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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Thursday. 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. Thursday, 196,802.



President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus MORE and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus Rally crowd chants 'lock him up' as Trump calls Biden family 'a criminal enterprise' Undecided voters in Arizona wary of Trump, crave stability MORE parried on Wednesday over a potential coronavirus vaccine as the president challenged a top administration public health official, asserting that distribution of a vaccine to most Americans could occur by January, much faster than the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicted to senators just hours earlier.

 

“I think he made a mistake,” Trump said of Robert Redfield, the CDC director, who testified on Wednesday that widespread access to a potential coronavirus vaccine likely would come late next summer or roughly a year from now, although Redfield said vaccine distribution could begin late this year to frontline health workers and high-risk groups if such a drug emerges from ongoing human trials. 

 

The president also contradicted Redfield’s endorsement of mask-wearing as better protection against COVID-19 infection than a vaccine, arguing a vaccine is more important. 

 

Redfield, referring to the scientific community’s expectation that a coronavirus vaccine will not offer 100 percent immunity to those inoculated, told senators while holding up his blue medical face covering, “I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine.”  

 

The Hill: Trump disputes CDC director on vaccine timing.

 

The Associated Press: Trump disputes health officials, sees mass vaccinations soon.

 

Trump, who has suggested an effective, approved vaccine could be ready before this year’s elections, said he phoned Redfield, a physician and virologist, and decided he must have been “confused” by senators’ questions.

 

STAT News: As controversies swirl, CDC director is seen as allowing the agency to buckle to political influence.

 

The Hill: CDC director seeks to clarify mask comments after Trump rebuke.

 

Trump’s remarks, delivered during an evening White House briefing, were an effort to rebut Biden, who convened a Wednesday roundtable discussion in Wilmington, Del., about COVID-19. The Democratic nominee continues to assail Trump’s pandemic leadership, making it a campaign centerpiece as the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 approaches 200,000.

 

“I trust vaccines,” Biden said. “I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump. And at this point, the American people can’t, either” (The Associated Press and The Hill).

 

Some 46 days before Nov. 3, the vaccine wars roared into the political spotlight as pollsters continue to hear from large numbers of Americans who say they are disinclined to get a coronavirus vaccine or unsure if they would do so when or if one becomes available. No COVID-19 inoculation has yet been cleared as safe and effective as a federally approved drug.

 

In an attempt to bat down Democratic fears, White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsSchumer labels McConnell's scheduled coronavirus stimulus vote as 'a stunt' Pfizer could apply for US emergency use approval for coronavirus vaccine by late November Ted Cruz won't wear mask to speak to reporters at Capitol MORE told reporters that the White House has not imposed a timetable on the federal approval of a vaccine.

 

“I know two things. One is with the number of trials that we currently have in place … we have a real hope of getting something that actually works, and that the efficacy of that actually saves a lot of lives,” Meadows said. “Whether that happens in two weeks. Whether it happens in two months, I can tell you there's one person that sits in an Oval Office that daily is asking me, ‘How much progress have we made? Where are we going?’”

 

Fox News: Meadows says a Trump health care plan is “ready”: “Executive action with a legislative component.”

 

The Associated Press: Biden to join Senate Democrats today for online lunch, question session. As a former longtime senator, his kinship with Capitol colleagues is well known.

 

The New York Times: Does Biden need a higher gear? Some Democrats think so.

 

 

 

 

> Debate preview: Following a number of high profile interviews that have tripped up the president, Republicans have grown nervous less than two weeks out from the first presidential debate, the next key moment on the 2020 campaign schedule. 

 

As Niall Stanage notes in his latest Memo, Trump has struggled in recent sit-downs, most recently with ABC’s George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosPelosi: White House made 'unacceptable changes' to testing language during negotiations on coronavirus stimulus Infectious disease expert calls White House advisers herd immunity claims 'pseudoscience' Pelosi gives White House 48-hour deadline for coronavirus stimulus deal MORE on Tuesday night. While none of the encounters has left a major mark on his reelection bid, Republicans are on the edge of their seats because the president has also eschewed classic debate prep. Adding to the possible landmines, incumbent presidents often struggle in the first debate, with former President Obama’s performance in Denver eight years ago serving as a prime example.

 

The Hill: High jobless rates in Florida, Arizona, Pennsylvania point to problem for Trump.

 

The Hill: Ballot measures across the United States aim to overhaul voting practices.

 

ABC News: Close contest in Wisconsin; in Minnesota, not so much: Poll.

 

Pew Research Center: Support for Black Lives Matter has decreased since June, but remains strong among Blacks.

 

Variety: Jim Carrey to play Biden on “Saturday Night Live.”

 

 

 



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LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS: The president threw a wrench in coronavirus relief negotiations on Wednesday when he called on GOP leaders to go for a big deal, undercutting their position as they continue to try to limit the overall price tag on a possible package. 

 

With negotiations moving at a snail’s pace, the president made multiple appeals for Republicans to go big in talks with Democratic leaders. Speaking to reporters, Trump also indicated support for parts of a $1.5 trillion proposal made Tuesday by members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, saying that he agrees “with a lot of it.” In particular, Trump tossed his weight behind another round of direct checks to Americans — which was not included in the Senate GOP “skinny” $650 billion relief bill last week — in a bid to expedite a possible deal (The Hill). 

 

“Something like that. … Yeah, I like the larger amount. Some of the Republicans disagree, but I think I can convince them to go along with that because I like the larger number. I want to see people get money,” Trump said. “It was China’s fault. So I’d like to see the larger number.”

 

“I think it’s positive that they came out with this report,” Trump said. “We’re getting closer.”

 

The news caught GOP senators by surprise on Capitol Hill, with leadership continuing to indicate that any deal around $1.5 trillion would be a tough sell for a number of members. Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneBiden owes us an answer on court-packing Government efforts to 'fix' social media bias overlooks the destruction of our discourse McConnell: Coronavirus relief deal unlikely before election MORE (R-S.D.) said that a stimulus bill of that size would give Republicans “heartburn.” 

 

"If the number gets too high, anything that got passed in the Senate will be passed mostly with Democrat votes and a handful of Republicans," Thune told reporters in the Capitol. "So it's gonna have to stay in a sort of realistic range if ... we want to maximize, optimize the number of Republican senators that will vote for it.”

 

Reacting to the president’s tweet calling for a larger overall package, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Schumer labels McConnell's scheduled coronavirus stimulus vote as 'a stunt' Pelosi: White House made 'unacceptable changes' to testing language during negotiations on coronavirus stimulus MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOcasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts The 2016 and 2020 Senate votes are about the same thing: constitutionalist judges Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking MORE (D-N.Y.) welcomed the president’s remarks, saying they were “encouraged” by them, with Pelosi reiterating the comments in a phone call on Wednesday afternoon with Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinSchumer labels McConnell's scheduled coronavirus stimulus vote as 'a stunt' Pelosi: White House made 'unacceptable changes' to testing language during negotiations on coronavirus stimulus Mnuchin joins Israeli delegation in Bahrain to formally normalize relations MORE.

 

However, the main sticking point for any deal remains funding for state and local governments that have been hit hard by the fallout from the virus. Meadows told reporters earlier Wednesday that the $500 billion in the Problem Solvers Caucus plan is too rich for their blood, but pointed to a caveat included in the proposal that funding would be “based on real revenue losses,” giving him hope that the two sides could reach a deal.

 

“We've shown a great degree of flexibility,” Meadows said. “In the end, the biggest stumbling block is if we use this pandemic as a bailout mechanism for poorly run states that perhaps have not been as fiscally responsible is some others. I think that would be a very difficult hurdle to overcome.”

 

Meadows also told CNBC that he hopes that number “is closer to the $250 billion to $300 billion range.”

 

The renewed chatter surrounding state and local funding came as New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioCitigroup executive to run for NYC mayor: report Treasury withheld nearly M from FDNY 9/11 health program New York theaters display banners urging governor to reopen cinemas MORE announced that 495 mayoral staff members, including himself, will be furloughed at some point between October and March. The move is largely symbolic; it will save roughly $860,000 as the city faces a $9 billion, two-year revenue shortfall due in part to the response to the virus (The New York Times).  

 

The Hill: Pelosi: We need to put COVID-19 deal “that will become law” on the floor.

 

The Hill: Senate GOP eyes early exit.

 

The Hill: Senate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden.

 

 

 

 

> Investigations: Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voted on Wednesday to greenlight subpoenas and depositions as part of an investigation into the FBI’s Russia probe and the Obama administration. 

 

As The Hill’s Jordain Carney writes, the 8-6 vote along party lines authorizes Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 Cuomo signs legislation declaring Juneteenth an official holiday in New York Trailing in polls, Trump campaign resurrects Hunter Biden attacks MORE (R-Wis.), the committee’s chairman, to issue a combination of subpoenas and set up closed-door depositions with roughly 40 individuals. Johnson now has the power to set up depositions with the officials he received authorization to subpoena three months ago. 

 

> The Senate Intelligence Committee said in a statement on Wednesday that Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeHillicon Valley: Twitter tightens rules before election | Intelligence chief briefed lawmakers on foreign influence threats | Democrats launch inquiry into Pentagon's moves on a national 5G network The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems ruffle feathers with POTUS fitness bill The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Debate chaos as Trump balks at virtual format MORE, a former Republican congressman, confirmed the panel will continue receiving in-person briefings about foreign efforts to meddle in the 2020 election. In late August, the administration said that it would stop in-person election-related briefings to Congress because of concerns that information leaked to the public. The decision to curtail briefings sparked bipartisan criticism (Reuters).



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

ADMINISTRATION: Redfield said any vaccine available this year would be in “very limited supply” and reserved for first responders and people most vulnerable to COVID-19. He estimated an inoculation would not be broadly available until the spring or summer of 2021, a timeline also described by Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Whatever happened to Deborah Birx? Infectious disease expert calls White House advisers herd immunity claims 'pseudoscience' MORE, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci has said he is optimistic a vaccine will emerge from numerous drug trials this year (The Associated Press).

 

The embattled CDC director said the United States should have sufficient doses of a potential vaccine late next year in order to return to “regular life” (CNBC). 

 

> C-SPAN video of Wednesday’s testimony HERE. 

  

Earlier on Wednesday, the administration outlined a strategy to deliver safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine doses to the American people as quickly as possible and for free (The Hill).

 

In a report to Congress and an accompanying “playbook” for states and localities, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in conjunction with the Department of Defense and the CDC, laid out detailed vaccination distribution plans for state, tribal, territorial and local public health programs, The Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel reports. The playbook warned that states have never needed such a complex pandemic response plan.

 

“Significant additional planning is needed to operationalize a vaccination response to COVID-19, which is much larger in scope and complexity than seasonal influenza or other previous outbreak-related vaccination responses,” the agencies said.

 

The Pentagon would be involved with the distribution of vaccines, but civilian health workers would be the ones giving shots (The Associated Press). The plans face persistent skepticism. Only about half of Americans said in an Associated Press-NORC poll in May that they would want to get vaccinated. Since then, public doubts persist because of fears the government wants to rush treatments and vaccines to help Trump’s reelection chances. 

 

 

 

 

Politico: How Republican communications operative Michael Caputo, on leave following controversial statements, shook up the Health and Human Services Department.

 

The Associated Press: U.S. envoy leading second recent high-level visit to Taiwan.



The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE! 



OPINION

Donald Trump sacrifices his own base to secure his hold on power, by Edward Purcell Jr., opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/33zT3fY

 

The polls, the Electoral College and Democratic hand-wringing, by Al Hunt, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2ZJRJWu



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Unions and airlines agree – a clean extension of the CARES Act Payroll Support Program will position the industry to support economic recovery and save hundreds of thousands of aviation jobs. Learn how.



WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 9 a.m. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyConservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA may violate courts with new rule extending life of unlined coal ash ponds | Trump reverses course, approving assistance for California wildfires | Climate change, national security among topics for final Trump-Biden debate MORE (R-Calif.) will hold his weekly press conference at 11:30 a.m.

 

The Senate will meet at 9:45 a.m. and resume consideration of the nomination of Franklin Valderrama to be a judge with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

 

The president at 11:30 a.m. participates in a credentialing ceremony for newly appointed ambassadors to Washington. Trump delivers remarks to the White House Conference on American History at 2:30 p.m. in the National Archives Museum. He flies to Wisconsin tonight for a campaign rally at the Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee at 8 p.m. Trump will return to the White House after midnight.

 

Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report on unemployment insurance claims filed during the week ending Sept. 12. 

 

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube



ELSEWHERE

Coronavirus: The Big Ten reversed course on Wednesday and announced that it will play football this fall starting on the weekend of Oct. 24. The conference, which initially canceled plans to play on Aug. 11, cited the ability to test student-athletes daily and the recent development of screening protocols for coronavirus-related heart issues. The league did not announce plans for any other fall sport to return, although its plans for those and for winter sports such as basketball and wrestling will be revealed “shortly” (The New York Times). The lone Power Five conference yet to announce a return to the football field is the Pac-12, with the president urging it to do so during his Wednesday press conference. “Open up, Pac-12. There’s time,” Trump said. … The Hill: Trump spikes political football with return of Big Ten season.

 

 

 

 

Hurricanes: After making landfall in Alabama on Wednesday morning, Hurricane Sally moved toward Georgia and the Carolinas with predictions of a foot of rain and threats of flooding and tornadoes, leaving in her wake streets that became rivers in south Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. The storm ripped roofs off buildings, knocked out power to hundreds of thousands and killed at least one person (The Associated Press). In the Atlantic, Hurricane Teddy strengthened to a Category 2 storm and could become a major hurricane by Thursday or Friday, the National Hurricane Center reported.

 

Economy: The Federal Reserve on Wednesday announced it would keep interest rates near zero, potentially for years, amid growing concern about the weakening pace of economic recovery. In a statement, the Fed’s policy making Federal Open Market Committee said it would leave the baseline interest rate range at zero to 0.25 percent, the level set in March as the economy buckled due to the pandemic. The decision was expected (The Hill). … Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told reporters during a press conference that the central bank continues to endorse the idea of additional fiscal stimulus from Congress and the White House, describing a rapid summer gain in jobs followed Washington’s legislative action earlier this year (CNBC).

 

> Airlines: Commercial carriers warn they will start cutting tens of thousands of jobs next month unless they receive more financial relief from Washington. U.S. carriers received significant government aid early this year to help weather the coronavirus downturn and avoid layoffs. American Airlines and unions have called for a six-month extension of assistance (The Hill). The government’s $25 billion boost to airlines as part of the CARES Act kept airline workers employed at least through Oct. 1 (USA Today).



THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Alert to headlines this week about climate change, we’re eager for some smart guesses about challenges and solutions on a warming planet.

 

Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.

 

When Trump flew to California on Monday to speak with state officials about ongoing wildfires, they talked about climate change. What did he suggest would help prevent such fires?

 

  1. Seed clouds to produce rain
  2. Reduce global greenhouse gases
  3. Improve forest management
  4. Coat forests and structures with chemical flame retardant before a fire season begins

 

Many scientists maintain that hurricanes such as Sally, which made U.S. landfall on Wednesday, are evidence of extreme weather sparked by climate change. What Atlantic Ocean storm record did Sally help match this week?

 

  1. Speed of advancement toward land 
  2. Strength among hurricanes named Sally that have made U.S. landfall through history
  3. Wave height as measured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  4. One of five hurricanes swirling at the same time in the Atlantic Ocean

 

 

In the Arctic this week, what event occurred that scientists say is evidence of rapid climate change?

 

  1. Chunk of Greenland’s ice cap measuring 42 square miles broke off 
  2. Dozens of polar bears found dead from starvation
  3. Rising sea levels flood three polar villages
  4. Svalbard, Norway, set a temperature record of 73.4 degrees Fahrenheit  

 

 

Facebook this week announced it will make what change as it affirmed climate change as scientifically “unambiguous”?

 

  1. Donate 3 percent of annual profits to help halt the destruction of rainforests 
  2. Endow the Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergConservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform Hillicon Valley: Trump refuses to condemn QAnon | Twitter revises its policy, lets users share disputed article | Google sees foreign cyber threats Chairman: Senate Judiciary to vote on subpoena for Mark Zuckerberg MORE School of Climate Science at Stanford University
  3. Create a Facebook information hub to provide “science-based information” about climate change
  4. Challenge major U.S. tech companies to build and retrofit only 100 percent renewable energy tech centers and workplaces going forward