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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Wednesday. We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators, and readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 194,081; Tuesday, 194,536; Wednesday 195,942.
Vice President Pence told The Hill on Tuesday that his televised debate with Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris to campaign with McAuliffe in Virginia Harris to highlight drought, climate change in Nevada trip Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair MORE (D-Calif.) next month is a chance to draw contrasts between President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups MORE and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenJan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Democrats address reports that clean energy program will be axed Two House Democrats to retire ahead of challenging midterms MORE.
Calling Harris an “experienced debater,” Pence told reporter Brett Samuels during an interview aboard Air Force Two that Florida and Arizona (where Pence will campaign later this week) are of “great importance” for capturing a second term. He argued the president can expand the 2020 map by winning Minnesota, where Trump will campaign on Friday and where Pence hit the hustings on Tuesday.
“I don’t think I’m preparing any differently,” Pence told The Hill. “Certainly, I see ... a vice presidential debate as an opportunity to draw a contrast between the president and Joe Biden. And I know the president’s record. I’ve been there every step of the way.”
“She is certainly an experienced debater,” Pence said of Harris. “So we’re preparing in the same way we prepared the last time.”
“Florida’s of great importance. Arizona’s of great importance. We’re going to make sure we continue to campaign in those states,” Pence told The Hill when asked about “must-win” states for Trump.
The Pence-Harris debate takes place Oct. 7 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The vice president has plenty of debate experience as a former Indiana governor and against Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSenate Democrats ditch Hyde amendment for first time in decades Fill the Eastern District of Virginia Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals MORE (D-Va.), Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Nation mourns Colin Powell The Memo: Powell ended up on losing side of GOP fight Powell death leads to bipartisan outpouring of grief MORE’s running mate in 2016 (full debate HERE).
Republicans who are rooting for Trump’s reelection and for continued majority control in the Senate say the president and Pence would do well to focus almost exclusively this fall on the strength of the U.S. economy that existed before the pandemic. They note that the unemployment rate, while still high, is declining as some jobs are regained, The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports. GOP optimism belies warning signs that the U.S. economic recovery is slowing, however.
Trump, who showcased an achievement in Middle East peace at a historic White House event on Tuesday, is ahead of Biden in polls that ask Americans which candidate would better handle the economy. Niall Stanage writes in his latest Memo that the president’s campaign on Tuesday released a new wave of ads focused on the economy and job creation. The campaign announced that it was boosting TV ad spending by “nearly 50 percent” with most being economic-focused. In one national ad, the campaign claims that “American workers paid the price” for trade deals supported by Biden.
Trump on Tuesday denied he ever downplayed the risks of the coronavirus early this year, despite recorded evidence that he boasted of doing exactly that. Speaking with a small group of voters during an ABC News town hall program from Philadelphia, the president said, “I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it, in terms of action. … My action was very strong.” The president used the television time to assail Biden as “grossly incompetent.” Trump was vague about how he is preparing for the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, saying his day job gives him plenty of practice. Biden on Tuesday told reporters he is preparing for the face-off with Trump by reviewing statements he’s made in the past. He indicated in his remarks that mock debate practice has not begun inside his campaign (The Associated Press).
> Biden went a courtin’: Biden made his first trip as the Democratic nominee to Florida on Tuesday as he makes a play to court Latino voters amid signs he is struggling to win over the bloc in a state that could make or break his 2020 chances.
As The Hill’s Jonathan Easley and Max Greenwood write, a Biden victory in the Sunshine State would all but close off any avenue for Trump to recapture the White House for a second term. However, recent polls show Biden running behind Clinton’s 2016 support among Latinos, raising concerns among Democrats that Biden’s potential weakness with a key demographic could help propel Trump to a win in Florida.
Biden attended a Hispanic Heritage Month event in Kissimmee, a city in Central Florida that is 60 percent Hispanic, on Tuesday evening and sat for an interview with Noticias Telemundo as part of his outreach to the key Democratic constituency with exactly seven weeks until Nov. 3.
Latinos are not the only group of voters Biden is making a renewed push to bring into his column. As The Hill’s Julia Manchester details, the former vice president is also making a concerted effort to court veterans, especially in the aftermath of reports by The Atlantic and other outlets detailing comments made by Trump in recent years.
On Tuesday, Biden met with veterans in Tampa, Fla., and offered yet another scathing rebuke of Trump’s reported comments disparaging fallen U.S. service members in the various stories.
“Donald Trump has no idea about the ideas that animate women and men who sign up to serve,” Biden said. “Duty, honor, country. That’s what service and patriotism is all about. … Nowhere are his faults more glaring and offensive to me at least, than when it comes to his denigration of our service members, veterans, wounded warriors, the fallen” (The Hill).
The Washington Post: Biden visits Florida as Democrats worry about his standing in the state.
Marc Caputo, Politico: “A heart pumping blue blood:” How fast-growing Orlando threatens Trump’s reelection.
Looking ahead, the former vice president will receive a briefing from public health experts in Wilmington, Del., about a COVID-19 vaccine and will deliver remarks at 2:30 p.m. on his plan to develop and distribute a vaccine if he becomes president in January.
On Thursday, Biden will take part in two notable events. Early in the day, he is expected to speak during a conference call with Senate Democrats, the first of its kind since he became the Democratic presidential nominee. The call is expected to focus on mobilizing voters in battleground states and helping elect candidates up and down the ballot for Democrats (Politico). The former VP is also slated to take part in a CNN town hall from his hometown of Scranton, Pa., at 8 p.m. (CNN).
USA Today: Poll finds Trump down 4 points in Minnesota, which hasn't gone for a Republican since 1972.
Scientific American: Editors of the magazine endorse Joe Biden for president. “We’ve never backed a presidential candidate in our 175-year history — until now.”
The Hill: Sen. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsDefense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' Who is afraid of the EU's carbon border adjustment plan? MORE (D-Del.) beats back progressive Senate primary challenger in Delaware.
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LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS: With a coronavirus relief deal remaining at large, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden to take part in CNN town hall in Baltimore Manchin on finishing agenda by Halloween: 'I don't know how that would happen' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Build Back Better items on chopping block MORE (D-Calif.) said on Tuesday that the House will remain in session until an agreement between the two sides is reached amid calls by moderate Democrats for a bipartisan deal before Election Day.
Pelosi made the announcement during a conference-wide call, the first since the month-long August recess, as moderate Democrats push for the two sides to return to the table and strike an accord sooner rather than later.
“We have to stay here until we have a bill,” Pelosi told lawmakers.
According to The Hill’s Scott Wong and Mike Lillis, Pelosi, however, has refused to back down from her negotiating stance and says any deal will need to be on a package in excess of $2 trillion as Republicans continue to push for a bill no larger than $1.3 trillion or for a piecemeal approach to relief.
“A skinny bill is a Republican bill,” Pelosi said on the call.
The outcry from moderate members became intense as they continue to push for movement in talks. According to Politico, multiple Democrats who flipped GOP-held seats in 2018 and are facing tough contests in November pressed House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerTechnology 'antitrust' legislation could slow product innovation, hurt the digital economy Hoyer signals House vote on bill to 'remove' debt limit threat Feehery: Build back bipartisan MORE (D-Md.) after Pelosi dropped off the call, including Reps. Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerMcAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Jill Biden campaigns for McAuliffe in Virginia Laws should unite, not divide MORE (Va.) and Max RoseMax RoseMax Rose preparing for rematch with Nicole Malliotakis: report 'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection Overnight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage MORE (N.Y.). Hoyer reiterated multiple times that he would not “undermine” Pelosi’s position in negotiations.
Adding to the pressure, the Problem Solvers Caucus, comprised of a bipartisan group of lawmakers, rolled out a $1.5 trillion proposal in a bid to restart talks that have been dormant since early August (The Hill).
However, Democratic leaders are sticking to their guns. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden's Supreme Court commission ends not with a bang but a whimper Hispanic organizations call for Latino climate justice in reconciliation Senate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act MORE (D-N.Y.) said on Tuesday that he backs Pelosi’s stance in talks. Other rank-and-file Democrats also continue to back the position of party leaders, pointing to the need for any bill to include funding for state and local governments.
“There’s no way I can be for another bill that doesn’t backfill at least some of what states and cities like mine have lost in revenue since this COVID nightmare began.” Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) told The Morning Report.
That possibility is still unlikely to garner much GOP support. Tyler Goodspeed, acting chairman and vice chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told Bloomberg TV’s David Westin on Tuesday that the administration does not believe $1 trillion to support state and local budgets, passed by Democrats in May as part of a $3.4 trillion coronavirus bill, belongs “anywhere” in the ongoing conversations.
Despite the House remaining in session, lawmakers will be able to leave Washington and will be given a 24-hour heads up before any vote, which there is no guarantee of at this point.
The Washington Post: Pelosi says House will stay in session until new deal reached on economic relief.
The Hill: Pelosi seeks to put pressure on GOP in COVID-19 relief battle.
Alexander Bolton, The Hill: Senate leaders quash talk of rank-and-file COVID-19 deal.
The New York Times: Taking a cue from Trump, House Republicans offer narrow agenda.
> Government spending: Congressional Democrats are discussing a stopgap bill to fund the government into February as Republicans call for a measure to fund the government into December.
A spokesman for Pelosi told The Hill that the possibility was discussed during a closed-door leadership meeting but no decision was made. A source familiar with the discussion said that House Democrats floated a clean continuing resolution (CR) into February. According to one House Democratic aide, “most Democrats prefer an end date in 2021,” although discussions are ongoing (The Hill).
> Investigations: The House Foreign Affairs Committee and Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelLawmakers pay tribute to Colin Powell NYC snafu the latest flub from a broken elections agency Cynthia Nixon backs primary challenger to Rep. Carolyn Maloney MORE (D-N.Y.) today will question three top aides to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoState Department watchdog probing whether Trump aides took gifts meant for foreign officials Biden shows little progress with Abraham Accords on first anniversary Biden slips further back to failed China policies MORE as part of the Democratic-led probe into the ouster of the State Department’s watchdog in mid-May. Under Secretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao, acting legal adviser Marik String and Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper will testify during an open hearing. Each is a key witness for Democrats, who for months have investigated the abrupt firing in May of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, a dismissal requested by Pompeo (The Hill).
The Hill: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) undecided on authorizing subpoenas for GOP Obama-era probes.
> Federal Reserve nominee Judy Shelton does not have the votes needed for Senate confirmation, Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair GOP rallies around Manchin, Sinema McConnell gets GOP wake-up call MORE (R-S.D.) told reporters on Tuesday. When she has sufficient votes, the Senate could take up the nomination, he added, suggesting the Fed vacancy could remain in limbo for the remainder of the year (The Hill). Trump nominated Shelton, a gold standard advocate, in January in a move considered uphill in the Senate from the start. The Senate Banking Committee cleared her nomination in July (The Washington Post).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
ADMINISTRATION: Middle East: Trump on Tuesday presided over a ceremony with the leaders of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Israel, celebrating a historic diplomatic achievement as he heads into the final weeks of his reelection campaign. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE signed economic agreements with Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, foreign minister of Bahrain, and Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, foreign minister of the UAE, during a White House event with hundreds of invited guests arrayed on the South Lawn. The agreements, brokered with White House backing and called the “Abraham Accords,” represent the first time an Arab country has normalized relations with Israel since Jordan in 1994 and Egypt in 1979 (The Hill).
Trump, during a Tuesday interview with “Fox & Friends,” said he asked Pentagon advisers early in his term if the United States could assassinate President Bashar Assad of Syria (pictured below with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Altria — Hot mic catches Queen criticizing 'irritating' climate inaction Putin directs sexist remark at US anchor Navalny, Afghan women among those under consideration for EU human rights prize MORE). “I would've rather taken him out. I had him all set. [Former Defense Secretary James] Mattis didn’t want to do it. Mattis was a highly overrated general," Trump said (Fox News). The president previously denied he ever contemplated killing Assad, an anecdote reported in the book “Fear,” by Bob Woodward.
The Hill: Woodward describes Trump as a “bulldozer” who ignores advice from White House staff.
> The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into whether Trump’s former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonWe've left Afghanistan — but its consequences are just starting to arrive It's time to pull the plug on our toxic relationship with Pakistan Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod MORE unlawfully disclosed classified information when he published a memoir this summer, a case that the department opened after it failed to stop the book’s publication this summer. The department has convened a grand jury, which issued a subpoena for communications records from Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Bolton’s memoir, “The Room Where It Happened.” Bolton and his publisher have denied revealing any classified material (The New York Times).
Attorney General William BarrBill BarrBannon's subpoena snub sets up big decision for Biden DOJ Five takeaways: Report details Trump's election pressure campaign Biden slips further back to failed China policies MORE defended Trump’s record of support for Blacks during a Tuesday interview with conservative commentator Armstrong Williams. "The No. 1 cause of death of young African American males under the age of 44 is being shot," Barr said. "The police are going in and the law enforcement is going in to save Black lives," he said (KOMO News).
Barr’s willingness to boost Trump before the election when it comes to the origins of the FBI investigation into Russia’s interference with the 2016 election and the handling of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who admitted to lying to federal investigators before Barr and his team asked a judge to drop charges against him, concern some current and former department officials. They believe the department’s law enforcement independence has been undermined (The Washington Post).
> China: The Trump administration has less than a week to either accept Oracle’s proposed deal to become TikTok’s technology partner or move to shut down the wildly-popular short-form video app. The partnership that both companies submitted to the Treasury Department over the weekend seems to do little to address the concerns raised in Trump’s executive orders compelling divestiture from TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance. It also raises serious ethical concerns given Trump’s close ties with Oracle (The Hill). … A World Trade Organization (WTO) panel ruled Tuesday that the U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods are illegal, vindicating Beijing even if the United States has all but incapacitated the WTO’s ability to hand down a final, binding verdict. The decision marks the first time that the Geneva-based trade body has ruled against a series of high-profile Trump tariffs based on a complaint by the administration that China wrongly engaged in practices harmful to U.S. interests on issues including intellectual property theft and technology transfer (The Associated Press).
> Health and Human Services Department: Michael Caputo, a top communications political official at the department, sparked a firestorm with recent comments describing scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as anti-Trump and warning of a hypothetical armed insurrection if Trump wins reelection. His comments were condemned by top Democrats, including Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised Senate Democrats ditch Hyde amendment for first time in decades Building strong public health capacity across the US MORE (Wash.), who called for the assistant secretary’s firing. Caputo's comments bring to the forefront concerns over interference with scientific data by political appointees to bend information to favor Trump's public narrative (The Hill). Caputo on Tuesday apologized to his staff (The Associated Press).
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Earth is fighting for her life. We’re the pandemic, by Kathleen Parker, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2E7ZIW2
Trump's foreign policy successes confound his detractors, by Joseph Bosco, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2ZFTLa9
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 9 a.m.
The Senate will meet at 10 a.m. and resume consideration of the nomination of Todd Robinson to be a judge with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
The president participates in a High Holy Days phone call with Jewish leaders. Trump will have lunch with Pence. The president will speak at a political dinner tonight hosted by the National Republican Congressional Committee at a club on Capitol Hill.
Pence will have lunch with Trump at the White House. Pence will visit Zanesville, Ohio, and return to Washington.
The Federal Reserve will conclude a two-day policy meeting and Chairman Jerome Powell will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m.
Economic indicator: A census report on U.S. retail sales in August will be released at 8:30 a.m.
INVITATION: The Hill Virtually Live hosts a newsmaker event today, “Powering America’s Economy with AI” at 1 p.m., featuring Rep. Steve ChabotSteven (Steve) Joseph ChabotLiberal group launches campaign urging Republicans to support Biden's agenda Blinken grilled in first hearing since Afghanistan withdrawal Bipartisan group of lawmakers call on Biden to ensure journalists safe passage out of Afghanistan MORE (R-Ohio), ranking member of the House Small Business Committee; Rep. Brenda LawrenceBrenda Lulenar LawrenceDemocratic anger grows over treatment of Haitian migrants Black Caucus meets with White House over treatment of Haitian migrants Bottom line MORE (D-Mich.); Rep. Jerry McNerneyGerlad (Jerry) Mark McNerneyThe United States must lead the way on artificial intelligence standards House passes host of bills to strengthen cybersecurity in wake of attacks In defense of misinformation MORE (D-Calif.), co-chairman of the Artificial Intelligence Caucus; Lorena Camargo, CEO and founder of Pearl Transportation and Logistics; John Dearie, founder and president of the Center for American Entrepreneurship; and Heather Spalding, founder and CEO of Cambrian Technology. Register HERE.
➔ WEATHER: With top winds of 105 mph this morning, Hurricane Sally’s northern eyewall is raking the Gulf Coast with hurricane-force winds and rain from Pensacola Beach, Fla., westward to Dauphin Island, Ala., the National Hurricane Center said (The Associated Press). Sally made landfall this morning as a Category 2 storm near Gulf Shores, Ala. (NBC News). … In California and on the West Coast, firefighters say they are exhausted by weeks of battling wildfires and they worry state and local resources to do their jobs are similarly depleted. Fire crews have been summoned from at least nine states and other countries, including Canada and Israel (The Associated Press).
➔ CORONAVIRUS: Dozens of emails obtained exclusively by The Hill through a freedom of information request to officials in Tulsa, Okla., reveal that in the days leading up to Trump’s controversial June 20 indoor campaign rally, the state’s public health department warned there could be significant spikes of coronavirus cases and deaths from the event, reports editor-in-chief Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackNAACP president pushes for more emails from NFL after Gruden resignation Al Eisele, founding editor of The Hill, dies at 85 The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Tensions rise as U.S. waits for Derek Chauvin verdict MORE. Aaron Wendelboe, who at the time was the state epidemiologist, sent one message titled: “How strongly do I speak out?” Three weeks later, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported two record-breaking days of coronavirus outbreaks and at least 19,779 total cases of infection in the state. The seven-day average of cases soared to six times what it had been in April (Time).
Bill Gates wondered on Tuesday whether a coronavirus vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could be trusted as safe and effective, arguing that the agency has been politicized under the Trump administration. “Historically, just like the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] was viewed as the best in the world, the FDA had that same reputation as a top-notch regulator,” Gates told Bloomberg TV. “But there’s been some cracks with some of the things they’ve said at the commissioner level,” he said, referring to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn (The Hill). … The bar and restaurant closures continued across Washington, D.C., on Tuesday as seven bars, mainly along U Street, announced they will close down “for the foreseeable future” beginning on Halloween. Among the bars are the Brixton, El Ray and American Ice Company (Washington City Paper). … Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agreed to a list of coronavirus “bubble” locations for postseason play. The World Series is set to be held at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. The best-of-three first round will be held at the higher seed’s home field. The National League Division Series will take place in Arlington and Houston, with San Diego and Los Angeles playing host to the American League Division Series. San Diego and Arlington will also host the American League Championship Series and National League Championship Series, respectively (ESPN).
➔ CITIES: Louisville, Ky., announced on Tuesday that it will pay $12 million to the family of Breonna Taylor and reform police practices in the city as part of a lawsuit settlement months after Taylor’s slaying by police thrust the Black woman’s name to the forefront of a national reckoning on race. The lawsuit alleged the police used flawed information when they obtained a “no-knock” warrant to enter the 26-year-old woman’s apartment in March. Taylor and her boyfriend were roused from bed by police, and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, has said he fired once at the officers, thinking they were intruders. Investigators say police were returning fire when they shot Taylor several times. No drugs were found at her home (The Associated Press).
And finally … A suspect in Georgia left his good luck behind when he abandoned a winning lottery ticket while fleeing sheriff’s deputies. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office says the man had a Georgia Lottery scratch game card worth $100 when he ran away during a traffic stop on Interstate 75 north of Atlanta on Monday. The man, who was not identified, was later taken into custody, sheriff’s spokesman Capt. Jay Baker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (The Associated Press).