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The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Big week: Barrett hearings, Trump returns to blitz campaign trail

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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 reported this morning: 214,771.


The Senate Judiciary Committee today begins what Republicans hope will be the fast-track confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to join the Supreme Court just as President TrumpDonald TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care MORE and Vice President Pence, down in the polls, begin blitzing through seven battleground states over four days.


Many Republicans are fretting that Barrett’s chances of being confirmed to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgOcasio-Cortez says Breyer should retire from Supreme Court Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema Juan Williams: Time for Justice Breyer to go MORE appear better at the moment than Trump’s odds of capturing a second term. Polls nationally and in key swing states continue to show Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe Biden 64 percent of Iowans say 'time for someone else' to hold Grassley's Senate seat: poll Philadelphia shooting leaves 2 dead, injures toddler Ron Johnson booed at Juneteenth celebration in Wisconsin MORE leading the recently ailing Trump, who staged a Saturday White House event to proclaim recovery from his bout with COVID-19. He will end days of semi-quarantine to campaign in Florida, Pennsylvania, Iowa and North Carolina tonight through Thursday, while Pence barnstorms through Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan over three days.



Vice presidential running mate Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe U.S. and Mexico must revamp institutions supporting their joint efforts Harris signals a potential breakthrough in US-Mexico cooperation Watch live: Harris delivers remarks on vaccination efforts MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the Judiciary Committee and a former prosecutor who knows how to drill down on Judiciary witnesses, will question Barrett and other witnesses this week via remote hookup. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Graham quips key to working with Trump: We both 'like him' Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle MORE (R-S.C.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP increasingly balks at calling Jan. 6 an insurrection Black lawmakers warn against complacency after Juneteenth victory Graham quips key to working with Trump: We both 'like him' MORE (R-Ky.), both seeking reelection, say they expect Barrett’s nomination to clear the committee and come to the Senate floor for a vote before the end of the month.


The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports that Democrats, who concede Republicans have enough votes to seat Barrett on the court, say they are prepared to turn up the heat on the conservative judge when it comes to her positions on healthcare, reproductive rights and whether she would recuse herself from election-related cases.



Biden, who will campaign today in Toledo and Cincinnati, Ohio, while Pence appears in Columbus, Ohio, told supporters on Sunday afternoon during a virtual fundraiser that the country is being “ripped apart” by divisions and urged them to vote.


Voters are far more likely to express confidence in Biden than Trump to unify the country, according to a recent poll of registered voters by the Pew Research Center. Half of voters say they are confident in Biden to “bring the country closer together,” compared with just 30 percent who express confidence in Trump.


Meanwhile, Barrett, in an opening statement released on Sunday, pledged to “apply the law as written.”  



The Washington Post published her statement HERE.


The New York Times: A conservative court nominee rooted in faith, Barrett followed a rare path to the bench.


The Associated Press: Graham, Harris share the spotlight as Barrett hearings begin.


The New York Times: Supreme Court hearing presents big stage and big risks for Harris.


The Washington Post: Barrett hearing to focus on Affordable Care Act as pandemic looms over proceedings.





This week, the spotlight remains on the president’s health and on his lack of sway with GOP lawmakers to go big with an in-limbo set of proposals to help unemployed Americans, businesses, and cities and states. Also under the klieg lights: Trump’s pick for the high court, who will be pressed by Democrats to explain her record of opposing Roe v. Wade. Meanwhile, Biden is being pounded by all sides to quit waffling about whether he would seek to expand the Supreme Court beyond nine justices.


Daily Mail: Biden says voters “don’t deserve” to know his position before the election about packing the Supreme Court with additional justices.


A Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Sunday attracted a lot of chatter because it showed Biden with a 12-point national lead over Trump (The Hill). Although the president and his campaign team say internal surveys contradict assertions that Biden is leading in key battleground states, independent analysts, such as The Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman, point out that Biden’s advantage in the latest poll is larger against Trump than Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Monica Lewinsky responds to viral HBO intern's mistake: 'It gets better' Virginia governor's race poses crucial test for GOP MORE’s at a similar juncture during the 2016 contest.


The president, boasting that he is no longer contagious, tonight headlines an outdoor rally in central Florida at the Sanford airport just 11 days after being hospitalized with the coronavirus. Racing against the clock as more than 9 million Americans have voted early with three weeks to go, Trump is scheduled to hold a Tuesday night rally in Johnstown, Pa., visit Des Moines, Iowa, for a Wednesday event, and appear in Greenville, N.C., on Thursday. Pence will be in Waukesha, Wis., on Tuesday and Grand Rapids, Mich., on Wednesday.


Tracking itineraries using RealClearPolitics polling averages, Biden leads Trump in Florida (3.7 points), Pennsylvania (7.1 points), Iowa (1.2 points), North Carolina (1.4 points), Wisconsin (5.5 points) and Michigan (6.7 points). Ohio is a toss-up (Biden is up by 0.6 points).


Axios: Trump asks his campaign to schedule events for him every day through Nov. 3.


The Washington Post: Trump says he is not contagious. Health experts say that is not certain.


The Associated Press: 2020 Watch: Is it too late for Trump to turn things around?





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CONGRESS & STIMULUS TALKS: The road to strike another coronavirus relief deal has become increasingly steep. The most recent offer by the White House has drawn the ire of both Democrats and Republicans, lowering the chances the two sides strike a deal before Election Day.


Tensions flared on Saturday during a call between the White House and Senate Republicans, who trashed the administration’s latest offer to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP increasingly balks at calling Jan. 6 an insurrection Overnight Energy: Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West | White House leads opposition to raising gas tax | Biden taps ex-New Mexico lawmaker for USDA post Trump against boycotting Beijing Olympics in 2022 MORE (D-Calif.) — a $1.8 trillion proposal that includes $300 billion in funds for state and local governments and an increase in the amount of direct payments per child from $500 to $1,000. Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderAuthorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health Committee, told Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinDemocrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer Yellen provides signature for paper currency Biden's name will not appear on stimulus checks, White House says MORE and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report The Hill's Morning Report - Dems to go-it-alone on infrastructure as bipartisan plan falters Trump, allies pressured DOJ to back election claims, documents show MORE that there is “no appetite” within the conference for a bill with that price tag, with others saying it would prove to be a political issue in the next 22 days before the election.  


“This bill makes sex look like church,” Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior Big Tech critic Lina Khan named chair of the FTC GOP senators press Justice Department to compare protest arrests to Capitol riot MORE (R-Utah) said on the call, a source told The Hill.


In response, Meadows told the Senate GOP conference members that "you all will have to come to my funeral" once he delivered their concerns to the president, who has pushed for a deal and told his deputies to “go big” (The Hill).


Now, lawmakers and negotiators are left to answer a question: Where to go from here? 


In a letter to House Democrats on Sunday, Pelosi struck a grim tone, laying the blame at the feet of the administration for the lack of an agreement (The Hill). 


“As the infections soar and the deaths increase, this priority continues to be urgent. This past week, the President demonstrated very clearly that he has not taken the war against the virus seriously, personally or nationally,” Pelosi wrote. “This attitude is reflected in the grossly inadequate response we finally received from the Administration on Saturday. The news is filled with the numbers in terms of dollars. … We have other differences in terms of who benefits from the spending. But in terms of addressing testing, tracing and treatment, what the Trump Administration has offered is wholly insufficient.”


On Sunday, Trump told Fox Business that the GOP is “all ready to go” for a deal, seemingly ignoring the broad opposition among Senate Republicans that stands as the preeminent obstacle, with the administration unable to thread the needle between its own party and Democratic leaders. 


"Republicans want to do it. We’re having a hard time with Nancy Pelosi. … Republicans want to do it,” Trump said. “We’re ready to go. We’re all ready to go. We can’t get Nancy Pelosi to sign the documents.”


The Washington Post: Prospects for more stimulus checks, coronavirus relief fade as the latest offer from Trump draws opposition from Republicans and Democrats. 


Reuters: White House seeks limited coronavirus relief bill, promises further talks on broader stimulus.


The Hill: Advocates plead for housing aid as eviction cliff looms. 


The Associated Press: COVID-19 coverage safety net has plenty of holes in the U.S.






MORE 2020 POLITICS: As Democrats continue to suffer from 2016-induced PTSD, the party is warning its supporters against becoming complacent as Biden tallies a formidable polling advantage over the president, who is set for a return to the campaign trail this week. 


Leaders in both parties see polls that show the entire battleground map moving against Trump following the first presidential debate and his coronavirus diagnosis. However, as The Hill’s Jonathan Easley reports, the 2016 experience remains jarring for Democrats, who say that, despite Biden’s polling strength, a lot can change in a matter of weeks and that small changes in their projected turnout models could produce wild swings in Electoral College results.


“I think we’re putting that fear [of another upset loss] to good use, and we’re being constructive in the way we’re approaching the election,” said Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, the largest Democratic super PAC supporting Biden’s campaign. “Am I optimistic? Yes. But I do continue to have serious concerns and we need to continue to run through the finish line.”


While both parties have their eyes on a number of states, the focus for each campaign is most intense in two states: Florida and Pennsylvania. It’s no accident that Trump’s first two rallies after being medically cleared to resume in-person campaigning will take place in the two hotly contested states, with events at airports in Sanford, Fla., and Johnstown, Pa., on the docket.


Warning signs in polls have cropped up for Trump, especially since his performance in the first debate almost two weeks ago. According to The Associated Press, reporting from The Villages in Florida, the Trump campaign sees sliding support from senior citizens — a key constituency that propelled him to his 2016 win — in part due to his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


In Sumter County, home to the Sunshine State’s populous retired community that has long supported Republicans, Trump won by a 2-to-1 margin in 2016 and will have to replicate that performance to pull off a repeat result, according to Wasserman


The New York Times: Can Trump squeeze more from his white base in Pennsylvania and beyond?


The Washington Post: Pennsylvania emerges as “tipping point” battleground for Biden and Trump — before and after Election Day. 


Des Moines Register: “We don't want a super-spread event”: Des Moines mayor worries Trump rally will spread COVID-19.


Another spot to watch with 22 days until Nov. 3 is Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, which could flip and hand a key boost to Biden in his push for the requisite 270 electoral votes. As The Hill’s Julia Manchester notes, 48 percent of likely voters in the district said they support Biden, compared with only 41 percent for Trump, according to a New York Times-Siena College survey released last week. 


Four years ago, Trump won the district by 2 percentage points, and the Omaha-centric district could prove decisive in a close race. 


Trump’s increasingly slumping campaign could also spell doom for the GOP’s chances to retain the upper chamber, with Republicans growing alarmed that they could see their three-seat majority erased in a matter of weeks. 


On Friday, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Ted Cruz says critical race theory is as racist as 'Klansmen in white sheets' Pentagon pulling 'certain forces and capabilities,' including air defenses, from Middle East MORE (R-Texas) told CNBC that while Trump could win reelection by a “big margin,” GOP down-ballot candidates could also get wiped out in a “bloodbath.”


“I am worried. It’s volatile. It’s highly volatile,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”


NBC News: Anthony FauciAnthony FauciThe Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay Overnight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 Ex-Trump doctor turned GOP lawmaker wants Biden to take cognitive test MORE rips new Trump campaign ad, says it uses his comments “out of context.”


The New York Times: Four tricky issues for the Biden-Harris ticket.





As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, a chief concern for the Senate GOP is Trump’s cash crunch, which has forced him to cut back on advertising in key battleground states at a time when Senate Democratic challengers are projected to significantly outraise GOP incumbents heading into the final stretch. 


The cash disparity cropped up again on Sunday in a big way as Democrat Jaime Harrison announced that he raised $57 million in the third fundraising quarter — a new single-quarter record for a Senate candidate, dwarfing the $38.1 million former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) raised two years ago (The Associated Press). 


Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill: Many Maine voters like Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Biden struggles to detail post-withdrawal Afghanistan plans White House reiterates opposition to raising gas tax amid infrastructure debate MORE (R-Maine). It may not be enough.


The Wall Street Journal: Georgia’s two Senate races face prospect of runoffs.


The Hill: Chamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch.


ADMINISTRATION: Trump is pressuring the Food and Drug Administration to quickly grant emergency clearance to an experimental monoclonal antibody treatment he has called a "miracle" for treating COVID-19. Doctors think such drugs, one from Regeneron and one from Eli Lilly, potentially show promise in treating the coronavirus, even if Trump is overstating the benefits by touting them as cures. The concern is that Trump could undermine confidence in federal regulators and turn the science of drug evaluation into a confusing political dispute (The Hill).


> Defense Department: Officials say military readiness has not been affected by cases of COVID-19 infection at the highest levels among the Joint Chiefs of Staff (The Hill). … Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyBiden struggles to detail post-withdrawal Afghanistan plans Overnight Defense: House votes to repeal 2002 Iraq war powers | Pentagon leaders press senators to reimburse National Guard | New pressure on US-Iran nuclear talks Milley downplays report of 1,900 lost or stolen military firearms MORE, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told NPR in an interview broadcast on Sunday, "This isn't the first time that someone has suggested that there might be a contested election. And if there is, it'll be handled appropriately by the courts and by the U.S. Congress. There's no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of a U.S. election. Zero. There is no role there."


> A federal appeals court ruled late Friday that Trump’s use of emergency powers to divert $3.6 billion in military construction funds for the wall at the southern border with Mexico is unlawful and that construction must cease immediately (The Hill).

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The Supreme Court and the election returns: In resolving legal disputes about vote-counting, the justices should err on the side of speed and clarity, by David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, opinion contributors, The Wall Street Journal. 


COVID-19 makes domestic work even more precarious, by Adam Minter, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. 


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The House meets at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday.


The Senate holds a pro forma session on Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. The full chamber will not take up legislative business until Oct. 19. The Senate Judiciary Committee at 9 a.m. begins four days of confirmation hearings for Barrett, nominated to the Supreme Court. McConnell and Senate Democratic candidate Amy McGrath participate in a televised debate at 7 p.m. in Kentucky.


The president will fly to Sanford, Fla., to headline a campaign rally at the airport at 7 p.m., 10 days after announcing he tested positive for COVID-19 and one week after being released from the hospital.


The vice president headlines a 12:30 p.m. campaign event in Columbus, Ohio.


Biden-Harris campaign events: Biden will travel to Toledo, Ohio, where he will deliver a campaign speech this afternoon. From there, the former vice president will travel to Cincinnati to attend a voter mobilization event. Harris, working remotely, will participate in Senate Judiciary Committee hearings about nominee Barrett. 


White House fall garden tours: Public health officials have been wary about a potential “super spreader” Rose Garden event on Sept. 26 and a large campaign event held over the weekend on the South Lawn, but members of the public are still invited to view the Rose Garden, South Lawn, First Ladies Garden and White House Kitchen Garden this coming Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with free National Park Service tickets. Visitors must heed COVID-19 precautions, including required masks for attendees older than 2 and social distancing on the premises. Interested members of the public can call a 24-hour information line at 202-456-7041; information is 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: In the United States, predictions are building that it will be a rough winter ahead during the pandemic. Governors warn they may have to impose new COVID-19 restrictions as dozens of states experience increasing coronavirus case numbers, indicating hazards ahead as temperatures drop and Americans move indoors. Even states that had the lowest case numbers in recent months, including New Jersey and New York, are seeing alarming new statistics, while states in the Midwest become new hot spots (The Hill). … In some states with rising infection rates, GOP governors are straining to locate silver linings (The Associated Press). ... The NFL on Sunday postponed today’s New England Patriots-Denver Broncos game after a fourth person in the New England organization tested positive for COVID-19, with the NFL shutting down the team’s facility. The game will be played on Sunday (ESPN). … In the United Kingdom, new outbreaks of the coronavirus are at a tipping point. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a new three-tier local lockdown system for England today, which could temporarily close pubs and restaurants in the virus hot spots (The Associated Press). … Italy prepares new restrictions to combat a new spike in coronavirus cases (Reuters). … In Germany, an aide to Chancellor Angela Merkel implores his countrymen to reduce travel and partying to fight COVID-19 (Reuters).


Hurricane Delta killed one person after it slammed into Louisiana late Friday. An 86-year-old man died after a hot generator he was refueling in a shed sparked a fire, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) disclosed on Sunday. More than 350,000 customers remained without power in the state on Sunday, a decline from nearly 700,000 on Saturday. Hurricane Delta is the 10th Atlantic Basin storm to hit the U.S. mainland this season and the second to batter Louisiana in two months.


Nobel Prize: Economists Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson, professors at Stanford University, won the 2020 Nobel Economics Prize for improvements to auction theory and inventions of new auction formats, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced this morning (Reuters).


And finally … Meet “supermom” Brianna Hill, 28, who graduated from Loyola University Chicago’s School of Law in May and had two big challenges on her calendar this month. The first was the Illinois bar exam on Oct. 5 and Oct. 6, and the second was the birth of her first child, anticipated on Oct. 19. 


Hill was about 20 minutes into the first part of the exam when her water broke and contractions began. Because she was taking the test remotely as a COVID-19 precaution, Hill understood she could not leave the view of the computer camera without potentially forfeiting the exam. So she powered through. “I was determined,” she told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” 


She finished the first part of the test, drove with her husband to the hospital and delivered Cassius Phillip Andrew, 6 pounds, 5 ounces. The following day, Hill completed the second part of the bar exam with support from hospital staff members, who reserved a private room for Hill on the labor and delivery floor and put a "do not disturb" sign on the door. 


"I'm really thankful," Hill told “Good Morning America,” describing the support network she leaned on. "Life throws curveballs at you but when I have a goal, I'm going to see it through."


Hill is on maternity leave through January, when she will begin working as a legal aid organizer in Chicago, defending low-income communities facing housing challenges.