IN THE HOUSE: Having passed a $2.2-trillion, slimmed-down coronavirus relief package on October 1, the House has left town until after the November 3 elections. However, Members will be given 24-hours’ notice if they need to return to vote should Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Administration reach a bipartisan deal on a relief package. Calls for such a bipartisan deal were voiced by many of the 18 Democrats who joined all Republicans in voting against this latest House package. The measure was approved 214-207.
ON THE SENATE FLOOR?: The Senate was supposed to be in session this week, but with three Republican Senators testing positive for Covid-19 and three others self-quarantining, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has revised the schedule and now says the Senate will meet in pro forma sessions for the next two weeks, re-convening the week of October 19 (unless Senators need to return sooner to vote on a Covid package). The Senators who tested positive are Ron Johnson (WI), Thom Tillis (NC), and Mike Lee (UT), while Senators Ben Sasse (NE), Ted Cruz (TX), and James Lankford (OK) are self-quarantining as a precaution.
SUPREME COURT: McConnell said the two-week recess will not affect the schedule for confirming Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court Justice. Senators Lee and Tillis, who serve on the Judiciary Committee, said they intend to be in Washington on October 12, when the committee is set to begin four days of hearings on the nomination. Senators Sasse and Cruz also serve on the committee.
The hearings will be held in Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building, which will be modified by adding a second dais to allow for more space between Senators. In-person attendance will, of course, be limited, with one staff aide per Senator allowed and about 10 seats for the media. The committee tentatively plans to vote on the nomination October 22, followed by a floor vote the following week.
COVID PACKAGE: Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke for about an hour yesterday and agreed “to exchange paper” in preparation for another call today. On Friday, the Speaker sent a letter to her colleagues outlining where the talks stood on five priorities: unemployment insurance, funding for schools and state and local government, the child tax credit and earned income tax credit, Covid-19 testing and tracing, and appropriations for priority programs.
COMMITTEE ACTION OF NOTE:
- Tuesday, October 6
- House Administration Subcommittee on Elections hearing: “Voting Rights and Election Administration: Combatting Misinformation in the 2020 Election.”
- Wednesday, October 7
- House Oversight and Reform hearing: IRS in the Pandemic with testimony from IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.
- Senate Commerce Committee hearing to examine passenger and freight rail, focusing on the current status of the rail network and the track ahead.
- Senate Finance Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth hearing: The Fiscal Outlook.
- 28 days until Election Day.
- 1 day until the Vice Presidential debate.
- 10 days until the second Presidential debate.
Debates: The Vice Presidential debate will take place tomorrow at 9 p.m. EDT in Salt Lake City and will be moderated by Susan Page of USA Today. In the wake of the president’s Covid-19 diagnosis, the Commission on Presidential Debates will now seat the candidates 13 feet apart instead of seven and will reportedly use plexiglass barriers to separate the two candidates from each other and to also protect the moderator.
The second Presidential debate is scheduled to take place next Thursday, October 15, in Miami. As of right now, no changes have been made to the debate schedule, but it is dependent on President Trump's recovery and reaching an agreement on new rules of engagement. Former Vice President Biden said today he will participate next week if scientists deem it is safe for both candidates.
Polls: A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll taken after the first presidential debate but before President Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis was announced shows Biden with a 14-point lead, 53% to 39%. When this and other recent polls are averaged together, Real Clear Politics shows Biden holding an 8.5-point advantage over Trump. At the state level, polls show Biden with a lead in Arizona, Florida, and Pennsylvania and deadlocked at 47% each in Ohio. In Arizona, the polling also shows Democratic challenger Mark Kelly ahead of Republican Senator Martha McSally.
Retirements: Republican Senators Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania and Richard Burr from North Carolina announced they will not run for re-election in 2022.