Legislative / Policy Update
House. Having passed a $2.2-trillion, slimmed-down coronavirus relief package on Oct. 1, the House has left town until after the Nov. 3 elections. However, Members will be given 24-hours’ notice if they need to return to vote should Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Administration reach a bipartisan deal on a relief package. Calls for such a bipartisan deal were voiced by many of the 18 Democrats who joined all Republicans in voting against this latest House package. The measure was approved 214-207.
Senate. The Senate was supposed to be in session this week, but with three Republican Senators testing positive for Covid-19 and three others self-quarantining, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has revised the schedule and now says the Senate will meet in pro forma sessions for the next two weeks, re-convening the week of Oct. 19 (unless Senators need to return sooner to vote on a Covid package). The Senators who tested positive are Ron Johnson (Wis.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), and Mike Lee (Utah), while Senators Ben Sasse (Neb.), Ted Cruz (Tex.), and James Lankford (Okla.) are self-quarantining as a precaution.
Supreme Court. Leader McConnell said the two-week recess will not affect the schedule for confirming Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court Justice. Senators Lee and Tillis, who serve on the Judiciary Committee, said they intend to be in Washington Oct. 12, when the committee is set to begin four days of hearings on the nomination. Senators Sasse and Cruz also serve on the committee.
The hearings will be held in Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building, which will be modified by adding a second dais to allow for more space between Senators. In-person attendance will, of course, be limited, with one staff aide per Senator allowed and about 10 seats for the media. The committee tentatively plans to vote on the nomination Oct. 22, followed by a floor vote the following week.
Covid Package. Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke by phone today at 11:30 a.m. for about an hour and agreed “to exchange paper” later today in preparation for another call tomorrow. On Friday, the Speaker sent a letter to her colleagues outlining where the talks stood on five priorities: unemployment insurance, funding for schools and state and local government, the child tax credit and earned income tax credit, Covid-19 testing and tracing, and appropriations for priority programs.
Committee Action of Note:
Debates. The Vice Presidential debate will take place Wednesday at 9 p.m. EDT in Salt Lake City and will be moderated by Susan Page of USA Today. In the wake of the President’s Covid-19 diagnosis, the Commission on Presidential Debates will now seat the candidates 13 feet apart instead of seven and will reportedly use plexiglass barriers to separate the two candidates from each other and to also protect the moderator.
The second Presidential debate is scheduled to take place next Thursday, Oct. 15, in Miami. As of right now, no changes have been made to the debate schedule, but it is dependent on the President’s recovery. Former Vice President Biden said today he will participate next week if scientists deem it is safe for both candidates.
Polls. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll taken after the first presidential debate but before President Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis was announced shows Biden with a 14-point lead, 53% to 39%. When this and other recent polls are averaged together, Real Clear Politics shows Biden holding an 8.5-point advantage over the President. At the state level, polls show Biden with a lead in Arizona, Florida, and Pennsylvania and deadlocked at 47% each in Ohio. In Arizona, the polling also shows Democratic challenger Mark Kelly ahead of Republican Senator Martha McSally.
Senate Retirements. Republican Senator Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania announced today that he will not run for re-election in 2022. Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) has also said he will not run in 2022.