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The Hill’s Morning Report – Pelosi, Mnuchin make last-ditch effort for COVID-19 relief deal

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Thursday, and the first day of October! 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, 204,758; Tuesday, 205,085; Wednesday, 205,998; Thursday, 206,959.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met for the first time in nearly two months on Wednesday as the two negotiators attempt to beat the clock and hammer out a coronavirus relief package with the House set to leave town for the month by week’s end.  

With a deal still at large, the two met in the Speaker’s office for 90 minutes earlier Wednesday as they push for a last-minute accord. The House was expected to vote on a $2.2 trillion proposal on Wednesday night, but only hours beforehand, Democratic leadership scrapped the plans as Pelosi and Mnuchin try to give it one more go on Thursday in hopes of a deal. 

“Secretary Mnuchin and I had an extensive conversation and we found areas where we are seeking further clarification. Our conversations will continue,” Pelosi said in a statement after their 90-minute meeting.

The obstacles remain the same ones that derailed talks for the GOP: The size and scope of any package and funding for state and local governments, which Democrats are adamant about including. According to a person familiar with the talks, the White House’s latest proposal tops out at $1.6 trillion — up from $1.5 trillion, marking a $600 billion difference in the proposals. Roll Call reported on Thursday night that the deal also includes $250 billion for state and local governments and $400 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits.

“There are ongoing discussions still,” the source told the Morning Report. “We’re apart, but there is hopefully a path forward to finding some type of agreement if we get politics out of the way, look to try to do what’s best for those that are in need of assistance.”  

Upshot: Why no haste? If no deal is reached by the end of the week and lawmakers go back to their districts, negotiators indicate they could continue talks into next week and call members back to Washington with 24 hours notice before a vote. 

Mike Lillis & Scott Wong, The Hill: “One more serious try” on COVID relief yields progress but no deal. 

The Washington Post: No deal after Pelosi, Mnuchin meet on economic relief, but talks will continue.

If an agreement is secured, the wild card remains Senate Republicans and whether they will support any deal given the rising price tag. In August, Republicans were wary of supporting any package that eclipsed $1 trillion, leaving Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) struggling for consensus in the conference until 52 Senate Republicans voted in favor of a “skinny” $650 billion package that Senate Democrats blocked. 

Adding to the questions surrounding the Senate GOP, McConnell has not been part of direct negotiations and told reporters that the two sides are “very, very far apart” on a deal. 

“The Senate GOP’s two biggest priorities are avoiding a shutdown and confirming [Barrett],” one Senate GOP aide told the Morning Report. “If Mnuchin wants to come in and talk up a deal, he can definitely pitch the conference on that. But Democrats have been so cynical, it’s hard to see Republicans taking them at face value.” 

The Hill: In financial markets, stocks rose as White House, Democrats traded stimulus offers. 

The Associated Press: American, United airlines say they will furlough 32,000 employees as time runs out on federal aid. 

The Hill: Top House Democrat: Parties “much closer” to a COVID-19 deal “than we’ve ever been.” 

> Government funding: Congress voted to avert a government shutdown on Wednesday night, with the Senate passing a short-term spending bill hours before the deadline to fund the government until Dec. 11. 

The Senate voted 84 to 10 on a clean continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded at current levels. All 10 who voted against the bill were Republicans, including Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), who is up for reelection, Rick Scott (Fla.), Ted Cruz (Texas) and Josh Hawley (Mo.).

The president signed it shortly after midnight, setting up another funding fight after the November elections and before the holiday season. 

> Supreme Court fight: Senate Democrats are ramping up their hardball tactics in the fight over Barrett’s nomination despite lacking tools to stop the nomination as Senate Republicans fast-track the process.  

Democrats aren’t able to block the nomination on their own, but they are pulling procedural levers to gum up the Senate and protest the GOP plan to confirm the appellate judge before Election Day. In addition to limiting committee meetings and forcing votes, GOP leaders are warning that Democrats could keep the Senate in town after this week, cutting into the final weeks of the campaign (The Hill).

Also in Congress: Pelosi announced in a letter to members on Wednesday that remote voting has been extended until Nov. 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Fox News). … Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tangled with former FBI Director James Comey during a hearing on Wednesday about whether the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race was conducted “by the book.” After Comey defended the bureau’s practices, Graham said, “God help us all if this was done by the book,” adding that the investigation constituted “an egregious violation of fairness” (The Hill).







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2020 POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Hours after the chaotic brawl between President Trump and Joe Biden on Tuesday night, described by many as the worst debate in the history of televised presidential face-offs, Trump was defending his performance and the organizers promised format changes before the two candidates share a stage again on Oct. 15 and Oct. 22.

The president — fielding criticism on Wednesday about his refusal Tuesday to disavow white supremacists and the Proud Boys group — said, “I don’t know who Proud Boys are, but whoever they are, they need to stand down and let law enforcement do their work.”

Politico: Republicans to Trump: Condemn white supremacy now.

The Washington Post and The New York Times: Who are the far-right Proud Boys?

The Hill: Biden, while campaigning, called Trump’s debate conduct a “national embarrassment.”

Even Republicans who are familiar with Trump’s theatrical style and taste for the political jugular worried on Wednesday that the president, currently running behind in key swing states according to numerous polls, may have forfeited an opening to reset the campaign in a way that would broaden support beyond his loyal base (The Hill). 

“He blew it,” Amy Koch, a Republican and the former majority leader in the Minnesota state Senate, said about Trump’s debate style. “He did nothing to improve his standing with independents, women or suburban voters. In fact, he may have gone backwards with disaffected Republicans. He needed a strong performance and the opportunity was there and it was all lined up for him to knock it out of the park and he just whiffed.” 

After 90 minutes of name-calling, interruptions and viciously personal jabs, Trump attracted a lion’s share of blame for a Cleveland debate that offered voters too much heat and a shortage of light in the final stretch before Election Day.

NBC News: Trump’s missed cues: When the president attacked Biden for backing the 1994 crime bill, he was supposed to point to Alice Johnson, 65, in the audience and demand that Biden apologize to the grandmother who spent more than two decades in prison on a nonviolent drug charge before Trump commuted her sentence and then pardoned her. Instead, Trump pivoted to his polling numbers among African American voters.

> Enforcing the debate rules: “Last night’s debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues,” the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) said in a statement. “The CPD will be carefully considering the changes that it will adopt and will announce those measures shortly” (NBC News and The Hill).

The commission, which has signed agreements with the Trump and Biden campaigns describing the rules, time limits and role of the journalist moderators during the debates, is searching for new discipline it can impose later this month. One suggestion reportedly under consideration is the ability to cut off the microphone with a rule-breaking candidate.

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh disagreed with the debate commission, warning in a statement that it “shouldn’t be moving the goalposts and changing the rules in the middle of the game.” 

On Tuesday night, the president initially defended his performance and criticized moderator Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday.” 

“Chris had a tough night. Two on one was not surprising, but fun,” Trump tweeted. “Many important points made, like throwing Bernie [Sanders], AOC PLUS 3, and the rest, to the wolves! Radical Left is dumping Sleepy Joe. Zero Democrat enthusiasm, WEAK Leadership!”

During an interview with The New York Times, Wallace, a debate veteran and seasoned broadcast journalist, said he was initially “reluctant” to step in between Trump and Biden. “I never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did,” he said.

The Los Angeles Times reported that after the debate, Biden came up to Wallace and whispered in his ear: “I bet you didn’t think you were signing up for a boxing match.” Trump nodded to Wallace but said nothing to the moderator before exiting the stage.

Biden on Wednesday suggested some new guardrails are needed for two more debates scheduled this month, but he did not detail any recommendations.

“I just hope there’s a way in which the debate commission can control the ability of us to answer the question without interruption,” the former vice president told reporters. “I’m not going to speculate on what happens in the second or third debate.” 

The Hill: On Capitol Hill, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the GOP presidential nominee in 2012, also described Trump’s performance as an “embarrassment.” His Republican colleagues offered reporters other adjectives, including “raucous,” “raw,” “rough” and “a shitshow.  

The Hill: Trump crowd chants ‘lock her up’ about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) as the president warns of refugees in Minnesota.

George F. Will, The Washington Post columnist: For the sake of the country, cancel the remaining debates. 

Niall Stanage: The Memo: “Trump fatigue” spells trouble for president. 

STAT News: During the debate, Trump said his policies made insulin “so cheap, it’s like water.” For most people, it costs just as much as before. And it’s expensive (Mother Jones).

Debate viewership: By almost any measure, the audience for Tuesday’s debate (or at least parts of the evening) was massive. More than 73 million people watched across 16 channels, according to Nielsen (CNN). 



> Economy: The final pre-Election Day jobs report is set to arrive on Friday, giving voters one last look at the state of the coronavirus-riddled economy before they head to the polls in the coming weeks. 

As The Hill’s Sylvan Lane notes, record-low unemployment was Trump’s strongest argument for reelection heading into 2020, but the blow of the pandemic has complicated the president’s ability to sell his economic record.

The Associated Press: Unemployment marches higher in Europe amid pandemic. 

The Hill: Postcards become unlikely tool in effort to oust Trump. 

> Ad wars: The Biden campaign and Democratic outside groups are preparing an advertising onslaught to bury on the airwaves Trump in the coming weeks. Biden’s allies are outspending Trump in all but a small handful of swing states and key markets — in some cases by tens of millions of dollars.

Over the next five weeks across 18 swing states, the Biden campaign alone has reserved nearly a quarter billion dollars in ads, while Democratic outside groups have secured $112 million in their own airtime. The Trump campaign, which spent heavily on advertising earlier in the year, is set to spend far less, having reserved $130 million in airtime in 13 states. Outside Republican groups have reserved $39 million in airtime.  

Combined, groups backing Biden have reserved $360 million in late television, while Trump and GOP outside groups have reserved $170 million in airtime — less than half (The Hill). 



CORONAVIRUS: Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told the Financial Times on Wednesday that the company’s coronavirus vaccine won’t be ready for widespread distribution until at least the spring (CBS News).

> Masks continue to be a flash point in the United States. “Frustrating and a bit hypocritical”: Notre Dame University President and the Rev. John I. Jenkins is under intense criticism on campus as students seek his resignation because he did not wear a mask at the White House on Saturday and shook hands and sat shoulder to shoulder with others while Trump announced Notre Dame graduate Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee. 

Jenkins apologized: “I regret my error of judgment in not wearing a mask during the ceremony and by shaking hands with a number of people in the Rose Garden,” he wrote in a letter to students, faculty and staff. “I failed to lead by example, at a time when I’ve asked everyone else in the Notre Dame community to do so” (The Washington Post). 

> Bars and restaurants: States across the country are lifting restrictions on bars and restaurants even as public health experts warn such locales are a leading source of COVID-19 transmission. Florida, most notably, lifted all such capacity limits in recent days, a move that Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called “very concerning.” Indiana and Tennessee have also lifted limits, while other states begin to reopen bars under capacity limits (The Hill).  

> Sports: The NFL on Wednesday postponed Sunday’s game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers after four players and five staffers with Tennessee tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week. The league hopes to play the game either Monday or Tuesday (ESPN and The Associated Press). 


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! 



Presidential debate raises the specter of election violence, by Tom Mockaitis, opinion contributor, The Hill.

Biden showed why wavering conservatives are nervous about voting for him, by Henry Olsen, columnist, The Washington Post.






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HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Former President Jimmy Carter celebrates his 96th birthday today at home in Plains, Ga., with wife Rosalynn Carter (The Associated Press).

The House will meet at 9 a.m. Pelosi will hold a press conference at 10:45 a.m.

The Senate will convene at noon and begin consideration of Michael Newman to be a judge with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

The president participates in a roundtable with supporters in Bedminster, N.J., at 3 p.m.

Trump delivers virtual remarks to the 75th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in Bronx, N.Y., at 3:45 p.m., speaking from New Jersey. Trump returns to the White House at 6:30 p.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met in Rome this morning with the community residents of Sant’Egidio. He also met with Holy See Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Holy See Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Gallagher in Vatican City. This afternoon, the secretary visits Pontifical North American College in Rome and participates in a signing ceremony for a mining, agriculture and construction protocol. Pompeo also plans to visit Italy’s Villa Borghese Gallery today.

Economic indicators: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. reports on jobless claims for the week ending Sept. 26. The Bureau of Economic Analysis at 8:30 a.m. reports on U.S. personal income and outlays in August. Income is expected to dip, while spending is expected to show another monthly increase. 

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


COURTS: A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the Department of Justice to publish information redacted from the report on the Russia investigation authored by former special counsel Robert Mueller and his team. The government had argued the redactions covered privileged information. District Judge Reggie Walton said the Trump administration failed to justify some of the redactions dealing with the Mueller’s team’s decisions about whether to charge certain people with crimes (The Hill).  

TECH: Google made its latest play in the smartphone wars on Wednesday as it unveiled the new Pixel 5 with a reduced price tag in an attempt to cut into a market Apple has owned in recent years, including in the months since the COVID-19 pandemic started (The Associated Press). … Seattle’s City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a minimum pay standard for Uber and Lyft drivers, forcing the two rideshare companies to pay drivers an amount roughly equivalent to the city’s $16 minimum wage for large businesses. The law sets per minute and per mile rates designed to fairly compensate drivers when they’re less busy (The Hill). 

➔ SPORTS: The NBA Finals are underway, and the Los Angeles Lakers have the early advantage after defeating the Miami Heat in Game 1, 116-98. Anthony Davis led the way with 34 points, with LeBron James notching a triple-double. Game 2 is Friday at 9 p.m. (ESPN).


And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! On alert about the advent of a new month, we’re eager for some smart guesses about America’s history with unsettling surprises in October. 

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

On Oct. 8, 1871, the Great Fire of Chicago killed more than 300 people, left 90,000 Chicagoans homeless and torched more than 3 square miles of the city. According to legend, what started the catastrophic fire? 

  1. Discarded cigar ignited dry straw along DeKoven Street
  2. Cow kicked over a lantern in a barn
  3. Wood-burning stove malfunctioned inside a boarding house
  4. Sparks ignited a warehouse filled with gunpowder


On Oct. 14, 1912, a man shot former President Theodore Roosevelt in the chest while Roosevelt campaigned in Milwaukee, Wis., seeking a third term. Wounded and bleeding, TR delivered his speech before agreeing to go to a hospital. What slowed the assassin’s bullet?  

  1. Shooter’s Colt pistol jammed
  2. Security guard tackled the gunman
  3. Candidate’s thick overcoat, a glasses case and a folded text for an 84-minute speech inside his breast pocket
  4. Assailant was jostled by the crowd and lost his footing as he fired


On Oct. 29, 1929, the stock market dropped nearly 25 percentage points over four days, a prelude to the Great Depression. On Oct. 19, 1987, the stock market experienced its largest one-day drop and the wreckage of “Black Monday” took two years to mend. The 2008 financial crisis began on Sept. 29 and led to the Great Recession. Academics point to many contributors to the “September effect” and October market crashes, including which of these? 

  1. Loss of trust, panic
  2. Investment managers and traders return from summer vacations with darkening outlooks toward year’s end
  3. Rise of government interest rates
  4. Risky reliance on credit to purchase stocks 
  5. All of the above 


On Oct. 23, 1983, terrorists killed 241 U.S. Marines in Beirut, Lebanon. How did they wage the attack? 

  1. Sunk a U.S. Navy ship
  2. Drove a sophisticated bomb-laden truck into U.S. headquarters 
  3. Gassed barracks while Marines slept
  4. Struck Marine barracks with a missile 


Tags 2020 election Anthony Fauci Chris Wallace Coronavirus Donald Trump Ilhan Omar James Comey Jimmy Carter Joe Biden Josh Hawley Kelly Loeffler Lindsey Graham Mike Pompeo Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Morning Report Nancy Pelosi Presidential Debate Robert Mueller Steven Mnuchin Ted Cruz Trump rally

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