This week: Senate kicks off Supreme Court fight
© UPI Photo

Republicans are ramping up their plan to try to confirm President TrumpDonald John TrumpHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Police called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline MORE’s third Supreme Court nominee before the Nov. 3 election. 

With Trump announcing on Saturday his intent to nominate circuit judge Amy Coney Barrett to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgPence seeks to lift GOP in battle for Senate 'Packing' federal courts is already a serious problem McConnell and Schumer's relationship shredded after court brawl MORE, Republicans are set to begin a five-week sprint to work through the paperwork, committee hearing and floor action needed to seat Barrett on the court. 

“If you can look at the in the number of days that are allowed for the hearings, and then the reporting of the judge to the floor in the time it would take the process her on the floor, I think it's certainly possible that we could complete action on this toward the end of October,” Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneEnsuring more Americans have access to 5G technology Pence won't preside over Barrett's final confirmation vote Gaffes put spotlight on Meadows at tough time for Trump MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told Fox News on Monday. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Both the House and Senate are set to start the work week Tuesday. 

Barrett will begin meeting on Tuesday with top Republicans including Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell: Battle for Senate 'a 50-50 proposition' 'Packing' federal courts is already a serious problem What a Biden administration should look like MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLate donor surges push election spending projections to new heights Pence seeks to lift GOP in battle for Senate Wall Street backed Biden campaign with million in 2020 cycle: report MORE (R-S.C.). She’s also scheduled to meet with GOP members of the Judiciary Committee including Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyBarrett confirmation stokes Democrats' fears over ObamaCare On The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Grassley: Voters should be skeptical of Biden's pledge to not raise middle class taxes MORE (Iowa), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHillicon Valley: Big Tech hearing the most partisan yet | Rubio warns about foreign election interference | Trump campaign site briefly hacked Tech CEOs clash with lawmakers in contentious hearing Trump announces intention to nominate two individuals to serve as FEC members MORE (Texas) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeTrump says ex-staffer who penned 'Anonymous' op-ed should be 'prosecuted' White House to host swearing-in event for Barrett on Monday night Pence adviser Marty Obst tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (Utah).

No Democratic senator has firmly announced, yet, that they will meet with Barrett, though Graham disclosed during a Fox News interview that she had called Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinPence seeks to lift GOP in battle for Senate McConnell and Schumer's relationship shredded after court brawl Murkowski predicts Barrett won't overturn Roe v. Wade MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. 

The closed-door meetings come as Republicans are set to begin the confirmation hearings for Barrett in less than two weeks, on Oct. 12. The hearings, which Graham’s staff estimated would last three-to-four days, will be followed by a Judiciary Committee vote on Oct. 22. 

Because Republicans have a 12-10 majority on the committee, they will be able to send Barrett’s nomination to the floor without the need for any Democratic support as long as they remain united, setting up a final floor vote on the Senate floor the week of Oct. 26. 

The GOP plan will keep the explosive Supreme Court fight, which gives Republicans the chance to cement a 6-3 conservative majority, in the spotlight up until the election. If confirmed, Republicans will set a record on voting for a Supreme Court nominee so close to a presidential election. Though other nominees have been confirmed in a fewer number of days, those were further away from a presidential election. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Democrats are powerless to stop Barrett’s nomination on their own, but they can slow it down with procedural roadblocks and have vowed that it will not be “business as usual” in the Senate. They are also planning to home in on the potential impact Barrett’s confirmation could have for health care, including the future of the Affordable Care Act. If Barrett is confirmed before the election, she will be able to take part in a November case that could determine the fate of the Obama-era health care law. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Graham dismisses criticism from Fox Business's Lou Dobbs Lewandowski: Trump 'wants to see every Republican reelected regardless of ... if they break with the president' MORE (D-N.Y.) urged Democrats to remain focused on health care, arguing it was the party’s shot to build opposition to Barrett’s nomination and put pressure on Republicans to potentially oppose her. If Democrats are going to prevent Barrett from being confirmed, they face an uphill battle of winning over four GOP senators. 

“Here is my suggestion for the best strategy for fighting back: health care, health care, health care. Our number one job is to communicate exactly what is at stake for the American people if Republicans jam through this nominee. The elimination of the Affordable Care Act is at the top of the list,” Schumer wrote to his caucus. 

“All the data show that with COVID raging, the number one priority for the American people is health care — its affordability, accessibility and quality. We must focus like a laser on health care because Judge Barrett’s record is so clear on this issue. It gives us the ability to clearly define what is at stake for the American people’s top priority,” he added. 

In addition to health care, some Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have indicated they will ask Barrett if she would recuse herself from cases involving the election if it reaches the court. Trump, and some GOP lawmakers, have pointed to the potential need for a litigated outcome if the election is close as a need to have all nine justices on the Supreme Court. 

“One of the things I want to ask her is will she recuse herself in terms of any election issues that come before us, because if she does not recuse herself, I fear that the court will be further delegitimized. In other words, President Trump has said, ‘I will not accept the results of the election unless I win. I'm going to push it to the Supreme Court. And oh, by the way, during the election I'm going to put somebody on the Court as well,’ ” Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry Obama endorses Espy in Mississippi Senate race Durbin says he will run for No. 2 spot if Dems win Senate majority MORE (D-N.J.) told “Meet the Press.” 

Coronavirus bill

House Democrats unveiled a slimmed down $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief package on Monday as there is an aim to revitalize talks on a bipartisan measure that can pass both chambers and win the support of the White House ahead of the November election. 

Its introduction comes just days before the House is scheduled to fly out for its October recess, and as swing district Democrats have publicly clamored for some action as the coronavirus keeps the economy on edge with roughly 205,000 Americans dead.

But despite parties having remained at an impasse for months, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Trump should accept election results 'like a man' The spectre of pension failures haunts this election Microsoft: Iranian hacking group targeting attendees of major international security conferences MORE (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinMcConnell and Schumer's relationship shredded after court brawl On The Money: Trump says stimulus deal will happen after election | Holiday spending estimates lowest in four years | Domestic workers saw jobs, hours plummet due to COVID Trump says stimulus deal will happen after election MORE spoke shortly after the scaled-back package was revealed. They have agreed to speak again on Tuesday in an attempt to strike a deal. 

The new package’s price tag comes in at $1.2 trillion less than the initial HEROES Act, which was passed largely along party lines earlier this spring. It faced strong pushback from Republicans over spending levels. The GOP-controlled Senate initially rolled out a $1.1 trillion package, before coming out with a pared down $500 billion bill earlier this month. 

The new House bill includes $436 billion for state, local, territorial and tribal governments struggling from the financial fallout from pandemic; $75 billion for additional testing, another round of direct payments, extending increased unemployment benefits; provides $225 billion for child care and schools; and would authorize additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program among other provisions.

“This $2.2 trillion Heroes Act provides the absolutely needed resources to protect lives, livelihoods and the life of our democracy over the coming months,” Pelosi said in a "Dear Colleague" letter Monday. “It includes new funding needed to avert catastrophe for schools, small businesses, restaurants, performance spaces, airline workers and others.”

Pelosi has not said if or when the House will vote on the measure on the floor. But Democratic lawmakers and aides said, barring a last-minute agreement with Mnuchin, they anticipated a vote on the legislation Wednesday or Thursday. 

Government funding

The Senate will go down to the wire with its debate over a stopgap government funding bill. 

The Senate is expected to wrap up work on the bill Wednesday, hours before the current funding runs out. 

The continuing resolution would fund the government through Dec. 11 at current fiscal 2020 levels. Lawmakers and Trump will have to work out later this year if they can get a deal on the 12 fiscal 2021 funding bills, or pass another stopgap bill in December to kick the funding fight into next year. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The stopgap bill previously passed the House last week, after last-minute haggling over farm aid. The agreement struck between the two parties adds $8 billion in nutrition assistance programs and allows for the farm aid distributed through the Commodity Credit Corporation to continue but with measures sought by Democrats to prohibit payments to fossil fuel refiners and importers.

Comey

Former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyGOP former US attorneys back Biden, say Trump 'threat to rule of law' Biden's polling lead over Trump looks more comfortable than Clinton's Trump has list of top intelligence officials he'll fire if he wins reelection: report MORE is stepping back into the congressional spotlight this week when he testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. 

Comey will go before the panel as part of Graham’s months-long investigation into “Crossfire Hurricane,” the FBI’s probe into Russia's 2016 election meddling and Trump’s campaign, the subsequent former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s investigation and the use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. 

Comey’s testimony comes after former Deputy Attorneys General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump turns his ire toward Cabinet members Ex-deputy attorney general says Justice Dept. 'will ignore' Trump's threats against political rivals The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump's erratic tweets upend stimulus talks; COVID-19 spreads in White House MORE and Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesWhat a Biden administration should look like Judiciary Committee postpones hearing with McCabe on Russia probe This week: Senate kicks off Supreme Court fight MORE testified publicly as part of Graham’s investigation. 

Graham, in an interview with Fox News, indicated he would be asking Comey about the so-called Steele dossier, the controversial opposition research into then-candidate Trump. 

“The information we received from [William] Barr and Christopher Wray and — Attorney General Barr and Director Wray — have been very helpful to me to get information out of the system. Durham had the first look at the fact that the primary subsource was suspected by the FBI of being a Russian agent,” Graham said.