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Legislative / Policy Update

House. The House is in recess and has no votes scheduled until Nov. 16. This week, Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) are looking to introduce legislation designed to improve the nation’s retirement system. The proposal, which will build on the SECURE Act that was enacted last year, is meant to kick off discussions in anticipation of Congressional action next year.

Senate. The Senate is in session and plans to vote tonight on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. After the vote, the Senate plans to recess until Nov. 9. Last week, the Senate voted on two Covid-relief packages, with both failing to get the necessary 60 votes to advance.

Covid Package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke by phone at 2 p.m. today for 52 minutes. Speaker Pelosi’s spokesman Tweeted that the Speaker continues to “eagerly await the Administration’s acceptance” of language on testing and tracing. The Speaker, he said, “remains optimistic that an agreement can be reached before the election.”

Committee Action of Note:

  • Wednesday, October 28
    • Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing: “Does Section 230’s Sweeping Immunity Enable Big Tech Bad Behavior?.” Witnesses include the CEOs of Twitter, Alphabet Inc. (Google), and Facebook.

Political Update

Countdown: 8 days until Election Day.

Campaign Travel. Joe Biden will travel to Georgia on Tuesday, Florida on Thursday, and Iowa and Wisconsin on Friday. Senator Kamala Harris will campaign in Nevada on Tuesday, Arizona on Wednesday, and Texas on Friday. President Trump will hold rallies in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nebraska on Tuesday and will travel to Arizona on Wednesday. Vice President Pence will campaign in North Carolina and Minnesota on Tuesday, Wisconsin on Wednesday, and in Michigan, Iowa, and Nevada on Thursday.

Early Voting. Over 61 million voters have cast their ballots as of Monday afternoon, surging past the record set in 2016 when 58 million voters cast their ballots by mail or early in person. This is over 44% of 2016’s total turnout. Texas continues to lead the early vote statistics, with over 7 million ballots cast – 82% of its 2016 turnout.

Election Outcome. Most election analysts believe that if Joe Biden wins Florida, he will be the next occupant of the White House. Since Florida has already started tabulating early votes, it’s possible the outcome in Florida could be known the night of Nov. 3. Another East Coast swing state, North Carolina, is also expected to report results relatively early on Election Day. But what if the race comes down to Pennsylvania? Pennsylvania won’t start counting its mail-in ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day. Over 2 million Pennsylvanians have requested mail-in ballots, with nearly two-thirds of the requests coming from Democratic voters. If the race is close, the results in Pennsylvania may not be known until Nov. 6, when state officials expect the “overwhelming majority” of ballots to be counted.

However, some ballots may not even be received until Nov. 6. The U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 19 left in place a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowing mail-in ballots to be counted as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3 and received up to three days after Election Day. The U.S. Supreme Court vote was a 4-4 tie. With Amy Coney Barrett expected to take a seat on the high court in short order, the Pennsylvania Republican Party, which wants to block the counting of late-arriving ballots, asked the Supreme Court on Friday to revisit the issue and rule before Election Day.

Further complicating the situation in Pennsylvania is a state law that requires voters to seal their mail-in ballots in a second, secrecy envelope that is provided with the ballot. Without this second envelope, these “naked ballots” will be disqualified.

Supreme Court. In addition to a possible ruling in the Pennsylvania case, the Supreme Court, with Barrett as its new ninth Justice, could weigh in on other emergency cases related to ballot counting that are currently pending in other critical swing states. President Trump’s campaign has asked the Supreme Court to block North Carolina’s plan to count absentee ballots that are postmarked by Nov. 3 and arrive by Nov. 12. Just before Barrett was sworn in, the Supreme Court affirmed a federal appeals court order that has blocked a six-day extension of Wisconsin’s mail-in ballot deadline.

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