The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Washington on edge amid SCOTUS vacancy

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Monday! 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 today are expected to exceed 200,000, a statistic initially considered shocking when projected early this year. Total fatalities this morning: 199,512. (The Associated Press).

President TrumpDonald TrumpLil Wayne gets 11th hour Trump pardon Trump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Trump expected to pardon Bannon: reports MORE, moving with speed as Americans in some states begin voting ahead of Nov. 3, vowed to nominate a woman this week to succeed Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader Ginsburg, George Floyd among options for 'Remember the Titans' school's new name Bipartisan anger builds over police failure at Capitol Lindsey Graham praises Merrick Garland as 'sound choice' to serve as attorney general MORE, the liberal icon who served for 27 years on the Supreme Court before her death on Friday at age 87. Bolstering Trump’s decision to act without “delay,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump has talked to associates about forming new political party: report McConnell, Schumer fail to cut power-sharing deal amid filibuster snag McConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment MORE (R-Ky.) said the president’s nominee will come to the floor in the GOP-controlled Senate, although he has not said when. 


Two Senate Republicans, Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Memo: Biden prepares for sea of challenges Biden's minimum wage push faces uphill battle with GOP GOP senators wrestle with purging Trump from party MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMcConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment FDA chief says he was 'disgusted' by Capitol riots, considered resigning The Memo: Biden prepares for sea of challenges MORE (Alaska), say they oppose acting on a nomination before Election Day, and Democratic lawmakers and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Scalise bringing Donna Brazile as guest to Biden inauguration Sidney Powell withdraws 'kraken' lawsuit in Georgia MORE strongly object to the president’s haste to install a Republican to succeed Ginsburg, affectionately nicknamed “The Notorious RBG” and known as a progressive champion of rights for women, minorities, the LBGTQ community and the survival of the embattled Affordable Care Act.


McConnell faces an election-year situation without precedent and without rules beyond the Constitution. The wily tactician who has made a conservative overhaul of the judiciary a personal mission, has a major juggling act on his hands. 


The Hill: McConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight.


With announcements by Collins and Murkowski, the GOP leader can lose only one more member of the GOP conference. Eyes turned to a trio of key lawmakers: Republican Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyMcConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment Senators vet Mayorkas to take lead at DHS Romney calls for Senate to pass sanctions on Putin over Navalny poisoning MORE (Utah), Cory GardnerCory GardnerOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs denounce Capitol attack | Contractors halt donations after siege | 'QAnon Shaman' at Capitol is Navy vet Lobbying world Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (Colo.) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyYellen champions big spending at confirmation hearing Yellen says it's important to 'act big' on coronavirus relief 3 ways Biden will reshape regulatory policy MORE (Iowa).


Romney, a thorn in the side of the president, has yet to comment on a future nominee despite Democratic hopes that he would quickly join the sentiment of Collins and Murkowski. A Romney spokeswoman told The New York Times that he will not take any stand until the GOP conference meets. That is expected on Tuesday. 


Gardner, one of the most endangered senators up for reelection this fall, sidestepped a potential timeline during a local television interview on Saturday. Grassley has yet to weigh in beyond his stated praise for the late justice. However, when asked in July what advice he would give Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate presses Biden's pick for secretary of State on Iran, China, Russia and Yemen GOP senator questions constitutionality of an impeachment trial after Trump leaves office Graham pushes Schumer for vote to dismiss impeachment article MORE (R-S.C.), his successor as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the longtime Iowa Republican said he would not support moving forward with a nomination close to an election. 


“I would have to tell him that I wouldn’t have a hearing,” said Grassley, 87, who has not announced reelection plans for 2022.


Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press: Graham’s challenge: Fill a court seat and save his own.


The GOP leader also began to rally colleagues to his side on Sunday. Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderCongress addressed surprise medical bills, but the issue is not resolved Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (R-Tenn.), a key McConnell ally who is retiring at year’s end, announced in a statement that “no one should be surprised that a Republican Senate majority would vote on a Republican President’s Supreme Court nomination, even during a presidential election year” (The Hill).


McConnell, who on Friday asked GOP senators to keep their “powder dry,” has timing on his mind. He has not indicated whether he is considering a confirmation vote before or after Election Day, a decision that will depend on where his conference stands — and on Trump’s choice for the bench.


Adding to the complications, McConnell could be down one vote midway through a lame duck session. In Arizona, if Democrat Mark Kelly defeats Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyCindy McCain on possible GOP censure: 'I think I'm going to make T-shirts' Arizona state GOP moves to censure Cindy McCain, Jeff Flake Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed MORE (R-Ariz.), he would be seated on Nov. 30 because the contest is a special election to fill the final two years of the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain: Trump's legacy is DC looking like a 'war zone' What to watch for in Biden Defense pick's confirmation hearing The best way to handle veterans, active-duty military that participated in Capitol riot MORE’s (R-Ariz.) term. McSally said on Friday that she agrees that the Senate should move ahead on a nominee.


The Hill: Momentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day.


The Washington Post: Who Trump might pick for the Supreme Court, including Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa.


The Associated Press: A complete list of Trump’s possible Supreme Court nominees.





Across the aisle, Senate Democrats, limited in their ability to mechanically alter any nomination or process in the upper chamber, have launched an all out messaging war in an attempt to attract two more Senate Republicans to the position favoring a delay until after the election. 


On Sunday night, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerNew York court worker arrested, accused of threats related to inauguration Schumer: Trump should not be eligible to run for office again McConnnell, McCarthy accept Biden invitation to pre-inauguration church service MORE (D-N.Y.) accused McConnell of “blatant, nasty hypocrisy” with his decision to move forward despite holding up a vote on the nomination of Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandBiden's new challenge: Holding Trump accountable Graham says he'll back Biden's CIA pick A Democratic agenda for impossibly hard times MORE four years ago following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He reiterated that all options are “on the table,” including ending the legislative filibuster to add seats to the Supreme Court — known as court-packing — if Democrats retake the upper chamber in November.


Senate Democrats are looking to the House for some help in slowing down the process. Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Memo: Trump leaves changed nation in his wake New York court worker arrested, accused of threats related to inauguration GOP Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene referred to Parkland school shooting as 'false flag' event on Facebook MORE (D-Calif.) threw gas on the fire, leaving open the possibility when asked whether House Democrats might try to move to impeach the president again or impeach Attorney General William BarrBill BarrTwo-thirds say the election was fair: poll The Hill's Morning Report - An inauguration like no other Barr told Trump that theories about stolen election were 'bulls---': report MORE as a way to stall the Supreme Court nomination proceedings in the Senate.


“We have our options. We have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now,” Pelosi replied (The Hill). 


CNN: Pelosi says she will not leverage a government shutdown to avoid a Senate vote on a court seat.


NBC News: Democrats face limited options to stop Trump from replacing Ginsburg. 


The Washington Post analysis: Why is it that McConnell intends to confirm a new Supreme Court justice now, when he would not in 2016? He says the Senate and the presidency are held by the same party now, which wasn’t the case when there was a vacancy in the last year of Obama’s presidency.


The Associated Press: What is the upcoming process in the Senate, and who are the senators to watch?


The New York Times: The shadow of Garland hangs over the next Supreme Court fight.





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2020 ELECTION AND SUPREME COURT: For months, political analysts have wondered aloud if there would be an October surprise that could drastically alter the 2020 election. While Ginsburg’s death took place in September, the development certainly qualifies as autumn upheaval. The fight to fill the vacancy sharpens the divisions in this year’s presidential contest as well as down-ballot races across the country.


Biden made his first in-person speech since Ginsburg’s death on Sunday and delivered an appeal to the “handful” of Republicans who will decide on any nomination to follow their conscience and allow the election winner to fill the seat. 


“Don’t vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Sen. McConnell have created,” Biden said. “Don’t go there. Hold your constitutional duty, your conscience. Let the people speak. Cool the flames that have been engulfing our country.”


Biden also pointed to the GOP’s handling of the court following the death of Scalia four years ago, saying Republicans cannot “unring a bell.”


The former vice president, however, added that he will not release a list of potential nominees to replace the late icon of the court despite GOP calls for him to do so, which have only escalated since her death. 


“It’s a game to them, a play to gin up emotions and anger,” Biden said. Among the others reasons for not releasing a list, Biden pointed to “unrelenting personal attacks” anyone up for consideration would face and said their presence on any list would influence their work on the bench (The Hill). 


According to a poll released on Sunday, a majority of voters share the view of Biden and Democrats on the issue. In a new Reuters-Ipsos survey, 62 percent of Americans said they believe Ginsburg’s seat should be filled by the winner in November — including 8 out of 10 Democrats, and 5 in 10 Republicans. Twenty-three percent disagreed, with the rest saying they were not sure. 


NBC News: Ginsburg’s death throws chaotic presidential year into greater turmoil.


The Associated Press: How Ginsburg’s death could reshape the presidential campaign.


The Associated Press: Ginsburg’s death puts Roe v. Wade on the ballot in November.


Politico: From elation to apprehension: The right wrangles over a court litmus test.


Since Friday, an issue Biden, a former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, ducked is court packing, a concept of expansion that some Democrats have floated if Trump and McConnell move to fill the Ginsburg vacancy and Democrats next year gain control of the Senate. 


During the Democratic primary Biden said he opposed the idea of adding justices to the nine on the Supreme Court, saying Democrats would “live to rue that day” and the high court would “lose all credibility” (Politico). 





The New York Times: Biden’s court vacancy plan: increased talk of health care and the pandemic.


Reid Wilson, The Hill: Democrats break fundraising records after Ginsburg's death. 


The Associated Press: Biden today will campaign in Manitowoc, Wis., a city about 80 miles north of Milwaukee. It’s his second visit to Wisconsin in two weeks.


The Washington Post: Biden entered September with $466 million, the campaign said — outpacing Trump.





MORE SUPREME COURT: With eight sitting justices divided along ideological lines until a new justice is sworn in, any Supreme Court rulings that split 4-4 revert to the rulings of lower courts. Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBlinken affirms plan to keep US embassy in Jerusalem The Intercept bureau chief: Biden's top candidate for DOJ antitrust division previously represented Google Attorneys urge Missouri Supreme Court to probe Hawley's actions before Capitol riot MORE (R-Texas) argued over the weekend that the court’s vacancy should be filled before Nov. 3 as a safeguard should there be a disputed election result between Trump and Biden that winds up before the high court, as was the case in 2000. 


The president has publicly asserted without evidence that mail-in voting could “rig” the election against him, and he says his campaign has legal teams ready to challenge the process and perhaps the results, which may not be known on election night if millions of mailed ballots are still being counted.


Analysts believe emergency election-related legal petitions are likely to come to the Supreme Court before the election as well as after Nov. 3 (USA Today).


The court announced last week that justices will hear cases by telephone with live audio beginning with the new term on Oct. 5 as a continued COVID-19 precaution against in-person oral arguments (CNN). On the docket days after the election is a challenge to the 2010 Affordable Care Act brought by GOP-led states and backed by the Trump administration seeking to eliminate ObamaCare (SCOTUSblog).


The Washington Post: At the Supreme Court, Ginsburg’s courtroom chair on Sunday was draped in black wool crepe, a tradition dating to at least 1873.


The New York Times: Funeral and memorial arrangements for Ginsburg have not been officially announced by the Supreme Court, although the late justice will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with Martin Ginsburg, her husband who died in 2010.


The Associated Press: Ginsburg’s impact on women spanned age groups, backgrounds.  


The Associated Press: Family, work and opera filled Ginsburg’s final summer.


YouTube: Flashback with humor to that time Stephen ColbertStephen Tyrone ColbertCan the GOP break its addiction to show biz? Colbert asks Republicans 'have you had enough?' in live show after Capitol violence Late-night hosts announce plans to discuss Capitol violence MORE worked out with Ginsburg in her gym in 2018.


WATCH: C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb in 2009 joined Ginsburg in her memorabilia- and art-filled Supreme Court office for an interview (37 minutes).




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! 


Will Republicans’ rank hypocrisy hinder their rush to replace Ginsburg? by Albert Hunt, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3cecpey


Yes, expect fireworks. But we’ll get a Supreme Court confirmation, by Hugh Hewitt, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2ZVJgzQ 


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The House meets at noon.


The Senate will meet at 3 p.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of Edward Meyers to be a judge with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.


The president will travel to Ohio to campaign during an event in Dayton and a rally in Swanton.  


INVITATION: The Hill Virtually Live hosts two events this week:




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


Iran: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoSenate presses Biden's pick for secretary of State on Iran, China, Russia and Yemen US secretary of State on last day in office equates 'wokeness' with totalitarianism Trump's '1776 Report' released on MLK Day receives heavy backlash MORE and the State Department on Saturday said “snapback” U.S. sanctions against Iran had been reimposed, a move announced ahead of the United Nations General Assembly this month and 30 days after the administration notified the international community of its policy to return to a stance with Tehran that fully rejects the nuclear deal negotiated in 2015 by the Obama administration (The Associated Press). … Ahead of the U.S. elections, Trump has vowed to enforce the sanctions, although a majority of the Security Council rejects U.S. authority to act unilaterally. As The Hill’s Rebecca Kheel reports, the Trump administration risks an escalation of tensions with Iran and increasing isolation on the world stage. 


Coronavirus: The United States is grappling today with grief as it passes an astonishing milestone of more than 200,000 people killed by COVID-19, with no end in sight (Reuters). ... France, Spain and Israel are among nations experiencing sharp increases in COVID-19 infections and deaths (The Hill and The Washington Post). ... In Iowa, Des Moines schools could see the school year stretch into next summer over a protracted dispute between the school district and Gov. Kim Reynolds (R). A battle involves Reynolds’s order for public schools statewide to convene half of all classes in person instead of online due to the novel coronavirus. Des Moines school officials voted last week to violate the governor’s order (The Associated Press). … Rep. Jahana HayesJahana HayesCongress ends its year under shadow of COVID-19 It's time to secure our digital sidewalks Five House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet MORE (D-Conn.) announced Sunday that she tested positive for COVID-19 and will quarantine for 14 days. She was tested after one of her staff members tested positive for the virus on Saturday (The Associated Press). 


Tech: Trump gave his blessing “in concept” on Saturday for the sale of video app TikTok to Oracle. Chinese parent company ByteDance would continue to be majority owner of TikTok under the agreement Trump said he approved, according to a source interviewed by CNN. That contradicts the president’s assertion that TikTok would be "totally controlled" by Walmart and Oracle, which will have up to a 20 percent share in TikTok, CNN reported. Trump, who has objected to Chinese tech ownership because of national security concerns, said "the security will be 100 percent. They'll be using separate clouds and very, very powerful security” (CNN).


Cities: Kansas City, Mo., is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States without a street named after Martin Luther King Jr. A proposal expected to be voted on by local lawmakers in the coming weeks could change that (The Hill). 


➔ Emmys: Actress Regina King, who won a fourth career Emmy on Sunday for her role on HBO's "Watchmen," paid tribute to Breonna Taylor with a T-shirt message, "Say her name," under a pink jacket during the virtually produced show. (Taylor was shot and killed in her home by Louisville, Ky., police officers in March.) Also wearing a Taylor shirt as she accepted an Emmy was best supporting actress winner Uzo Aduba, who won for her performance in "Mrs. America" (The Hill). … And the awards went to… Canada’s “Schitt’s Creek” and HBO’s “Succession,” two television standouts that topped Sunday’s Emmy Awards (The Associated Press). … AP reviewed the “Pandemmys” program HERE


And finally … In Washington last week, a new memorial to former President Eisenhower was dedicated during a rainy evening ceremony that some readers may have missed. The Eisenhower Memorial, honoring the 34th president and his achievements as World War II commander of the Allied invasion of Western Europe, opened to the public on Friday in a four-acre park across from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (The Washington Post). The memorial, described as “stunning, especially at night,” was designed by architect Frank Gehry with years of input from the Eisenhower family (The Washington Post).


Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsSenate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes Window quickly closing for big coronavirus deal Trump's controversial Fed nominee stalled after Senate setback MORE (R-Kan.) delivered an address, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice offered a prerecorded tribute.