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The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by Facebook – GOP closes ranks to fill SCOTUS vacancy by November

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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 each morning this week: Monday, 199,512; Tuesday, 199,884; Wednesday, 200,814 (The Hill).

Senate Republicans steamrolled ahead with plans to move forward on a Supreme Court nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with President Trump announcing that he will unveil his choice for the seat on Saturday evening.


McConnell moved closer to notching the needed support from his conference to move forward with the president’s choice on Tuesday when Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the lone Republican to support Trump’s impeachment, announced that he supports confirming a nominee before the Nov. 3 election. The revelation dealt a major blow to Democrats and their hopes that any nominee would be selected by the winner of the general election and subsequently confirmed, potentially avoiding a 6-3 advantage for conservatives on the court. 


“The Constitution gives the President the power to nominate and the Senate the authority to provide advice and consent on Supreme Court nominees. Accordingly, I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the President’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications,” Romney said in a statement (The Hill). 


Only two Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — have signaled support for allowing the winner of the general election to choose the nominee. McConnell can afford to lose only one more member of his conference. 


“I guess we have all the votes we’re going to need,” Trump told WJBX Fox 2 in Detroit. “I think it’s going to happen” (The Associated Press).


According to The Hill’s Alexander Bolton, Senate Republicans view a potential pre-Election Day confirmation vote as a big political boost that could help hold their majority in November. GOP lawmakers are holding out hope that the vote could help the same way Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation fight did in 2018, when Republicans knocked off four Democratic incumbents in the midterm elections despite losing the House.


“Very honestly, we think the Democrats are in the wrong spot on this particular issue,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), arguing that Democratic calls to kill the legislative filibuster or add seats to the Supreme Court if the party takes power have played into the GOP’s hands. “We think when they start talking about their threats, about what they would do if we continue to proceed with this, we don’t think that’s the spot where they’re going to want to be in.”


Politico: Senate Republicans bet it all on the Supreme Court — again.


The Hill: Collins says she will vote “no” on Supreme Court nominee before election.


The New York Times step-by-step guide: How a Supreme Court justice is (usually) appointed, and how Republicans may look to speed things up.


Meanwhile, Trump made it official on Tuesday, telling reporters that he will announce his pick to replace Ginsburg on the court on Saturday evening at 5 p.m. Judge Amy Coney Barrett, considered a favorite on the list, met with officials at the White House for the second day in a row on Tuesday. She met with the president on Monday. 


Trump may speak with potential pick Barbara Lagoa, a judge in South Florida, but is not likely to do so during his scheduled campaign visit there on Friday, according to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Meadows told Axios that any meeting with prospective Supreme Court nominees will take place at the White House. 


“I’m getting very close to having a final decision made, very close,” Trump told reporters before departing for a campaign event in Pennsylvania on Tuesday. “We need nine justices. …  Doing it before the election will be a very good thing … because what they’re doing is trying to sow confusion.”


The Washington Post: The Senate Judiciary Committee may hold confirmation hearings for Trump’s court pick during the week of Oct. 12, with a committee vote the following week.


Politico: Trump world clashes over Barrett vs. Lagoa for Supreme Court.


The Associated Press: Not so hush-hush search: Trump airs his thinking about a court seat.


The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports that Senate Democrats are limiting the ability to hold committee hearings in retaliation for Republicans’ decision to try to fill Ginsburg’s seat with less than five weeks to go until the November election, the first action in what is likely to be an increasingly combative battle over procedure in the Senate. 


A Democratic aide confirmed to The Hill that Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) invoked the so-called two-hour rule, which can be used to limit the ability to hold committee hearings after the Senate has been in session for more than two hours. The ability to hold committee hearings is routinely granted with little fanfare on the Senate floor. 


“Because the Senate Republicans have no respect for the institution, we won’t have business as usual here in the Senate,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.


The Hill: Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare.


The New York Times “Sway” podcast with host Kara Swisher: Pelosi: “If the election were held today, we would win it all” (52 minutes).





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2020 POLITICS & ELECTIONS: There is no shortage of Democratic advice lobbed into Joe Biden’s campaign. The latest hand-wringing follows the former vice president’s studied silence about liberals’ agitation to possibly add justices to the nine-member Supreme Court and some Democrats’ enthusiasm to change Senate rules to end the filibuster once and for all.


Biden, who reveres the Senate and considers himself an institutionalist, is focused on Trump and his own determination to speak to voters about what matters to them. He has appealed to Republicans to drop their rush to confirm another justice before Election Day by saying “we need to de-escalate, not escalate.” Biden rejected Trump’s call to release a list of his potential Supreme Court nominees, calling it a “game” meant to “gin up emotions and anger,” report The Hill’s Jonathan Easley and Amie Parnes.  


Biden may be listening to some of his former Democratic colleagues in the Senate, who are tamping down talk of expanding the Supreme Court through what’s called “court packing.” Congress determines how many justices sit on the high court, which has had nine since 1869. Progressives, including some lawmakers, like the idea. But several Democratic senators, including senior members of the caucus, think the court-expansion conversation is a distraction from the more immediate battles to win the elections and make the Supreme Court confirmation process tougher for Senate Republicans to jam through in just 40 days (The Hill).





Trump, during rallies and remarks this week, focused on the Supreme Court vacancy, criticism of China and the economy. He was in Ohio on Monday and Pennsylvania on Tuesday (pictured below), and he told reporters that the coronavirus death toll of more than 200,000 people in the United States was “a shame” and “a horrible thing,” but would have been “substantially more” if the administration “didn’t do it properly and didn’t do it right.” 


The president, who appeared to refer to worldwide projections for coronavirus fatalities, said deaths were estimated to rise to 2 million or 2-½ million “if you didn’t do it right.” As of this morning, global confirmed coronavirus deaths exceed 971,000. In polls conducted in a handful of key swing states, Biden consistently leads Trump when voters are asked who they trust to handle the pandemic.


The Hill: During an outdoor rally in Pennsylvania, Trump on Tuesday mocked reporters who were hit this summer by rubber bullets and roughed up by police while reporting on demonstrations for racial justice.


The Hill: After striking a bird in New Hampshire, Air Force Two with Vice President Pence aboard returned to the Manchester Airport as a precaution on Tuesday. Pence later returned to Washington in a cargo plane.


The Hill’s Max Greenwood reports that in battleground Pennsylvania, election officials and voting rights advocates are sounding an alarm over a court ruling ordering officials to toss out “naked ballots.” They warned on Monday that the court decision could cause widespread voter disenfranchisement and a massive legal controversy following the November elections. The controversy could have sweeping electoral ramifications for a state that Trump won in 2016 by 44,000 votes and where Biden, who was born there, hopes to seed an Electoral College path to the White House.


Meanwhile, Republicans plan to ask the Supreme Court to review a major state court ruling on mail voting in Pennsylvania in the first test of the high court following Ginsburg’s death last week (The Hill).


In swing-state Arizona, The Hill’s Reid Wilson explains why the once-staunchly conservative state is projected by political analysts to vote blue this year.


The Washington Post: The Trump team knocks on doors. Biden’s supporters dial phones. Voters in North Carolina see two very different campaigns, each risky.


The Wall Street Journal: Senate Republicans’ probe of Joe and Hunter Biden nears completion.


> Endorsements: 13 Nobel Prize economists endorse Biden for president (The Hill). … Cindy McCain, widow of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announces she backs Biden (The Hill).


The Hill: On Tuesday, Big Tech and other groups mobilized on National Voter Registration Day, urging U.S. residents to create their plans to cast ballots. Voter registration numbers in recent months have been lower in many states because of caution about COVID-19 transmissions.


> Debates: Trump and Biden will meet in Ohio on Tuesday at 9 p.m. for the first of three face-offs. Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News selected topics for the debate, subject to last-minute news and events. He wants to ask questions about the Trump and Biden records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy,  race and violence in U.S. cities, and the integrity of the election. … The campaign team working with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is trying to manage expectations about her debate skills as former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg stands in for Pence during debate prep (Bloomberg News). 


The Associated Press: Maine will become the first state to use ranked-choice voting in a presidential race under a ruling by the Maine Supreme Court on Tuesday. Under the ballot system, voters are allowed to rank all candidates listed. If no one wins a majority of first-place votes, then there are additional tabulations, aided by computers, in which last-place finishers are eliminated and votes are reallocated based on those supporters’ second-place choices. Additional tabulations delay results for about a week. In Maine, the presidential ballot will feature five names, including Trump and Biden. Ranked voting will also be used in U.S. House races and the closely watched Collins Senate race against Democrat Sara Gideon, the Maine House Speaker. The voting system adds another wrinkle to the presidential contest in Maine, which — as one of two states that divide electoral votes — already does things differently.


The Atlantic cover story: “The election that could break America,” by Barton Gellman.





CONGRESS: The House on Tuesday passed on legislation that would avert a government shutdown and fund the government until mid-December after last-minute haggling with Republicans over a provision to include funding for an assistance program for farmers. 


The House was initially slated to vote Tuesday afternoon on a clean funding package that did not include $30 billion to refill the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), which is opposed by most Democrats. However, after Republicans indicated that they would not approve any spending bill without it and some farmland Democrats called for the funding, the bill was revised and passed overwhelmingly on Tuesday night, 359-57. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) voted “present.”


“We have an agreement that will keep the government functioning for the people,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on the House floor. “There was a lot of to and fro-ing, a lot of people wanted this, a lot of people wanted that, a lot of people didn’t want this… This is the best we have, so we need to take it.”


As part of the deal, the package will include an additional $8 billion in nutrition assistance and “increase accountability” for the use of CCC funds to prevent funds intended for farmers “from being misused for a Big Oil bailout,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement.


The Senate is expected to take up the bill as soon as this week.


The Hill: House lawmakers reach deal to avert shutdown.


The Washington Post: House overwhelmingly passes bipartisan spending deal to avert government shutdown.


The House vote took place only eight days before funding for the government is set to run out and trigger a partial government shutdown if no deal is passed. Earlier Tuesday, McConnell criticized Democrats for not including the funding for farmers in their initial bill, saying that it was a “message to farm country to drop dead.” 




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


Filling the Supreme Court vacancy: Four scenarios, by D. Benjamin Barros, opinion contributor, The Hill.


As goes the filibuster, so goes cooperation in Congress, by John R. Kasich, opinion contributor, The Hill.


How Facebook is preparing for the US 2020 election


— Launched new Voting Information Center

— More than tripled our safety and security teams to 35,000 people

— Implemented 5-step political ad verification

— Providing greater political ad transparency


Learn about these efforts and more


The House will meet at 9 a.m.


The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of John Hinderaker to be a judge with the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee at 10 a.m. will get a COVID-19 update from members of the president’s coronavirus task force, including Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn (the administration recently blocked Hahn from testifying before a House panel). 


The president will speak to veterans of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, a CIA operation that sought to overthrow Fidel Castro in Cuba. Trump will participate in a discussion with Republican state attorneys general about revising a key law that shields social media companies from liability for content posted by their users and allows them to remove lawful but objectionable posts (Reuters).


The Supreme Court: Thousands of people are expected to honor Ginsburg beginning today, flocking to the court building to pay tribute to a woman who evolved into an unlikely icon in her 80s (The Associated Press). Ginsburg will lie in repose at the court today and Thursday. Her casket will be moved to the portico at the front of the building and remain there rather than in the traditional Great Hall as a precaution during the pandemic. Members of the public can pay respects from approximately 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. today, and from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Thursday.


INVITATION: Today, The Hill Virtually Live hosts “Work Redefined,” with sessions at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., where employers, economists, innovators, policymakers and futurists discuss what lies ahead for America’s workforce and economy. Guests include Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), co-chair of the House Future of Work Caucus; Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; and Austin, Texas, Mayor Steve Adler (D). RSVP HERE.


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


CORONAVIRUS: The Food and Drug Administration is poised to announce tougher standards for any COVID-19 vaccine. The standards make it unlikely a vaccine could be cleared by the government as safe and effective for distribution by Election Day, as Trump has suggested was a possibility (The Washington Post). The CDC set Oct. 16 as a deadline for states to submit vaccine distribution plans (Reuters).The CDC is plagued by a crisis of confidence. Employees tell The Hill in interviews that they feel mistrust for agency leaders and the president. … Would a second wave of the virus in October effectively end the president’s chances of winning a second term? That’s the question The Hill’s Niall Stanage explores in his latest Memo. The number of daily confirmed cases in the United States has risen more than 15 percent in the past 10 days. Other nations, including the United Kingdom, are grappling with a second wave and new lockdown restrictions (The Hill). … Ralph Lauren Corporation announced on Tuesday plans to cut 15 percent of its workforce worldwide after incurring a significant drop in revenue tied to the economic hit from COVID-19. The fashion company is expected to lay off roughly 3,700 employees in an effort to cut costs and ride out problems presented by the pandemic. As of March, Ralph Lauren employed 24,900 people across the world, including 13,800 in the U.S. (Reuters). … The coronavirus-induced lockdown in South Africa has produced one positive development: a decrease in rhino hunting. With the country closed off to tourists since March, the number of South African rhinos slain by poachers dropped by more than 50 percent from 2019. However, South African officials are concerned that the number could start to rise again once the country reopens to international tourists in October (The Associated Press). … NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said on Tuesday that the upcoming season is not expected to start until January at the earliest — nearly three months later than usual due to the league’s restart in Orlando, Fla., and the novel coronavirus (NBC Sports).


ADMINISTRATION: The United States is reimposing a “public charge” wealth test for green card recipients. A 2019 rule, which gave officials more power to deny permanent residency to immigrant applicants deemed by the government to be too reliant on public assistance or aid, was blocked in late July by a federal judge who found it hampered efforts to contain the coronavirus (CBS News). … Trump on Monday accused Chinese President Xi Jinping of human rights abuses, trade violations and environmental harm during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, which was delivered virtually. Trump repeated his assertion that China is to blame for allowing international air travel that transmitted COVID-19 at a time when Beijing knew how infectious the coronavirus was in Wuhan (The Hill). … The president selected a climate change skeptic, Ryan Maue, to become the chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is part of the Commerce Department (The Washington Post).


STATE WATCH: Policymakers in New York are debating whether to raise state taxes on wealthy residents to address budget shortfalls caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Neighboring New Jersey has taken steps in that direction. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has resisted calls for higher taxes on the rich, concerned that the state’s taxes are already substantial and further increases could cause wealthy residents to move out of the state (The Hill).


INTERNATIONAL: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was released from Berlin’s Charite Hospital on Wednesday after 32 days of treatment, with a “complete recovery” possible after being poisoned with Novichok, a nerve agent, according to the hospital. Navalny’s physicians said that it is too early “to gauge the potential long-term effects of his severe poisoning” (The Associated Press). The Kremlin said shortly after that Navalny is “free to return home to Russia (AFP).


And finally … is nothing safe from COVID-19?  Even while wearing witch masks and superhero gloves, Halloween trick-or-treating door to door is not recommended during a pandemic, according to the guidance ghouls at the CDC, who divided the Oct. 31 holiday into a list of “lower-risk” and “higher-risk” activities


Leave it to Halloween revelers to try to have their social distancing and candy handouts too. One Ohio man made headlines last week because he dreamed up a six-foot chute and “touch-free,” anti-viral precautions to dispense safely wrapped goodies to trick-or-treaters far below his front door (Fox 8).


YouTube DIYers already have demonstrations and instructions for the candy chute contraption HERE. Beware the city or community officials who try to lock down Halloween!




Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Andrew Cuomo Anthony Fauci Brett Kavanaugh Chris Wallace Chuck Schumer Donald Trump Joe Biden John McCain Lisa Murkowski Mark Meadows Mike Rounds Mitt Romney Nancy Pelosi Pete Buttigieg Ruth Bader Ginsburg Steny Hoyer Susan Brooks Susan Collins

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