Legislative / Policy Update
Senate. Before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, the Senate is expected to give final approval to a continuing resolution to provide government funding through Dec. 11. The CR cleared the House Sept. 22 on a bipartisan 359-57 vote after Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agreed to include $21 billion for the Commodity Credit Corporation and $8 billion for various nutrition programs to help families and children, including young students who are not getting their usual free or reduced-price meals at school. The CR also provides one-year extensions, through Sept. 30, 2021, for surface transportation programs and the flood insurance program. The Senate will vote at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday on the cloture motion to limit debate and plans to vote Wednesday on final passage.
House. Members will vote this week on dozens of non-controversial bills under suspension as they wait for a possible vote Wednesday on a revised Covid-relief package. Chairmen of the committees with jurisdiction for the legislation have spent the last several days reworking the $3.4-trillion Heroes Act that the House passed in May so that the total cost is no more than $2.4 trillion. Under the schedule envisioned by House leadership, the modified bill will be unveiled today and voted on by the full House on Wednesday. Speaker Pelosi has left open the door to the House voting on a negotiated passage if she and the Administration are able to forge a deal in the next day or two. This latest package is expected to include the major provisions from the Heroes Act, with shorter durations to bring down the overall cost, as well as additional provisions, such as aid for airlines and restaurants.
SCOTUS. The Senate Judiciary Committee is looking to quickly begin consideration of the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. While the schedule has not been officially announced, Hill aides indicate that the committee will meet on Monday, Oct. 12, for opening statements followed by two days of questioning on Oct. 13 and 14. Outside witnesses will testify Oct. 15, and the committee plans to vote (and approve) the nomination on Oct. 22, clearing the way for a floor vote in the Senate the week of Oct. 26. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear challenges to the Affordable Care Act to determine whether the ACA is constitutional on Nov. 10.
Committee Action of Note:
Debates. The first Presidential debate will be held tomorrow at 9 p.m. EDT in Cleveland. Fox News’ Chris Wallace will moderate and the debate will focus on six pre-announced topics: the Trump and Biden records, the Supreme Court, Covid-19, the economy, race and violence in our cities, and the integrity of the election.
Polls. According to the latest Real Clear Politics average, Joe Biden is at 49.8% with a 6.9-point advantage over President Trump; a New York Times poll shows Biden with an 8-point lead. Looking at state polls, Biden is ahead in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, while President Trump holds a 1-point lead in Georgia. Those polls also show incumbent Senators Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) leading their challengers by 5 points. In the Carolinas, Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) is 10 points behind Democrat Cal Cunningham while Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is up by only one point over Democrat Jaime Harrison.
Early Voting. Nearly one million voters have already cast their vote by mail and in person according to the U.S. Elections Project. Virginia, North Carolina, and Wisconsin have all had over 200,000 returned ballots so far. In Wisconsin this accounts for about 7% of 2016 turnout numbers.
Late Voting. In an unusual turn of events, one House race – the 2nd District in Minnesota – won’t be decided until February, and it’s possible that the two Senate races in Georgia could await the outcome of runoffs in January. Minnesota law provides that if a candidate dies shortly before the election, a special election will be held in February, in this case, Feb. 9. The death of a third-party candidate last week means that Democratic Rep. Angie Craig will have to vacate her seat in January and then run in the special election. Craig’s campaign, however, is still reviewing legal options and is encouraging voters to vote in November as if the results will be valid.
In Georgia, state law requires a candidate to garner a majority of the vote in order to win outright. With 21 candidates competing in the special election for the seat now held by Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), no one is expected to win a majority. The question is whether a runoff will pit two Republicans – Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins – against each other, or whether a Democratic candidate will edge out one of the Republicans. In Georgia’s other Senate race, incumbent Republican David Perdue is facing Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff. However, there is also a third candidate in the race, and recent polling shows neither Perdue nor Ossoff with more than 50% of the vote. If a runoff is needed in either or both Georgia races, it will be Jan. 5.