2016 Presidential Primary Update

Presidential Primary Update

DONALD TRUMP IS THE REPUBLICAN PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE
Donald Trump reached the requisite number of delegates to officially clinch the Republican nomination when he passed the 1,237 delegate threshold on Thursday, May 26. Trump has been widely considered to be the presumptive Republican nominee since the Indiana Primary. His last remaining competitors, John Kasich and Ted Cruz, ended their campaigns after poor showings in that state. Republicans hold their convention in Cleveland from July 18th to the 21st.

HILLARY CLINTON IS THE DEMOCRATIC PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE
Hillary Clinton reached the requisite number of delegates to officially clinch the Democratic Nomination when she passed the 2,383 delegates threshold following the New Jersey and California primaries. Clinton has been widely considered to be the presumptive Democratic nominee, although Senator Bernie Sanders has vowed to continue his campaign until the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia on July 25th-28th.

OVERALL STANDING OF DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEES (2,383 delegates needed for the nomination)

Hillary Clinton: 2,755 delegates (wins include Iowa, Nevada, South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, American Samoa, Louisiana, Mississippi, the Northern Mariana Islands, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Arizona, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Guam, Kentucky, North Dakota, California, New Mexico, New Jersey / Clinton has the support of 537 unpledged or “super” delegates).

Bernie Sanders: 1,804 delegates (wins include New Hampshire, Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Vermont, Democrats Abroad, Kansas, Nebraska, Maine, Michigan, Idaho, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington State, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Rhode Island, Indiana, West Virginia, Oregon,Montana  / Sanders has the support of 42 unpledged or “super” delegates)

The Democrats will hold their convention in Philadelphia from July 25th to the 28th.

The remaining primaries and caucuses are listed below

June 14 – District of Columbia Democratic Primary

Washington Update: Supreme Court Matters

Recent SCOTUS Decisions 

Since April 15, 2016 ten cases were presented and argued in front of the Supreme Court. These cases include United States v. Texas, United States v. Bryant, Universal Health Services v. U.S. ex rel. ESCOBAR, Birchfield v. North Dakota, Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro, Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Cuozzo Speed Technologies LLC v. Lee, Mathis v. United States, Dietz v. Bouldin, McDonnell v. United States. No formal decision has been reached in these cases. They are briefly summarized directly below:

  • United States v. Texas, asks the question; does the Obama administration have the authority to implement its deferred-action policy for undocumented immigrants and is there a right by the states to challenge the policy? It also draws into question whether the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should have notified the public about the policy and allowed them to weigh in. In addition, the Court must determine if the policy violates the Constitution’s clause requiring the president to ensure that the laws are “faithfully executed.”
  • Universal Health Services v. United States ex rel. Escobar discusses what the criteria are for a claim to be considered fraudulent when it is sought by a government contractor based on the “implied certification” theory of legal falsity.
  • Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro addresses the question of whether “service advisors” at car dealerships are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime-pay requirements under 29 U.S.C. §213(b)(10)(A).
  • Cuozzo Speed Technologies, LLC v. Lee discusses the issue of inter partes review (IPR) within the Patent process. The question focuses around the issue of whether IPRs can be considered substitutes for litigation or if they are extensions of the examination process. Furthermore, this case asks, does the Patent Trail and Appeal Board have the authority to use the broadest reasonable interpretation or do they need to use a more plain or ordinary meaning for interpretation when they are conducting IPR proceedings? 
  • McDonnell v. United States examines the vagueness and conditionality of the Hobbes Act and the honest-services fraud statute. In this case former governor McDonnell and his wife were charged with violating federal law by taking a bribe in return for “official acts” and conspiracy to commit “honest services” and Hobbs Act crimes.

On April 28, 2016 the Court issued its decision in Heffernan v. City of Paterson stating that “when an employer demotes an employee out of a desire to prevent the employee from engaging in protected political activity, the employee can challenge that demotion even if the employer’s actions are based on a factual mistake about the employee’s behavior.” On April 29, 2016 the Court denied the authority to stop Texas from enforcing a strict photo ID requirement for voters in that state, but left it open and in the jurisdiction of the federal appeals court until July 20, 2016. In the case of Hurst v. Florida, the Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s “unique system” of imposing death sentences was unconstitutional because it granted judges the authority to make the final decision.

Update: Nomination of Merrick Garland to the SCOTUS scotus-no-scalia

It was reported on May 10 that Chief Judge Merrick Garland submitted an unsolicited questionnaire to the Senate Judiciary Committee. There is still much controversy over the appointment of Garland to the Supreme Court among members of Congress. As Garland meets with Senators, there are mixed feelings as the confirmation struggle continues. It was reported that eight former U.S. solicitors general from Democratic and Republican administrations have endorsed Garland’s nomination.

Washington Update: Transportation and Health Care

Health Care: Update on Opioid Use

On Friday, May 13th, comprehensive legislation aimed at combating opioid addiction passed in the House with a vote of 400-5. This package contains 18 pieces of bipartisan legislation, including a mandate to the FDA to convene special advisory boards when painkillers without addiction-deterrent ingredients are produced, increases to funding for overdose reversal drugs, a reduction in the volume of unused drugs, and majust-out-new-guidelines-on-how-to-treat-opioid-addiction-800x560ndated opioid addiction educational programs.

The President previously proposed $1.1 billion in new funding to combat opioid addiction in his last budget. Speaker Paul Ryan’s office has complained that the series of bills has not received widespread attention due to the raucous presidential primary. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) commented that the “good bipartisan” legislation is essentially worthless if Republicans continue refusing to provide the emergency funding required to make a difference. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest commented that the administration’s perspective on this legislation is that it lacks “substance.” However, at the time of writing, no veto threat has been issued.

Transportation: TRANSPORTATION-HUD (THUD) (S. 2844)

The Senate’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act authorizes $114.2 billion for FY 2017. $56.5 billion would be allocated to discretionary appropriations. It provides $827 million less discretionary funding than in 2016 and about $2.5 billion less than what was requested by the President. Highway, transit, and transportation safety program funding increased compared to FY 2016. However, the bill did not include White House requests for additional mandatory funding for some transportation programs. It instead provides more funding than requested for Community Development Block Grants and Airport Improvement Grants. This bill provides about 2% more funding than 2016 for Housing and Urban Development programs.

Washington Update: Energy, Environment, and the Military

Energy and Environment: Energy and Water Appropriations Bill Passes Senate

On Thursday, May 12, the Senate passed the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, 2016. This bill supplies $37.5 billion for energy and water spending Specifically, it provides funding for research into wind energy, allows for the extensions of nuclear plant licenses, and earmarks funding for private-sector nuclear water storage programs. The bill is $61 million higher than the President’s requests. Part of this increase, $1.16 billion, is allocated to defense-related programs within the Department of Energy (compared to FY 2016). The bill also invests in the country’s waterways and wind power industry. Of the already appropriated funds for renewable energy, $95.4 million would be dedicated for wind-energy research. The Energy Department is due to receive $29.01 billion of this funding, $1.09 billion more than what was allocated in 2015.

Military: Defense Appropriations

The Senate Armed Services Committee convened in open and closed sessions from May 9 – 13 to discuss appropriations proposed in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. The legislation provides $517.1 billion in discretionary funding, which is an increase of $3 billion from FY 2016, and $587 million below the President’s budget request. In this bill, $58.6 billion is provided for Overseas Contingency Operations and Global War on Terrorism funding. The full committee held meetings in closed sessions from Wednesday May 11 through Friday May 13. Chairman John McCain is expected to release a text of the committee’s discussions and a summarized report in the near future (which, at the time of writing, had yet to occur).

The House defense spending bill released Tuesday evening boosts funding by $15.7 billion compared to FY 2016 to cover base Pentagon programs. The spending measure also reverses the Department of the Army’s strength cuts and funds a 2.1% military pay raise. This bill is also likely to contain the requirement for women, ages 18 to 26, to register for the Selective Services.

MILCON-VA

On April 13, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill. This legislation provides for funding for housing, training, and equipment for military personnel and their families. It also contains funds for the maintenance of base infrastructure. Finally, this bill funds veterans’ programs and benefits.

This legislation provides $81.6 billion in discretionary funding, $1.8 billion above FY 2016 levels. Funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs is increased by 3% from FY 2016 level. Additional funds are intended to increase the speed, efficiency, and effectiveness of health services provided to veterans. Military construction funding was $250 million above the President’s request. This additional funding will provide for the contraction and maintenance of family housing, health facilities, and overseas facilities and infrastructures.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs also approved their respective FY 2017 appropriations bill on April 13. This legislation includes $83 billion in discretionary funding, $3.1 billion above FY 2016 levels. $7.93 billion is earmarked for military construction projects, $241 million below FY 2016 levels, but $486 million above the President’s request. $172.4 million of this funding is earmarked for Overseas Contingency Operations. This bill also increases the Department of Veterans Affairs funding by 4.8%. These additional funds are intended for improvements to health care, benefit claims, the Board of Veterans Appeals, the VA Inspector General, medical and prosthetic research, and IT infrastructure. The total $177.4 billion in discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs is a $14.7 billion above the FY 2016 level. Discretionary funds for VA programs total $74.9 billion. This legislation includes an increase of $1.6 billion in medical care funding, as requested by the administration, to improve patient access to care, and to provide additional health care services, including hepatitis C treatments, veterans’ caregiver services, and homeless veterans’ assistance.

Compiled by: Luc Montimy, DMGS Pittsburgh