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Where does the federal government get to work? The Hill, of course. Make sure you know where important Congressional offices, Libraries, and of course The Capitol are. 

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Map of The Hill

Over the past 40 years, the average time for the Senate to reach a final vote on a Supreme Court justice nominee has been 72 days — nearly twice the time left before the 2020 general election.

The modern process of confirming Supreme Court justices has three major stages: First, the president chooses and announces their nominee for the court. Second, the nominee is exhaustively vetted by the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the final stage, the whole Senate debates and votes to confirm or reject the nominee.

Historically, senators have avoided filibustering the confirmation process, and a change to Senate rules in 2017 effectively ended the practice by allowing debate to end with a simple majority vote. As a result, the party that controls the Senate can complete the entire process without any votes from the minority party — and in recent years, confirmation votes have increasingly fallen along party lines.

Here are the steps in the Senate process to confirm a Supreme Court Justice

1. Initial research on nominee

Prior to a hearing, Judiciary committee members review information about the nominee from several sources, including a detailed questionnaire for the nominee drafted by the committee.

At this stage, the nominee will typically meet individually with members of the committee and other interested senators in their offices.

2. Hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee

The committee will eventually hold a public hearing to receive the nominee’s testimony. Typically, the hearing is held approximately 40 days after the nomination is first made.

Senators ask questions in multiple sessions spanning four or five days, with the option to hold additional hearings for controversial nominees.

3. Final report from the committee

Approximately one week after the hearing, the committee meets in an open session to determine its recommendation for the Senate.

Depending on how the members vote, the nominee may be reported “favorably” or “unfavorably.” Regardless of the outcome, the committee typically allows the nomination to move to a full Senate vote.

4. Majority Leader sets schedule for debate

Typically the Majority Leader consults with the minority leader to determine the timing and length of the proceedings, so that the process can begin via unanimous consent.

If unanimous consent cannot be secured, the majority leader can make a filibuster-proof motion to begin the process.

5. Senators debate on the floor

Unless the minority party agrees to a shorter schedule, the nomination will be debated for a minimum of 30 hours on the Senate floor.

Each senator who takes the floor gives a speech explaining why they are voting to confirm or reject.

6. Full Senate vote for confirmation

Once debate ends, senators may vote on the nominee. Since 1967, every Senate vote to confirm a Supreme Court justice has been a roll call vote — meaning each senator’s vote is formally recorded. Historically, most confirmation votes have resulted in an overwhelming majority in favor. However, in recent years, party-line votes with a substantial minority voting to reject have become more common.

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This post is excerpted from a DataPoint infographic that was initially made available to POLITICO Pro Premium subscribers on September 22, 2020.

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Ranked-choice voting allows citizens to rank their candidate preferences on an election ballot instead of voting for a single candidate. If one candidate does not initially win a majority, competitors with the fewest votes are eliminated from the race and their voters’ second choices are applied to the tallies of the remaining candidates until one candidate achieves a majority.

According to the group FairVote, two states have 2020 ballot initiatives to install a statewide ranked-choice system. Alaska’s Ballot Measure 2 would replace partisan primaries with an open primary in which the top four finishers advance to a ranked-choice general election, while Massachusetts’ Question 2 would retain partisan primaries but implement ranked-choice voting in both primaries and the general election starting in 2022.

Maine’s state Supreme Court voted on Sept. 8 to allow ranked-choice voting to appear on 2020 presidential election ballots but has not decided whether a ballot initiative challenging the use of ranked-choice voting will actually keep voters from selecting candidates that way.

Which states have ranked-choice voting?

How Ranked-Choice Voting Works

1. Voters rank their candidate preferences on ballots

Voters can choose to rank candidates, indicating on a ballot which person is their first choice, second choice, third choice, etc., for election to office.

2. First-choice candidate votes on ballots are tallied

If one of the candidates receives more than 50 percent of the first-preference votes, that candidate wins the election.

3. Second-choice votes of losing candidates are distributed among winning candidates

If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes, the candidates with the lowest percentages of votes are eliminated and their supporters’ second-choice selections are allocated to the remaining candidates on the ballot. This vote-redistribution process continues until one candidate reaches over 50 percent of the cast votes.

Pros and Cons of Ranked-Choice Voting

PROS

Could ensure that a winning candidate has a majority of votes

In elections in which there are several candidates, ranked-choice voting allows voters to support like-minded competitors to defeat an unfavored candidate. Fractured opposition can result in an unfavored candidate winning an election even if most voters oppose them.

Voters’ ballots count, even if their first choice loses

Even if your first-choice candidate loses, your vote still counts toward electing a candidate of your choice.

CONS

Voters’ choices may not count if all of them are eliminated

If a voter does not rank all of the candidates’ names on a ballot, leaving some selections blank, and if all of the voter’s choices are eliminated, that could result in the ballot not being counted at all.

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This post is excerpted from a DataPoint infographic that was initially made available to POLITICO Pro Premium subscribers on September 10, 2020.

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The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber acts as the voice of business in Oklahoma City. The Chamber represents thousands of businesses of all sizes and all industries in Oklahoma City’s 10-county region. The Chamber’s goal is to work to create a business climate that attracts new investment and enhances growth and expansion opportunities for existing companies.

The Challenge: Dozens of Policy Priorities, One Goal

Although Oklahoma City is the 25th largest city in the United States (measured by population), the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber is one of the top five largest chambers of commerce. Each year, in collaboration with its members, the Chamber develops a robust, yet targeted legislative agenda representing the issues that the Chamber’s Government Relations team will actively engage elected officials on. The Chamber’s 2020 agenda includes over 70 federal and state items, representing policy priorities across a range of issue areas including education and workforce development, healthcare, transportation, energy, criminal justice and more.

“Everything we advocate for here at the Chamber is focused on creating a positive business environment in Oklahoma City. You’d be surprised by the range of issues that touch on our mission as an organization,” says Derek Sparks, Senior Manager of Government Relations for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. “And, we need to have a voice on each one,” says Sparks.

The Solution: “POLITICO Pro is my one-stop-shop.”

Since 2013, POLITICO Pro has helped streamline the Chamber’s work and provides a single source of reliable information. “POLITICO Pro is my one-stop-shop. I don’t have to go aggregate dozens of sources, I just follow Pro. Everything I need is right there in my inbox or when I log in to the platform,” says Sparks.

Over the last eight years, the Chamber’s Government Relations team has leveraged POLITICO Pro to help the Chamber navigate a range of issues including advocating for the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank Act, navigating the reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Act, which resulted in $643 million in federal funding for Oklahoma, and most recently understanding how the Coronavirus pandemic and related relief packages would impact businesses in Oklahoma City.

The Results: Continuity. Consistency. Stability.

With the help of POLITICO Pro, Sparks and the Chamber’s government relations team can track policy developments in real-time as they unfold, understand the impact they have on the Chamber’s agenda, and create a strategy to advance their policy priorities.

In 2015, the Chamber successfully advocated for the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank Act, which impacted many chamber members like Boeing, by getting former Congressman Steve Russell “from being a hard no all the way to yes,” says Sparks. “If I hadn’t had POLITICO Pro’s reporting on this issue on hand for our meetings with the congressman, which was a subject being underreported in general, I wouldn’t have had a substantial enough understanding of how things were developing. Ultimately, we were able to show the Congressman how valuable Exim is to some of our major members and POLITICO Pro’s reporting was key to that.”

Most recently, the Chamber’s government relations team has had to completely rethink their 2020 agenda in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic. “We have the double-whammy in our state between the Coronavirus pandemic and a historic downturn in oil and gas prices,” which accounts for at least 35% of the state’s budget, says Sparks. Through this crisis, Sparks was able to rely on POLITICO Pro for in-depth, actionable intelligence, “While working remotely, Pro’s reporting has been invaluable…it provides continuity, consistency, stability and even a sense of normalcy. It’s the inside baseball that I devour and allows me to know what’s going on and to keep our members up-to-date.”

“And, to top it off – the customer service is phenomenal.”

This content was produced outside of the POLITICO Pro newsroom.

Nacha is a nonprofit organization that is the steward of the ACH Network, an electronic payment system that universally connects all U.S. bank accounts and enables Direct Deposit and other electronic payments. In 2019, 24.7 billion payments and nearly $56 trillion in value moved across the ACH Network.

In March, as Americans started to feel the impact of Covid-19 with businesses closing and unemployment growing daily, the federal government began work on the largest economic stimulus package in U.S. history — the CARES Act. Nacha, the organization responsible for overseeing the ACH Network, quickly began monitoring one of the most significant parts of the legislation with the help of POLITICO Pro — direct payments to Americans estimated to total up to $300 billion.

The Challenge: Communicate the Preparedness of the ACH Network to the Federal Government

On March 17th, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the Trump administration was considering offsetting the economic burden of the coronavirus pandemic by “immediately” cutting checks to Americans. Rapidly changing and conflicting information was being shared about how these payments would be delivered to Americans and when.

“Our goal was to communicate to all the stakeholders involved in making the payments that the ACH Network was ready for this historic event,” says William Sullivan, Nacha’s Senior Director and Group Manager, Government and Industry Relations. “Our message was that the ACH was ready for this major event and that the payments could be sent efficiently, safely, and quickly to Americans through Direct Deposit.”

In addition to communicating the ACH Network’s preparedness to the federal government, Nacha also wanted to ensure that its members felt prepared to answer their customer’s questions about how and when stimulus payments would be delivered.

The Solution: One Platform to Stay One Step Ahead

With information about the CARES Act and the delivery of stimulus payments rapidly changing, POLITICO Pro helped Nacha understand the impact to the ACH Network and its members and get up to speed quickly so they could create an effective communications strategy.

“POLITICO Pro’s reporting gives us concise, yet comprehensive information in an easy to read format and be able to run with it,” says Sullivan. Then using POLITICO Pro’s legislative and regulatory trackers, Nacha was able to stay informed. “From monitoring the legislation’s proposal to passage, I was able to understand the intent Congress had for the stimulus payments, and then how Treasury was going to implement the program. I know when I get an alert from Pro, I have to read it immediately so I don’t get blindsided by something.”

In addition to tracking the CARES Act, POLITICO Pro helped Nacha anticipate member questions about how payments would be handled for Americans who don’t typically file tax returns – “I would find out something very nuanced but impactful that the IRS was doing but hadn’t been communicated from POLITICO Pro. Then, using the POLITICO Pro Document Drawer, I was able to go back and find the press release and be able to anticipate the barrage of questions I’d receive the next day from members. It’s been invaluable.”

The Impact: Coming Together as “One Voice”

With the help of POLITICO Pro, Nacha was able to develop a comprehensive communications strategy to signal their member’s preparedness for this event to the federal government. “We were able to help bring all the industry groups together with one voice, so Treasury wasn’t overwhelmed with our questions or suggestions about how to handle payments. We were speaking as one,” said Sullivan.

To date, the ACH Network has processed approximately 120 million Economic Impact Payments, or about 75% of the total Economic Impact payments to citizens under the CARES Act.

“To sum it up, POLITICO Pro can really be the difference between being on your toes and proactive or being completely blindsided, on your heels and reactive.”

This content was produced outside of the POLITICO Pro newsroom.

What is POLITICO Pro?

One meeting, one line of legislation or one leadership change can have a big impact on policy. POLITICO Pro is a smart, personalized policy intelligence platform that helps teams who create, influence or are impacted by policy do their jobs. We help you get informed quickly, act confidently and communicate effectively, so you can do what you do best – impact policy.

What is a policy intelligence platform?

POLITICO Pro is a single destination that brings together policy reporting, data, analysis, and tools into one place — the Pro Edge platform. Rather than having countless disparate resources for the policy information you need, we’ve built one place where you can complete all your policy work.

One Pro customer said it perfectly,

As someone who has always done government relations work manually for organizations with small government relations teams, POLITICO Pro is AMAZING. Life-changing.

How does POLITICO Pro help policy professionals?

1. Understand Policy Movement and Context Quickly

POLITICO Pro helps you understand and contextualize policy movement the moment it happens. With Pro, you get access to all of our news across 21 coverage areas (16 policy areas, 4 states and Canada). Our suite of policy tools – like our legislative and regulatory trackers – then help you understand the full picture of major policy developments.

2. Make Strategic Decisions and Act Confidently

Decisions that impact the policies you care about often happen without any warning, but you need the facts to make strategic decisions. By bringing together smart technology, actionable data and the largest nonpartisan policy newsroom in the country, you can be confident you’re getting the most accurate and up-to-date information, so you’re always one step ahead.

3. Communicate Effectively and Lead the Conversation

Whether it’s your job to monitor, influence or implement policy, you need to communicate effectively with internal and external audiences. POLITICO Pro helps you get smart quickly, understand trends and arms you with the analysis you need to lead the conversation on the policies important to you and your stakeholders.

Want to learn about POLITICO Pro’s subscription plans? Visit our plans page.

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When you work in the world of policy, knowledge creates opportunities.

The POLITICO Pro platform brings together expert reporting and sophisticated policy intelligence tools to give you the intel you need to track and analyze policy and act on opportunities.

Here’s how we deliver the news you need when you need it:

Expert reporters at your fingertips

Our team of over 100 policy-specific reporters get to the heart of the issue, so you get intelligence from subject-matter experts.

Delivering news when it breaks

Our breaking news alerts give you down-to-the-minute updates on major policy developments as soon as they happen. Customize alerts to meet your specific needs.

Written for Action

Pro content is written to get you up to speed quickly — our reporters write real-time updates in 250 words or less so you’re never caught off guard.

In-depth analysis

Written specifically for policy professionals, Pro articles provide in-depth analysis and insights so you will know what happened and why it matters to your organization, members, clients and constituents.

Get the highlights

Pro newsletters — delivered in the morning and afternoon — bookend your day with policy highlights. Our newsletters are written for busy professionals, meaning you receive only the insights you need, without having to dig through the clutter.

Customizable and Flexible Coverage

In the Pro Edge Platform, you can customize the niche coverage areas you need to follow. Reallocate subscription credits to the policy coverage areas that matter to you most, at any given time.

Want to see more from POLITICO Pro? Subscribe to our blog for exclusive policy content, product updates and more.

Content produced outside of the POLITICO Pro newsroom.

What is a motion to recommit?

On February 27, Democratic leadership in the House expected to celebrate a legislative victory on gun control legislation, instead, Republicans implemented a lesser-known procedural tool known as the motion to recommit, or MTR.

According to House rules, a motion to recommit provides one final opportunity for the House to debate and amend a measure before the Speaker orders a final vote on passage. While a motion to recommit can easily alter bill text, the majority of MTRs are quickly swept aside by the party in power. Thus, an MTR is more commonly used by the party in opposition to send a political message of protest before a final vote.

In fact, it is extremely rare for an MTR to pass. House Republicans did not lose a single procedural vote to Democrats in their previous eight years in the majority. But something unexpected happened when the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R.8) was on the House floor.

What exactly happened?

Prior to the final vote on H.R. 8, Republicans offered a motion to recommit pursuant to new language. This change required the notification of Immigration and Customs Enforcement if a background check revealed an illegal immigrant had attempted to purchase a firearm.

It proved to be a savvy move. By weaving a hot button immigration topic into the bill, Republicans managed to sway 26 Democratic members, predominantly from more competitive swing districts, to buck Democratic party leadership and vote for the motion.

According to POLITICO Pro’s Legislative Compass:

The House then passed the measure with the new language in a final vote of 240-190. Eight Republicans joined 232 Democrats in support of the measure, while two Democrats and 188 Republicans opposed it.

(Roll Call vote images are from POLITICO Pro Legislative Compass)

Why it Matters

Democratic leadership has struggled to keep rank and file members in line on procedural votes. The setback on H.R. 8 was the second to befall the Democrats in February. They do not want this to become a trend.

The successful adoption of the MTR to H.R. 8 has exposed a fault line within the Democratic caucus. Moderate members seek the freedom to vote as they see fit to avoid angering voters in home districts. On the other hand, the more liberal wing of the party has members seething due to the inclusion of the MTR provision that could give more power to ICE, an entity that members have publicly called to abolish.

The bottom line is that the Democrats put themselves in a tough spot, one that could have been avoided. Republicans will likely try the tactic again in efforts to disrupt the majority’s legislative program.

For in-depth information on the history and usage of the MTRs, POLITICO Pro members can access this report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS): The Motion to Recommit in the House of Representatives: Effects and Recent Trends

In-person visits to a member’s Washington, D.C. office are the most effective advocacy strategy to influence lawmakers who are undecided on an issue, according to The Congressional Management Foundation’s 2017 survey of senior congressional staffers.

To help you prepare for conversations with congressional offices, POLITICO Pro’s DataPoint team put together a “Who’s Who” of congressional member offices.

Responsibilities and priorities of roles vary a little in each office, but generally, the structure is as follows.

The Chief of Staff serves as the office “number-One”, managing the policy, comms, and admin departments while also advising the member on political matters. The policy team researches, drafts, communicates about legislation and informs the member on a range of issues before Congress and in committee. The communications team manages media requests, executes a strategy that communicates what the team is doing and raises awareness about issues important to the member’s constituents. The admin team works to keep the office organized and accountable to the member and constituents.

office-org-chart
Download a PDF of this DataPoint here.

A basic breakdown of staff roles:

Chief of Staff

  • Establish office policies and procedures
  • Staffing decisions, employee management
  • Manages budget & day-to-day responsibilities
  • Advise member on political matters

Scheduler/Scheduling Director

  • Responsible for scheduling engagements
  • Organizes and books travel plans
  • Assists with office’s finances

Legislative Director (LD)

  • Manages legislative assistants and correspondents
  • Establish legislative priorities and strategy
  • Oversee vote recommendations, create and drive new legislation

Legislative Assistant (LA)

  • Conduct research on legislation
  • Manages office mail

Legislative Correspondent (LC)

  • Research legislation and issue areas
  • Draft correspondence to constituents

Communications Director

  • Implement a member’s communications strategy
  • Manage press team
  • Serve as formal spokesperson

Press Secretary

  • Field media requests
  • Execute media strategy
  • Draft member’s speeches

Press Assistant

  • Send press releases and pitch media for coverage
  • Compile press clippings on the member or issues that are important to the member’s legislative portfolio

Office Member

  • Oversee office needs
  • Manage paperwork and compliance matters

Staff Assistants

  • Answer phones, handle word processing, filing and faxing
  • Greet visitors in the reception area
  • Handle other general requests

Systems Administrator

  • Oversee office technology, software, and cybersecurity
  • Manage subscriptions and passwords
  • Ensure that the office aligns with guidelines
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