poised to Seize US House Control

Two threatened U.S. House Republicans in California triumphed over Democratic challengers Monday, helping move the GOP within a seat of seizing control of the chamber while a string of congressional races in the state remained in play.

In a bitter fight southeast of Los Angeles, Republican Rep. Michelle Steel defeated Democrat Jay Chen in a district that was specifically drawn to give Asian Americans, who comprise the largest group in the district, a stronger voice on Capitol Hill. It includes the nation’s largest Vietnamese community.

East of Los Angeles, Republican Rep. Ken Calvert notched a win over Democrat Will Rollins. With 80% of the votes tallied, Calvert, the longest serving Republican in the California congressional delegation, established a nearly 5,500-vote edge in the contest.

Ten races in the state remained undecided as vote-counting continued, though only a handful were seen as tight enough to break either way.

It takes 218 seats to control the House. Republicans have locked down 217 seats so far, with Democrats claiming 205.

Should Democrats fail to protect their fragile majority, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield would be in line to replace Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco.

In the 45th District anchored in Orange County, Steel, a South Korean immigrant looking for a second term in Congress, faced Chen, a Navy reservist and the son of immigrants from Taiwan. The race was being watched nationally for what it says about the preferences of the Asian community.

The candidates initially made inflation and hate crimes against Asian Americans key issues. But the race took an ugly turn and most of it focused on accusation and recrimination.

Chen’s advertising depicted Steel as an extremist who would threaten abortion rights, while Republicans accused Chen of “racism” after he told supporters an “interpreter” was needed to understand Steel’s remarks, arguing that Chen was mocking her accented English. Chen said he was referring to “convoluted talking points” that he said Steel uses to sidestep issues.

Steel also distributed flyers depicting Chen as a communist sympathizer, while Chen has said his grandmother fled China to escape communist rule.

In California, the primary House battlegrounds are Orange County — a suburban expanse southeast of Los Angeles that was once a GOP stronghold but has become increasingly diverse and Democratic — and the Central Valley, an inland stretch sometimes called the nation’s salad bowl for its agricultural production.

The tightest remaining contest in the state emerged in the Central Valley, where Democrat Adam Gray seized a tissue-thin lead after Republican John Duarte jumped ahead by 84 votes in a fight for an open seat in District 13.

Underscoring the tightness of the contest, Gray’s campaign formed a committee to begin raising money to finance a possible recount. Those costs, which are paid to county election officials, fall on the campaign committee or voter that requested a recount. Generally, such requests cannot be made until a month after the election.

The latest returns showed Gray leading by 761 votes, with nearly 80% of the votes tabulated.

In Orange County, one of the state’s marquee races tightened when an updated vote tally showed Republican Scott Baugh slashing in half a narrow edge held by Democratic Rep. Katie Porter. Porter, a star of the party’s progressive wing, was leading the former legislator Baugh by about 2,900 votes — or just over 1 percentage point — with nearly 80% of the votes counted.

In another battleground district north of Los Angeles, Republican Rep. Mike Garcia held a comfortable edge over Democrat Christy Smith in their third consecutive match-up, after Garcia claimed the first two.

The latest returns — with about two-thirds of the votes counted — showed Garcia with 54.4%, to 45.6% for Smith.

In a statement on Twitter, Smith said her chances for seizing the seat had “narrowed significantly” and “it’s likely Garcia holds the seat.”

Democrats also were holding significant margins in several districts, including the Central Valley’s 9th, where Democratic Rep. Josh Harder had a nearly 13-point edge over Republican Tom Patti.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Pelosi Says Members Urging Her to Consider House Leadership Again

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday her congressional colleagues are encouraging her to run for another term as Democratic leader.

Why it matters: The comment is the starkest indication yet that Pelosi is mulling another run for the position she’s held variably as speaker and minority leader for nearly two decades.

What she’s saying: In a CNN “State of the Union” interview, Pelosi said “of course” she will make a decision about re-election to the position before the Democrats’ leadership elections on Nov. 30.

  • “People are campaigning, and that’s a beautiful thing, and I’m not asking anyone for anything,” Pelosi said, “My members are asking me to consider doing that.”
  • “Let’s just get through the [2022 midterm] election,” she added.

Between the lines: Whether Democrats keep the majority in the House is expected to have a significant impact on Pelosi’s decision-making.

  • She is much more likely to stay if she can be the speaker than the House minority leader.
  • “The Speaker will make an announcement when she makes an announcement,” Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill said in a statement. “Until then, let’s all enjoy watching Kevin McCarthy lose a speakership his party hasn’t even won in the first place.”
  • Asked on Sunday whether McCarthy has what it takes to be speaker, Pelosi said, “No, I don’t think he has it.”

State of play: Roughly 20 House races remain uncalled by the Associated Press as of Sunday. Neither party has reached the 218 seats needed to take the majority.

  • Democrats would have to win three-quarters of those seats to keep the House — a long shot, but not out of the question.
  • “They’ve been measuring for draperies. They’ve been putting forth an agenda. They haven’t won it yet,” Pelosi said Sunday.

Click here to read the full article on Axios

Unsettled California Races Could Tip US House Control

The outcome in a string of closely matched California U.S. House races that could play into control of the chamber remained unsettled Friday, as millions of ballots remained uncounted in the nation’s most populous state.

More than a dozen races in the state remained in play, though only a handful were seen as tight enough to go either way. It takes 218 seats to control the House. Republicans had locked down 211 for far, with Democrats claiming 200.

It could take days, or even weeks, to determine who gets the gavel next year.

Should Democrats fail to protect their slim majority, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield would be in line to replace Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco.

In California, the primary battlegrounds are Orange County — a suburban expanse southeast of Los Angeles that was once a GOP stronghold but has become increasingly diverse and Democratic — and the Central Valley, an inland stretch sometimes called the nation’s salad bowl for its agricultural production.

One of the tightest races matched Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, a star of the party’s progressive wing, against Republican Scott Baugh, a former legislator, in an Orange County district about equally divided between Democrats and Republicans.

Returns showed Porter expanding her narrow lead to 4,555 votes, or 51.2% to 48.8% for Baugh. Earlier, Porter’s edge had been about 3,000 votes.

In another close contest in a Democratic-leaning district north of Los Angeles, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Garcia saw his comfortable edge over Democratic challenger Christy Smith dip slightly. His margin remained at 12 points, 56% to 44%.

Democrats have long dominated California’s congressional delegation, which is dropping to 52 seats next year, from 53 seats, because its population growth has stalled, though it remains the largest delegation in Congress.

In the current term, Republicans hold only 11 of the 53 seats in the strongly Democratic state.

With counting incomplete, Republicans claimed six races so far and were leading in six others.

Democrats tallied wins in 30 seats and were leading in 10 other contests. In two of those races, only Democrats were on the ballot, meaning the party will hold control of those seats.

But much uncertainty remained. As of Thursday, nearly 5 million ballots remained uncounted statewide.

East of Los Angeles, Republican Rep. Ken Calvert regained the lead after trailing Democrat Will Rollins. With about half the votes counted, Calvert held a 1-point edge. Calvert, first elected in 1992, is the longest serving Republican in the California congressional delegation.

In the Central Valley’s 22nd District, where about half the votes have been counted, an update showed Democrat Rudy Salas cutting into the lead held by Republican Rep. David Valadao, who voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump. The two are divided by 5 points, after Valadao earlier had a more than 8-point advantage.

In a competitive district anchored in San Diego County, Democratic Rep. Mike Levin saw his edge grow slightly against Republican businessman Brian Maryott. Levin holds a 4-point margin, with about two-thirds of the votes tallied.

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Republicans Optimistic in Blue Regions That Biden Won

Is GOP spending in 26th House District  a sign of confidence — or overreach?

As the sun set behind rows of modest homes, Republican Matt Jacobs knocked on doors urging voters in Oxnard to ditch their incumbent Democratic congresswoman and pick him to improve their quality of life.

“I care deeply about this community,” Jacobs told Jacqueline Mercado, 28, adding that he was born and raised in Ventura County, a message he repeated in English and fluent Spanish in this predominantly Latino neighborhood. “I just think things can be better all around.”

With her 1-year-old daughter crawling nearby, Mercado, a Democrat, nodded vigorously when Jacobs asked if the cost of groceries was affecting her family. “Absolutely,” Mercado said, before telling him that she would vote for him in Tuesday’s election.

“I just want someone to make everything better,” said Mercado, an employee of the state’s toll-free 211 system that connects Californians with job training, after-school programs and other services. “Make things better, like inflation. That really matters, because gas is crazy right now. Food. Everything.”

Such pocketbook concerns are among the reasons Republicans say they feel good about their odds in blue regions like California’s 26th Congressional District, which Joe Biden won by 20 points.

The GOP is favored to take control of the House in Tuesday’s election, and voters like Mercado could make that happen or determine the size of its majority.

The midterms have been defined by Republicans arguing that Democrats are poor stewards of the economy and their policies have fomented rising crime, and Democrats warning that Republicans are too extreme when it comes to abortion rights, threats to democracy and potential cuts to Social Security.

The 26th, largely based in Ventura County with a sliver of Los Angeles County, is probably a reach for Republicans. But the prospect of it being in play suggests vulnerability for Democrats in a number of districts in California and across the country that Biden won by double digits.

“If California Democrats have a headache in California 26, they’ve got the flu in a whole range of more competitive seats,” including contests in the Central Valley and Southern California, said David Wasserman, a congressional forecaster for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Democrat Julia Brownley has represented much of Ventura County in Congress since 2013. On Tuesday, the district was moved from “solid Democrat” to “lean Democrat” by Cook, which based its prognostication on a poll that showed a statistical dead heat between the candidates and the amount of money flowing in.

The Cook Report also forecast tightening contests in districts represented by Democrats Katie Porter of Irvine and Josh Harder of Turlock.

Many of these districts, in historically conservative bastions such as Porter’s in Orange County, are now closely split between Democratic and Republican voters, or are places where Democrats wield a numeric edge but have a GOP incumbent, such as Reps. Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita and David Valadao of Hanford.

The 26th District, however, doesn’t fit into either of these categories. The incumbent is a Democrat, and though the district gained conservative Simi Valley in the 2021 redrawing of congressional maps, Democrats still have a nearly 15-percentage-point voter registration edge.

Wasserman was among the prognosticators who was skeptical when Brownley’s prospects were initially questioned.

“But clearly the environment has deteriorated for Democrats since then,” he said. “Though she’s still a clear favorite, she is not in as solid shape because Republicans have a credible candidate and there is still some ancestral Republican support in Ventura County.”

Inflation, gas prices, concerns about crime and the lack of exciting statewide campaigns are a boon for Republicans, said Democratic strategist Andrew Acosta.

“All of this is a toxic brew,” he said, adding that voters in districts like Brownley’s may be liberal on social issues but malleable on economic matters. “And we are in a pocketbook election.”

GOP politicians represented the area in Congress for 70 years, until Brownley won her seat in 2012. One out of five of the district’s voters decline to identify with a political party.

More than 20 House campaign committees and leadership PACs contributed to Brownley and Jacobs over a three-day span in late October, making it “the top House target for Republicans and Democrats alike” for such efforts, according to the research director for the California Target Book, a nonpartisan guide that analyzes races in the state. A pro-Brownley outside group recently chipped in a half-million dollars.

GOP redistricting expert Matt Rexroad said that these moves, as well as President Biden’s appearance with Rep. Mike Levin in Oceanside on Thursday, indicate that several districts in California are competitive.

“Follow the money,” he said. “The fact that President Biden is coming to northern San Diego and the fact you have money moving to Brownley means that something is in play.”

Brownley concedes that “this is a tough election.”

“It’s tightening up all around the country,” she toldscores of volunteers on a recent chilly morning in an Oxnard parking lot. After posing for pictures with the congresswoman, they were bused to Calabasas and Agoura Hills to knock on doors.

Brownley said she is optimistic about her prospects because of her relationship with her constituents as well as voters’ stances on abortion, the environment and immigration.

“I never give up hope,” she said in an interview. “My values and the district’s values are aligned.”

Both candidates portray themselves as moderates, but they are clearly in sync with their respective party’s base.

Jacobs, a former federal prosecutor who twice voted for President Trump, said the Supreme Court ruling that ended federal abortion rights was constitutionally correct, but said he would not vote for a federal abortion ban. Though he said he supportsabortion accessin cases of rape, incest and health of the pregnant woman, Jacobs would not say whether he supported broader abortion rights.

Brownley paints Jacobs as an extremist supported by Republicans who back a nationwide ban, and says California voters care about abortion rights beyond the state’s borders.

“Women in California are smarter than that, and they’re in the fight for every single woman across the country, not just for women here,” Brownley said.

This message is personal for Terri Lisagor, a retired professor who lives in Camarillo. When she was in college, her roommate became pregnant and traveled to Mexico for an abortion.

Lisagor, 73, acknowledged that she was concerned about Democratic prospects this election.

“We get complacent — ‘Oh, sure, California is so blue, it won’t matter,’ ” she said, shortly before canvassing for Brownley in Calabasas. “We need to keep harping on it, keep encouraging people to vote.”

Republicans have homed in on similar congressional districts that supported Biden in states that include Oregon, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a well-funded super PAC aligned with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, has targeted 11 districts that Biden won by double digits. Five are in California, including the 13th District in the Central Valley.

The 13th District is a rare open seat that’s contested by Democratic Assemblyman Adam Gray and Republican businessman John Duarte. Democrats have a 14-point voter edge over Republicans in the heavily agricultural district; Biden underperformed there, winning by 11 points.

The district is one of five rated as toss-ups in California; six others are viewed as in play.

Democratic strategists express concern about some of these districts, but are skeptical about how competitive Brownley’s is.

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