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Stalled Population Growth, a Shift To Red States, and Other Key Takeaways From the 2020 Census

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  • The Census Bureau published data on Monday from its once-a-decade survey, which is used to redistribute congressional seats and redraw district lines based on population changes.
  • Seven states — mostly in the Northeast and Midwest — lost districts, including New York, which would have retained its seat if just 89 more people were counted.
  • Six states, largely based in the South and West, gained new districts. Texas, for instance, was allocated two more seats in the U.S. House.
  • The data shows a continued trend of population centers and political power migrating to the South and West, as well as to more historically Republican-led states. The shift will likely influence the 2022 midterms elections when the GOP will only need to add five seats in the House to retake a majority.

Winners and Losers

The U.S. Census Bureau on Monday released the totals of the 2020 count that will determine how congressional seats, electoral votes, and billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated for the next decade.

All in all, seven districts will be moved from one state to another based on the population changes.

Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon each gained one seat while Texas was given two. Meanwhile, California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia each lost one seat.

Source: The New York Times

Slowed Population Growth & Continued Trends

Right off the bat, these new numbers show that U.S. population growth has slowed drastically. Over the last 10 years, the U.S. population has grown at the second slowest rate since the census count began in 1790, a fact that experts say was driven by a slowdown in immigration and declining birthrates.

But, at the same time, these new numbers support trends that the country was already seeing.

For instance, since the 1940s, New York has steadily lost seats while Florida has steadily gained them. Each held 27 during the 2010 census. Now, Florida now has officially surpassed New York to claim the third most congressional seats and electoral votes, after California and Texas.

Census Bureau officials said that if just 89 more people had been counted in New York, the state would not have lost the seat.

Several Surprises

In addition to keeping with expected trends, there were also a number of surprises too. California, which is still the most populous state in America, lost one seat for the first time ever after a decade of sluggish growth.

Additionally, demographers had widely expected Arizona to gain a seat, which it did not. They also predicted that Rhode Island would lose a seat, which it kept.

Notably, the experts also initially believed that Florida and Texas would gain two and three seats, respectively.

Key Political Shifts

The most significant takeaway from the data, politically speaking, is that population centers and political power in the 2020s will continue to shift from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West, as well as from blue to red states.

A total of five of the seven seats will now migrate from historically blue states to red states. Notably, a red state gaining a seat does not necessarily mean that the new district will be Republican — or vice versa for blue states and Democratic districts.

It does, however, present a major opportunity for redrawing district lines during the redistricting process. This is especially true for Republican-led states, because while several Democratic states have created independent, non-partisan commissions to draw district lines, five of the seven newly allocated districts are going to states where the GOP completely controls redistricting.

That, in turn, will almost certainly help Republicans draw House maps for 2022 that could increase their chances to win back the five seats they need to regain a majority in the lower chamber.

At the same time, the totals are still better for Democrats than most expected: red states got fewer seats than expected, and blue states held onto seats they were expected to lose.

What Next?

Monday’s release is just the first set of census data set to be published by the Bureau. Both the redistricting process and the allocation of federal funds cannot be completed until the census data about race, ethnicity, age and sex is released.

The Bureau has said it will publish that information until August because it is behind schedule in completing the most embattled census count in decades.

In addition to conducting the count during a pandemic, the agency also faced unprecedented interference from the Trump administration, which attempted to cut the count short before it was fully completed and tried to prevent major populations from being counted before leaving office

The accuracy of that demographic data also may also be called into question because of heightened concerns over how historically undercounted groups were counted with the lack of door knockers during the pandemic, the shortened timeline, as well as all of the back and forth about the citizenship question, which could have scared immigrants from answering.

Beyond that, the process could also be complicated by future lawsuits, along with existing ones in Ohio and Alabama regarding deadlines and practices.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena

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The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.


Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.

The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.

In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.

Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.

Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee. 

That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.

After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.

Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.

Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts

The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.

It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same. 

The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively —  are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.

Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.

As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.  

Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)

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Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December

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The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.


Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily

The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.

The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.

After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.

The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday. 

The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.

“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.

The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession. 

Major Hurdles Remain

While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.

Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain. 

Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.

Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.

Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.

Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.

Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.

In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul. 

As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported. 

It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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California Makes Universal Voting by Mail Permanent

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California is now the eighth state to make universal mail-in ballots permanent after it temporarily adopted the policy for elections held amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 


CA Approves Universal Voting by Mail

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Monday requiring every registered voter in the state to be mailed a ballot at least 29 days before an election, whether they request it or not.

Assembly Bill 37 makes permanent a practice that was temporarily adopted for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law, which officially takes effect in January, also extends the time mail ballots have to arrive at elections offices from three days to seven days after an election. Voters can still choose to cast their vote in person if they prefer.

Supporters of the policy have cheered the move, arguing that proactively sending ballots to registered voters increases turnout.

“Data shows that sending everyone a ballot in the mail provides voters access. And when voters get ballots in the mail, they vote,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), said during a Senate committee hearing in July.

Meanwhile opponents — mostly Republicans — have long cast doubts about the safety of mail-in voting, despite a lack of evidence to support their claims that it leads to widespread voter fraud. That strategy, however, has also faced notable pushback from some that a lot of Republicans who say it can actually hurt GOP turnout.

Others May Follow

The new legislation probably isn’t too surprising for California, where over 50% of votes cast in general elections have been through mail ballots since 2012, according to The Sacramento Bee. Now, many believe California will be followed by similar legislation from Democrats across the country as more Republican leaders move forward with elections bills that significantly limit voting access.

Newsome signed 10 other measures Monday changing election and campaign procedures, including a bill that would require anyone advocating for or against a candidate to stand farther away from a polling place. Another bill increases penalties for candidates who use campaign funds for personal expenses while a third measure increases reporting requirements for limited liability corporations that engage in campaign activity.

“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a statement.

“Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election.”

The news regarding California came just in time for National Voter Registration day today, giving Americans another reminder to make sure they’re registered in their states. For more information on how to register, visit Vote.gov or any of the other resources linked below.

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (Los Angeles Times) (The Sacramento Bee)

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