The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump's erratic tweets upend stimulus talks; COVID-19 spreads in White House

                                         Sponsored by Facebook


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, 209,725; Tuesday, 210,195; Wednesday, 210,909.

Coronavirus relief talks came to an abrupt halt on Tuesday when President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE announced that he was pulling out of stimulus bill discussions until after the election and accused Democrats of engaging in bad-faith negotiations. The president’s surprise move sent financial markets into a tailspin hours after the head of the nation’s central bank predicted the U.S. economy would weaken further without new stimulus from policymakers.


The president’s decision came in a series of tweets, saying that the White House made a “very generous” $1.6 trillion offer, which Democrats rejected in favor of a $2.2 trillion proposal that narrowly passed the House on Thursday. Hours later, Trump reversed his messaging, calling on Congress to immediately approve bills to provide loans to small businesses, support struggling airlines and provide another round of stimulus checks.


NBC News: Trump reverses course, dangles new $1,200 stimulus checks.


“As usual, [Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House House Republican attempts to appeal fine for bypassing metal detector outside chamber MORE (D-Calif.)] is not negotiating in good faith. I am rejecting their request, and looking to the future of our Country,” Trump wrote in an initial tweet on Tuesday that scrambled ongoing negotiations. “I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business.” 


Trump pumped his executive brakes after more than a week of intensified negotiations between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinOn The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears Mnuchin expected to launch investment fund seeking backing from Persian Gulf region: report Larry Kudlow debuts to big ratings on Fox Business Network MORE, which had been revived after breaking down in early August. Trump’s decision was especially striking as the White House had been far more gung-ho for a deal than Senate Republicans, going so far as to increase an offer last week to $1.3 trillion in an effort to find an accord. 


In a statement, Pelosi labeled Trump’s decision “an act of desperation.” She also told House Democrats on a conference call on Tuesday that she wondered if doses of a steroid drug Trump received as part of his treatment for COVID-19 affected his decision-making (Politico). 


“His irresponsible statement and policies have damaged lives, livelihoods and the life of our democracy, instead of crushing the virus, honoring our heroes — in health care, first responders, sanitation, transportation, food workers, teachers, teachers, teachers and others — and putting money in workers’ pockets,” Pelosi said in the statement. “Today, once again, President Trump showed his true colors: putting himself first at the expense of the country, with the full complicity of the GOP Members of Congress.”


The Hill: Trump orders aides to halt talks on COVID-19 relief.


The president’s decision on Tuesday also came hours after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell repeated his calls for another round of stimulus during a speech to a conference of economists. He predicted that the U.S. recovery from COVID-19 would weaken without another round of relief for individuals and various industries, especially if confirmed cases continue to rise in the coming months, saying that “weakness feeds on weakness” (The Washington Post).


Reacting to the news of Trump’s about-face, the Dow Jones Industrial Average erased all gains Tuesday and dropped 375 points (1.34 percent) before trading ended. Trump’s tweet also included the claim that the stock market “is at record levels.” On Monday while hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, he told his supporters in a tweetstorm, “401(K). VOTE!”  


However, Tuesday was filled with inconsistent messaging from Trump. Hours after halting negotiations, he fired off a trio of tweets indicating that he still wanted to pass immediate relief in some form. In one, he indicated support for Powell’s remarks earlier on Tuesday and called for Congress to pass standalone bills to fund the airlines, refill the Paycheck Protection Program and for another round of $1,200 direct checks to some Americans. The renewed interest in passing some form of relief was reflected on Wall Street as stock futures rose overnight (CNBC).


His decision to wait until after Nov. 3 also caught Republicans by surprise. While garnering the necessary support for another multi trillion dollar stimulus package among Senate Republicans has always been a tall order, despite the help for individuals and businesses hurt by the pandemic, many said they were surprised to see Trump scuttle the effort. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson vaccine safe, effective in FDA analysis | 3-4 million doses coming next week | White House to send out 25 million masks Biden's picks face peril in 50-50 Senate MORE (R-Maine) called the decision to wait until after the election a “huge mistake.” Other Republicans were less charitable. 


"He must see a tactical advantage for reelection. Not sure what, though. ... Bewildering,” One GOP aide told the Morning Report. “Republicans should keep negotiating anyway. Trump always changes his mind or threatens things. How many times has he threatened to veto something we passed, only not to?”


"Classic Trump. It’s like him announcing he’s not inviting a championship team to the [White House] after they’ve already indicated they won’t go,” the GOP aide added. “Parties weren’t even close here.”


CNBC: Trump’s “illogical” move to end stimulus talks baffles Wall Street and Washington.


The Philadelphia Inquirer: Hundreds of American Airlines flight attendants are losing jobs at Philadelphia International Airport.



Elsewhere, the White House continued to deal with its in-house outbreak as more staffers and those with connections to recent events tested positive for the novel coronavirus. 


White House senior adviser Stephen MillerStephen MillerPence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Sunday shows preview: CDC school reopening guidance stirs debate; Texas battles winter freeze Larry Kudlow debuts to big ratings on Fox Business Network MORE (pictured below on Sept. 30 with two other colleagues diagnosed with the virus) announced that he tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, saying that he began self-isolating five days ago and had tested negative for the virus during that time. 


The Hill: Fourth White House press aide tests positive for COVID-19.


CNBC: Trump reports no symptoms after first night back at the White House, doctor says in memo.


The Associated Press: Inside the White House, staff, Secret Service eye virus with fear, anger. Trump, still contagious, made clear he has little intention of abiding by best containment practices.


Almost the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff is also in quarantine following Coast Guard vice commandant Adm. Charles Ray’s positive coronavirus test after he experienced symptoms over the weekend. According to the Coast Guard, Ray was at the Pentagon on Friday. A senior defense official confirmed to The Hill that Ray met the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, and all but one of the other Joint Chiefs (The Hill).


Los Angeles Times: Trump struggles with coronavirus message in campaign’s final month. 


Business Insider: Trump's experimental treatment from Regeneron puts the company in a “very tough situation” as others request early access, CEO says.



We support updated internet regulations.


At Facebook, we continue to take steps to improve our platforms such as tripling our safety and security teams, building privacy tools, and more. Updated internet regulations will set standards for addressing today's toughest challenges.


Read why we support updated internet regulations


2020 POLITICS: During the 90-minute debate at 9 p.m. ET at the University of Utah between Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisEmhoff reflects on interracial marriage case: Without this 'I would not be married to Kamala Harris' WHO: Coronavirus deaths down 20 percent worldwide last week Collins: Biden's .9T coronavirus package won't get any Senate GOP votes MORE, the spotlight tonight will be on the Democrat from California, who is juggling high expectations, The Hill’s Amie Parnes reports.


Among Harris’s challenges will be balancing a respectful demeanor on television with assertiveness as she shadow boxes with the VP who is the proxy for a presidential candidate ill with COVID-19 and chafing while in quarantine, says The Hill’s Max Greenwood among his list of things to watch.


The stakes of tonight’s debate are unusually high for a discussion between running mates, writes Niall Stanage in his Memo. Pence is next in line to a 74-year-old president who has downplayed a virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans and infected the commander in chief. Harris was selected as a history-making running mate by a Democratic nominee who would be the oldest president ever inaugurated if he wins.


On Tuesday, Pence’s doctor released a letter arguing the vice president is not a COVID-19 transmission hazard while in Salt Lake City and “does not need to quarantine.” The vice president’s physician said Pence has tested negative for the coronavirus in two types of tests and has not been in recent contact with administration colleagues who tested positive for the virus.


The two campaigns disagreed on Tuesday about whether each should be surrounded by plexiglass as well as seated 12 feet apart as a precaution on the debate stage (The New York Times). Katie Miller, a spokeswoman for Pence, mocked Harris on Monday for asking for plexiglass. Miller, who previously contracted COVID-19 and recovered, is married to Trump adviser Stephen Miller, who tested positive for the contagion this week. 


The Commission on Presidential Debates is weighing the idea of holding the Oct. 15 presidential debate scheduled in Miami and the Oct. 22 event in Nashville outdoors (The New York Times). On Tuesday, Biden said next week’s debate should be scratched if the president has the coronavirus (The Hill).


Trump tweeted on Tuesday while quarantined at the White House as potentially infectious that he plans to travel to debate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Overnight Defense: New Senate Armed Services chairman talks Pentagon policy nominee, Afghanistan, more | Biden reads report on Khashoggi killing | Austin stresses vaccine safety in new video MORE next week (The Hill). The president has repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus for others and for himself (The Hill). Although his handling of the coronavirus pandemic is unpopular with most Americans, his supporters have clearly echoed his assertion that COVID-19 is not a big deal (The Associated Press).



The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports that for months, Republican strategists have insisted the polling gap will close between the two nominees. But four weeks from Election Day, Republicans are starting to wonder if they were wrong — and that a Democratic tsunami is building. “If the bottom falls out on the president, it’s going to be a long night for everybody,” said House Deputy Minority Whip Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeDemocratic women sound alarm on female unemployment House votes to kick Greene off committees over embrace of conspiracy theories LIVE COVERAGE: House debates removing Greene from committees MORE (R-Okla.).


The Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman writes for The New York Times that

10 bellwether counties — five in Sun Belt battlegrounds, five in the Frost Belt (loosely defined to include Iowa) — may point toward each state’s winner, and these counties suggest Trump may be in trouble.


“They run the gamut from meatpacking hubs to white-collar office parks, and from peach orchards to yacht-dense retiree havens. But there is something they all have in common: Their votes will matter a lot. To win the White House, Mr. Biden will need to flip some combination of the 10 states Mr. Trump carried by less than 10 points in 2016 (in ascending order of margin): Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Texas and Iowa. Mr. Biden has several paths to victory, and the first three states alone, in addition to every state won by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonShelby endorses Shalanda Young for OMB director should Biden pull Tanden's nomination Jennifer Palmieri: 'Ever since I was aware of politics, I wanted to be in politics' Cruz: Wife 'pretty pissed' about leaked Cancun texts MORE, would be enough to put him into the Oval Office,” he wrote.


The Hill: Biden during a Gettysburg, Pa., speech on Tuesday calls for unity, invokes Lincoln. "I do not believe we have to choose between law and order and racial justice in America," he said. "We can have both."


The Hill: A potential Biden administration would take aim at the Trump team’s rollbacks of many major environmental protections put in place by the Obama-Biden administration. Here’s a look at that approach.


 > Early voting: Ballots are available in 35 states and voting begins in the swing states of Arizona, Iowa, New Hampshire and Ohio within the next week. (Biden and Harris plan to campaign in Arizona on Thursday, where Trump is trailing in the most recent polls, according to the RealClearPolitics average). … Milwaukee scrapped plans to use the Bucks’ and Brewers’ stadiums as early voting sites, citing fears the ballots could be legally challenged (The Associated Press).


> Maine Senate race: Collins is down 1 point against challenger Sara Gideon, according to a new Bangor Daily News-Digital Research poll released on Tuesday. The survey shows a narrower result than many previous polls as early absentee voting kicks off.


> North Carolina Senate race: Cal Cunningham (D), who is challenging Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisMcConnell backs Garland for attorney general GOP senators demand probe into Cuomo's handling of nursing home deaths CNN anchor confronts GOP chairman over senator's vote to convict Trump MORE (R) in a contest critical to control of the Senate, is mired in a scandal involving a woman to whom he sent suggestive texts and with whom he had an intimate encounter in July. A married Army Reserve lieutenant colonel with a wholesome appeal, Cunningham was widely viewed as the kind of recruit Democrats needed to make inroads in conservative-leaning Southern states such as North Carolina (The Associated Press).


Republican political strategist and North Carolina native Doug Heye told the Morning Report that much depends on how Cunningham handles the mess. “Back to the bunker with barely a statement shows that he is not the great candidate we’ve all been told. He has to get in front of this and be seen by voters,” he said.


Tillis is in self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 after attending White House events Sept. 26 that may have spread the coronavirus to lawmakers, guests and Trump administration staff. 


> Voter registration: Florida extended its deadline on Tuesday for voter registration when its computer system crashed (Politico).


MORE CONGRESS: Senate Democrats are carefully mapping their strategy for Monday when Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings kick off as they seek to avoid landmines that backfired in the 2018 battle over Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughLaurence Tribe: Justice Thomas is out of order on 2020 election LIVE COVERAGE: Senate set to consider Garland for AG A powerful tool to take on the Supreme Court — if Democrats use it right MORE’s nomination.


As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill Budowsky: Cruz goes to Cancun, AOC goes to Texas MORE (D-N.Y.) has urged the Senate Democratic Conference to avoid talking about the Supreme Court nominee’s religion, character or qualifications for the bench. Instead, he has asked them to focus on “health care, health care, health care” in the coming weeks, believing the continued chatter on the issue could pay dividends in key Senate contests ahead of Election Day.


“This is going to be a very different judicial nomination process than the last one. The last one was very heated,” one Democratic senator told The Hill on the strategy for next week’s confirmation hearing, referring to the dragged-out fight over Kavanaugh two years ago. 


As part of the strategic planning, Schumer has met with Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, with those lawmakers discussing among themselves how to coordinate a different strategy to oppose Barrett.


The Hill: Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Shelby endorses Shalanda Young for OMB director should Biden pull Tanden's nomination MORE (R-Texas) on confirming Trump's Supreme Court nominee: “We have the votes.


The New York Times: Big Tech was their enemy, until partisanship fractured the battle plans.


The Hill: Democrats sense momentum for expanding child tax credit.

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! 


The rest of the world is taking advantage of a distracted America, by David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2Sy7PPc 


Are hospitals ready for Covid’s second wave? By Lionel Laurent, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3iBcRVx 


We support updated internet regulations.


We support new regulations that hold companies, including Facebook, accountable on issues including:


— Combating foreign election interference

— Protecting people's privacy

— Enabling safe and easy data transfer between platforms


Read why we support updated internet regulations


The House meets at 10 a.m. on Friday.


The Senate holds a pro forma session on Friday at 10 a.m. The full chamber has recessed for legislative business until Oct. 19.


The president is recuperating at the White House with COVID-19. He has no public events scheduled. 


The vice president participates in a televised debate with Harris in Salt Lake City at 9 p.m. ET.


Supreme Court: Today, Google, Oracle and Ford will press their cases before the justices in a pair of disputes that are expected to have broad impacts on American businesses and consumers. The justices will hear oral arguments by phone as the new term gets underway. Decisions are expected by the end of June (CNBC).


Biden-Harris campaign events: Biden will headline virtual fundraising events. Harris will debate Pence tonight in Utah at 9 p.m. ET.


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


ECONOMY: The number of people who have joined the ranks of the long-term unemployed has spiked. The data points to a slow slog of a recovery, which could take years to reach pre-COVID levels (The Hill). … When the CARES Act relief bill was enacted last spring, the Paycheck Protection Program attracted applicants from companies of all sizes, eager to gain access to $525 billion in federal resources to stay afloat as the pandemic forced businesses to close. A Wall Street Journal analysis looking at Washington, D.C., found that 80 percent of PPP recipients in the city’s central business district received loans before the program ended Aug. 8, following quick approval. By comparison, just 38 percent of borrowers received loans approved in that first month in the areas east of the Anacostia River, where neighborhoods are known for small and Black-owned businesses, nonprofits and churches. The PPP disparity measured by zip codes was similar across the country, underscoring the speed with which larger companies tapped ongoing relationships with banks and lenders to be the first in line to get the federal cash.


IMMIGRATION: According to a two-year inquiry by the Justice Department’s inspector general into Trump’s “zero tolerance” family migrant separation policy, driving the government’s actions were former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsManchin flexes muscle in 50-50 Senate Udalls: Haaland criticism motivated 'by something other than her record' Ocasio-Cortez targets Manchin over Haaland confirmation MORE and former Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinRosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Comey argues Trump shouldn't be prosecuted after leaving Oval Office Trump turns his ire toward Cabinet members MORE. “We need to take away children,” Sessions told federal prosecutors in 2018. Rosenstein told prosecutors that children’s ages were not a legal considerations in prosecutions of adults and that infants could be separated in family units (The New York Times).


TECH: Facebook on Tuesday banned QAnon accounts across its platforms, a decision of significant impact tied to its evolving enforcement policies to remove some accounts — not individual posts — tied to conspiracy theories and incitements of violence. The company believed it needed to limit the “ability of QAnon and Militarized Social Movements to operate and organize on our platform,” a spokesman said. QAnon is a conspiracy theory that the FBI views as a domestic terrorism threat (Yahoo News). It grew out of the fringes of the internet and posits that high-profile Democrats and Hollywood celebrities are members of a child-eating cabal that is being secretly taken down by Trump and that members of this fictitious cabal will soon be marched to their execution (NBC News). 


NOBEL PRIZE WEEK: The Nobel Prize for chemistry was handed out in Stockholm this morning to French scientist Emmanuelle Charpentier and American Jennifer A. Doudna for the development of a method for genome editing known as CRISPR, calling it “one of gene technology’s sharpest tools” (The Associated Press). 


➔ CORONAVIRUS: The nation’s capital reported 105 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the highest daily total for the city since early June. The district has averaged 40 new infections per day, according to the COVID Tracking Project. While White House tests are not counted among the district’s totals, the outbreak of infections among recent visitors to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. seems to have driven residents to get tested. At the city’s Judiciary Square testing locale, 600 coronavirus tests were conducted on Monday, an increase from the usual number of about 350 (The Hill). … Europe’s second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks is spilling over from the young to the old, the latest data shows (The Wall Street Journal). … In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom WolfTom WolfPhilly GOP commissioner cites election threats, urges McConnell to vote his 'conscience' Pennsylvania secretary of state resigns over ballot initiative error Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. to defy ban on weed, LGBTQ rights flags MORE (D) announced on Tuesday that outdoor sporting events can now have 15 percent capacity, opening the door for NFL and college football games in the state to host fans. However, the decision is up to local municipalities. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) said on Tuesday that a possible decision will be reviewed next week (NBC Sports Philadelphia).



And finally …  It should surprise no one that in a year in which Americans are shopping, but not in brick-and-mortar stores because of COVID-19, merchants want to do everything possible to maximize what is expected to be an anemic season of holiday sales during an economic annus horribilis. They want to help buyers beat the online rush, avert potential delivery service delays and dodge any supply chain problems. It means, in a word, HallowHanukMas.


Stores such as Best Buy, Macy’s and Target are starting their biggest Black Friday deals in October instead of November so people don’t crowd retail locations later, creating a potentially dangerous situation during a pandemic.


“We’re preparing for a holiday season unlike any we’ve seen before,” Target CEO Brian Cornell told The Associated Press.