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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Thursday! 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, 214,771; Tuesday, 215,086; Wednesday, 215,910; Thursday, 216,903.
President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe House passes sweeping defense policy bill MORE will appear at dueling town halls tonight after plans for the second presidential debate fell through, as they sharpen their pitch to key voting blocs and battleground states with only 19 days until Election Day.
After the Commission on Presidential Debates shifted the second of three debates to a virtual setting, the two campaigns shifted gears, setting up tonight’s town hall extravaganza. After garnering the necessary medical clearance, the president will appear in Miami alongside NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. ABC News and host George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosSurgeon general: 'Our enemy is the virus. It is not one another' Christie: Biden's new vaccine mandate will 'harden opposition' GOP senator on Texas abortion law: Supreme Court will 'swat it away' when 'it comes to them in an appropriate manner' MORE will play host to Biden in Philadelphia (The Hill).
Both events start at 8 p.m. Both will also be key moments for the campaigns to sell contrasting messages to the masses as part of a crucial stretch, with each one targeting certain states and blocs in the final weeks (The Associated Press).
Trump, as part of his blitzkrieg of battleground states, appeared in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday — a state he won by a little more than 9 points in 2016 but has struggled to nail down this time around. Political operatives on both sides of the aisle with knowledge of internal polling tell the Morning Report that Iowa and its six electoral votes remain up for grabs, with some Republicans concerned that the Trump campaign may regret its decision not to spend on the airwaves there.
The Hill: Cheers erupt as Trump puts on MAGA hat, takes off tie at Iowa rally.
The Washington Post: Trump struggles to mount clear closing argument against Biden, careening toward Election Day with disjointed message.
Trump will continue his march through toss-up states on Thursday and throughout the weekend with campaign rallies in North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan. As The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant and Jonathan Easley write, the campaign is making a push at a time when more than 10 million Americans have already cast ballots to shore up support among swing voters who broke his way in 2016. There are far fewer undecided voters this time around.
In the key battleground states, Trump’s team is making an effort to reel in senior citizens and suburban voters. The president’s campaign schedule after hospitalization for COVID-19 infection reveals the extent to which he is scrambling to recreate his 2016 coalition.
Karl Rove: Trump has no time left to spare.
The Washington Post: Emboldened by his coronavirus recovery, Trump makes light of the disease.
The Washington Post opinions: An interview with President Trump: Why he’s confident in reelection and reopening.
Biden’s campaign continues to play keep-away in an attempt to run out the clock with less than three weeks until the November election. The former vice president laid low on Wednesday, having held a virtual fundraiser and delivered pretaped remarks to an American Muslims event ahead of Thursday’s town hall. However, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden taps big bank skeptic to for top regulatory post Harris unveils 0M commitment to new global health fund Senate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam MORE (D-Calif.) will return to the campaign trail today after three days spent participating in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings for Judge Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettSupreme Court low on political standing Graham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet Are COVID-19 vaccine mandates a strategy to end the pandemic? MORE.
The Biden campaign is also expected to unleash its preeminent surrogate in the coming weeks as former President Obama is set to headline a number of campaign events in the coming weeks. Democrats familiar with the plans tell The Hill’s Amie Parnes that Obama is expected to visit Florida (Biden is pictured below in the Sunshine State), Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin during the campaign’s homestretch, though details have not been finalized.
The 44th president is also expected to appear with Biden at at least one campaign stop, one source told The Hill. However, former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama looks to mobilize voters for midterms We must mount an all-country response to help our Afghan allies Obamas, Bushes and Clintons joining new effort to help Afghan refugees MORE is not expected to join him, a source said.
NPR: Biden announces record $383 million September haul, has $432 million in the bank.
The Hill: Trailing in polls, Trump campaign resurrects Hunter Biden attacks.
The Hill: Twitter, Facebook clamp down on New York Post article about Hunter Biden.
NBC News: Trump is weighing a pre election foreign policy speech that would detail the administration’s plans to pull more troops from Afghanistan. The Pentagon has made public its plans to reduce the U.S. presence there to 4,500 troops by November. NBC sources now say a decision to draw down to 3,000 or fewer troops by early 2021 has already been reached. Trump has discussed with aides the idea of using the speech to announce the additional decrease. The president’s advisers have pushed back publicly and privately, however, on Trump’s demand for a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan by January.
CNBC: Trump declines to say he will keep Attorney General William BarrBill BarrTrump pushes back on book claims, says he spent 'virtually no time' discussing election with Lee, Graham Woodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China Barr-Durham investigation again fails to produce a main event MORE in his Cabinet if reelected: “I’m not happy.”
The Hill: Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) says he won't support Trump.
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LEADING THE DAY
SCOTUS CONFIRMATION: Barrett appeared on Wednesday to be well on her way to the Supreme Court. The Judiciary Committee today hears from final witnesses and begins its voting process.
The Associated Press reports that ahead of a panel of law experts and advocates who will testify for and against Barrett’s nomination today, committee members are expected to discuss the nomination but then push the committee vote on Trump’s nominee until next week as part of the panel’s formalities to consider the nomination. Barrett will not be present.
The proceedings this week, conducted during a pandemic with no public audience in the hearing room and no protesters lining the hallways, lowered the overall temperature inside the room, even as the stakes remained high, reports The Hill’s Jordain Carney. Barrett’s path to the high court stirred emotions that simmered more than exploded, punctuated by occasional audio glitches, senators distanced by virtual participation, detours into praise for the nominee’s well-behaved children and labored baseball jokes among some senators.
Barrett remained enigmatic during her second day of testimony on Wednesday, declining to indicate how she might rule as a conservative Supreme Court justice on Roe v. Wade and reproductive rights challenges and on whether Trump could use his pardon power to benefit himself. She called it an “open question” and said the Supreme Court “can’t control” whether a president obeys its decisions (Reuters).
Senate Republicans on Wednesday appeared to concede that a focus by Democrats on GOP lawmakers and Barrett as threats to the future of ObamaCare amid the pandemic had struck a nerve in an election year. Democrats have warned that required insurance coverage of preexisting health conditions is under grave threat.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump pushes back on book claims, says he spent 'virtually no time' discussing election with Lee, Graham The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden meets with lawmakers amid domestic agenda panic The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - House Democrats plagued by Biden agenda troubles MORE (R-S.C.), who is in a tough reelection battle, led Trump’s nominee in a discussion about a doctrine of statutory interpretation called severability. Because of it, they hinted, a challenge to overturn the Affordable Care Act coming before the Supreme Court next month was likely to fail. Barrett did not say how she would vote in the pending case, but her summary suggested that she was skeptical of the administration’s argument to the high court that the entire law must fall if its individual mandate provision was removed (The New York Times).
Barrett this week presented herself as a neutral arbiter on nearly every difficult public policy issue, potential legal challenge and Supreme Court precedent, describing herself as firmly rooted only in the text of statutes and in the Framers’ original meaning in the Constitution.
Nothing during the first three days of proceedings shifted support for Barrett or changed plans to confirm her before Nov. 3, GOP senators said. With questioning of Trump’s nominee completed, the dozen Republicans who hold the majority on the committee today begin the process of sending the nomination to the full Senate (The Hill).
For some senators, the confirmation hearings doubled as televised campaign stops (Reuters).
The Hill: Key moments from Barrett's marathon question-and-answer session.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
SKINNY CONGRESS: Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Former Treasury secretaries tried to resolve debt limit impasse in talks with McConnell, Yellen: report Menendez, Rubio ask Yellen to probe meatpacker JBS MORE offered a gloomy forecast of the chances of a coronavirus relief deal coming to fruition before Election Day as he and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs Democrats steamroll toward showdown on House floor Panic begins to creep into Democratic talks on Biden agenda MORE (D-Calif.) continue to negotiate a larger stimulus package.
“I’d say at this point getting something done before the election and executing on that would be difficult,” Mnuchin said at the Milken Institute Global Conference on Wednesday.
Mnuchin’s remarks were not received well on Wall Street, as the markets fell almost immediately, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipping 200 points, or about 7 percent. The comments also came shortly after speaking with Pelosi in an hour-long conversation, which a Pelosi spokesman labeled “productive” (The Hill).
Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesman, said in a statement that the two negotiators have engaged in a focused effort to find "clarification on language" — a reference to assurances sought by Democrats that new funding allocated by Congress will be spent on intended programs. However, multiple areas of disagreement remain, headlined by a national testing plan, according to Hammill.
“One major area of disagreement continues to be that the White House lacks an understanding of the need for a national strategic testing plan,” Hammill tweeted. “The Speaker believes we must reopen our economy & schools safely & soon, & scientists agree we must have a strategic testing plan.”
The Washington Post: Mnuchin says new economic relief deal unlikely before election, although talks with Pelosi continue.
Daily Beast: Dems prepare to push Pelosi on $1.8 trillion relief plan.
With only 19 days until Election Day, prospects of an accord have dimmed precipitously. The White House’s most recent proposal, a $1.8 trillion bill that includes $300 billion in funding for state and local governments, has been met with strong opposition from both parties. Not only are Democratic negotiators against the deal, but so are many Senate Republicans, as they have shown little inclination to support any deal north of their initial $1.1 trillion offer in August.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse passes standalone bill to provide B for Israel's Iron Dome Pelosi vows to avert government shutdown McConnell calls Trump a 'fading brand' in Woodward-Costa book MORE (R-Ky.) announced on Tuesday that the upper chamber will vote next week on a targeted $500 billion package, which will include a new round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program. It is expected to be opposed by Democrats.
The current Democratic offer sits at $2.2 trillion, including $436 billion for state and local governments (The Hill).
Axios: Trump promises economic rejuvenation in speech with few policy details.
MLive: Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) announces positive coronavirus test ahead of Trump campaign stop.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Trump’s flailing campaign is starting to look a lot like Jeb Bush’s, by Henry Olsen, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3156TXm
Packing the Supreme Court could portend the end of the republic, by Chris Talgo, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2GYS7ui
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WHERE AND WHEN
The House is officially out of session in Washington until after the election.
The Senate holds a pro forma session on Friday at 4:30 p.m. The full chamber will not take up legislative business until Monday. The Senate Judiciary Committee holds its fourth day of consideration of nominee Barrett, with testimony from outside witnesses.
The president will rally supporters in Greenville, N.C., at 1 p.m. Trump will speak at a campaign fundraising reception in Doral, Fla., at 4:45 p.m. before heading to Miami, where he will join a town hall program broadcast by NBC News outdoors at 8 p.m.
Vice President Pence will hold a campaign rally in Miami at 12:55 p.m. at Memorial Cubano, followed by a roundtable discussion about faith at 3 p.m. at Lubavitch Educational Center in Miami. The vice president will return to Washington this evening.
National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care — Presented by Indivior — CDC panel approves boosters for some, but not based on jobs Fauci: 'Worst time' for a government shutdown is in middle of pandemic The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in MORE at 8 a.m. ET participates in a live streamed Q&A to discuss responses to COVID-19 with Yahoo News. Information is HERE.
Economic indicator: The Labor Department will report at 8:30 a.m. on claims for unemployment benefits in the week ending Oct. 10.
Biden-Harris campaign events: Biden will attend a virtual fundraising event, and later headline a town hall program broadcast by ABC News at 8 p.m. from Philadelphia. Harris will speak in Asheville, N.C., and appear in Charlotte, N.C., and do some fundraising during the state’s first day of early voting.
➔ CORONAVIRUS: Barron Trump, 14, tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago but had no symptoms and has now tested negative, first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpFormer aide sees Melania Trump as 'the doomed French queen': book If another 9/11 happened in a divided 2021, could national unity be achieved again? Former Trump aide Stephanie Grisham planning book: report MORE, 50, revealed on Wednesday in a message released by the White House titled, “My personal experience with COVID-19.” The president’s youngest son tested positive along with his parents — a drama Trump had largely sidestepped publicly while describing his own bout with COVID-19 and hospitalization. But at a Wednesday rally in Iowa, the president cited his teenage son’s infection to argue that schools should reopen (Reuters). The first lady wrote that she experienced body aches, a cough, headache and fatigue and self-treated with vitamins and “healthy food” rather than medicine while under physicians’ supervision. “I am happy to report that I have tested negative and hope to resume my duties as soon as I can,” she added while thanking White House doctor Sean Conley and his medical team — who did not publicly discuss her illness or her son’s infection — for their “professional discretion.”
Vaccines & Treatments: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday that it may not recommend inoculation of children with any early COVID-19 vaccine because clinical trials have not involved children. To date, early trials have included only non pregnant adults. The CDC noted that if future clinical trials test the safety and effectiveness among children, its guidance could change (Reuters). … Experts say it is a sign that the pharmaceutical clinical trial process is working that Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson announced halts in the development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments because of complications seen in patients. Nevertheless, more transparency would alleviate public mistrust, reports The Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel.
“On the brink of disaster”: President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronFrench diplomat says 'time and actions' needed to restore ties with US France to bill Australia over canceled submarine deal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks MORE on Wednesday announced nightly curfews covering a third of France’s population, including Paris and other major cities, to try to rein in outbreaks of COVID-19 for the next four weeks (Reuters). … Poland is considering creating military field hospitals, Moscow is moving many students to online learning, and Northern Ireland is closing schools for two weeks and restaurants for four. “I don’t have any good information. We are on the brink of disaster,” immunologist Pawel Grzesiowski told reporters in Poland, which reported a record 6,526 COVID-19 infections and 116 deaths on Wednesday (Reuters). … Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of Germany’s 16 states have agreed to tighten mask-wearing rules and make bars close early in areas where coronavirus infection rates are high. Germany on Wednesday reported more than 5,000 infections in one day for the first time since mid-April (The Associated Press).
➔ INTERNATIONAL: President Xi Jinping on Tuesday called on Chinese troops to "put all [their] minds and energy on preparing for war.” He visited a military base in the southern province of Guangdong, where he made the remarks, according to state news agency Xinhua (CNN). … Kyrgyzstan President Sooronbai Jeenbekov announced his resignation today in a bid to end the turmoil that has engulfed the Central Asian nation of 6.5 million people after a disputed parliamentary election early this month (The Associated Press).
➔ POSTAL SERVICE REVERSAL: The U.S. Postal Service agreed Wednesday to reverse changes that slowed mail service nationwide, settling a lawsuit filed by Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve Bullock65 former governors, mayors back bipartisan infrastructure deal Arkansas, New Jersey governors to head National Governors Association Biden 'allies' painting him into a corner MORE (D). The settlement affects all states. The lawsuit filed against Postmaster General Louis DeJoyLouis DeJoyWatchdog says USPS regularly cheats workers of pay FreedomWorks misfires on postal reform Postal Service to slow certain mail deliveries starting in October MORE and the U.S. Postal Service on Sept. 9 argued changes implemented in June harmed access to mail services in Montana, resulting in delayed delivery of medical prescriptions, payments, and job applications, and impeding the ability of Montana residents to vote by mail during the pandemic. The postal service agreed to reverse all changes, which included reduced retail hours, removal of collection boxes and mail sorting machines, closure or consolidation of mail processing facilities, restriction of late or extra trips for timely mail delivery, and banning or restricting overtime (The Associated Press).
➔ CLIMATE CHANGE: The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia has been severely harmed by rising sea temperatures and global warming, according to scientists. It has lost half its corals over 20 years, and the frequency of mass bleachings over the last five years has outpaced the reef’s capacity to recover, according to a new study published in the Royal Society Journal. Coral reefs — which harbor the highest biodiversity of any ecosystem on earth — are some of the most susceptible environments to the effect of the climate crisis. A 2019 United Nations report warned that the vast majority of all tropical reefs on earth will disappear, even if global warming is limited to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, an aspiration that looks increasingly unlikely to be achieved (NBC News).
And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by headlines focused on law and justices, we’re eager for some smart guesses about Supreme Court history.
Email your responses to email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
In what year did the Supreme Court have more than nine justices?
- Trick question. The high court has never had more than nine justices
The Senate has voted to reject how many nominees to the Supreme Court?
Which former U.S. president served on the Supreme Court?
- William Howard Taft
- William McKinley
- William Henry Harrison
- Zachary Taylor
Which is a myth about Supreme Court justices?
- Must be at least 35 years old
- Must have experience as a judge
- Must have a law degree
- Must have an American Bar Association rating as “well qualified”
- All of the above