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Wake Up To Politics - October 1, 2020

It’s Thursday, October 1, 2020. Election Day is 33 days away. The vice presidential debate is 6 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

In today’s newsletter: More fallout from Tuesday’s debate, the latest negotiations for another coronavirus relief package, and a piece on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s jurisprudence by student journalist Anna Salvatore.

Campaign 2020

Congressional Republicans distanced themselves from President Donald Trump on Wednesday, rebuking him for his refusal to condemn an extremist right-wing group at the presidential debate the night before. “Stand back and stand by,” Trump told the Proud Boys, an alt-right group that promotes white supremacy, at Tuesday night’s debate when former Vice President Joe Biden urged him to renounce them. Far from a denunciation, the group has interpreted the message as a show of support.

“It was unacceptable not to condemn white supremacists,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Wednesday when asked about the comments, although he did not name Trump directly. Several other Republican senators urged the president to clarify his comments: “I think he misspoke, I think he should correct it,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) said. “He should unequivocally condemn white supremacy,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) added. “Clear it up,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD) urged.

Trump did eventually tell the group to “stand down” when pressed by reporters on Wednesday, but said he hadn’t been aware of the group in the first place. “I don’t know who the Proud Boys are. You’ll have to give me a definition, because I really don’t know who they are,” he said. “I can only say they have to stand down.”

According to The New York Times, Trump’s debate comments about the Proud Boys “sent a shudder through the Republican Party,” adding to “mounting fears” among top Republicans that the president’s conduct “could damage the party on Election Day.” The Washington Post, Politico, CNN, and other news outlets also reported on private fears among Republicans about the president’s debate performance.

“Some of President Donald Trump's allies said after his chaotic first debate that he had squandered one of his last opportunities to change the dynamics of a race in which he has long trailed by diverting from the strategy his team had laid out, coming off as mean and angry rather than confident and in command,” NBC News reported.  

Trump’s frequent interruptions throughout his Tuesday showdown with Biden not only caused heartburn for Republican operatives, but they may also lead to rules changes for the upcoming debates. The Commission on Presidential Debates said in a statement Wednesday that “additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues,” although they did not specify what the changes would be.

According to CBS News, one of the commission’s planned changes will be a threat to cut off candidates’ microphones if they break the debate rules.

More debate news:

  • 73.1 million Americans watched the first debate on television, according to Nielsen ratings, a sharp decrease from 2016, when 84 million people tuned in to the first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
  • The Biden campaign reported raising more than $21.5 million online on Wednesday, making it their best fundraising day of the campaign. Biden’s team also brought in nearly $10 million during and after the debate Tuesday night, amounting to a $31.5 million haul in just over a day.
  • Fox News host Chris Wallace, who moderated Tuesday’s debate, told the New York Times that he was “sad” with how the night turned out, calling it “a terrible missed opportunity” that went “completely off the tracks.”


President Trump signed legislation averting a government shutdown at about 1 a.m. Thursday morning, one hour after government funding technically expired. The bipartisan continuing resolution, which will keep the government running through December 11, passed the House in a 359-57 vote last week and passed the Senate in an 84-10 vote Wednesday.

With the threat of a shutdown behind them, lawmakers are now focusing on negotiations over another coronavirus relief package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met for about 90 minutes on Wednesday, although they have yet to strike a deal.

According to Roll Call, Mnuchin offered Pelosi a $1.62 trillion package, which would include $250 billion for state and local governments and $400-per-week federal unemployment benefits through January. Pelosi’s current proposal, which would cost $2.2 trillion (about $1 trillion less than her previous offering), includes $436 billion for state and local governments and $600-a-week federal unemployment benefits through January.

The House had planned to approve the $2.2 trillion package Wednesday night, but postponed a vote as Pelosi’s talks with Mnuchin dragged on.

Supreme Court

Contributed by Anna Salvatore, the founder of the High School SCOTUS blog:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously said that there will be enough women on the Supreme Court when they are nine. But days after her death, the jurist appointed to replace her — Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit — would likely overturn several of the decisions which Ginsburg promoted.

Coney Barrett identifies as an originalist, which means that she interprets the Constitution based on how its words were understood by the Americans who ratified them. When words’ original meaning is unclear, she looks to their dictionary definitions rather than what lawmakers intended them to mean. Although she will be not vote hard-right in every case, because the Supreme Court is unanimous in roughly 36% of its decisions, Coney Barrett will probably lean rightwards in cases which divide the justices along partisan lines, namely those relating to social issues like abortion, healthcare, and the right to bear arms. Her presence on the Court could solidify a six-justice conservative majority for decades.

At her confirmation hearings in 2017 for the Seventh Circuit, Coney Barrett vowed to treat Roe v. Wade with the same respect as all other Supreme Court precedents. Her vow was unremarkable, because circuit judges are required by law and strict norms to abide by Court decisions. Soon Coney Barrett will acquire the power to overturn decades-old Court precedents, and no matter what she promises at her confirmation hearings, her past writings indicate that she will vote to limit abortion access.

In 2018, Coney Barrett joined a dissenting opinion that would have upheld Indiana’s ban of abortions that targeted fetuses for sex, race, or other attributes. When her colleagues on the Seventh Circuit invalidated an Indiana law requiring aborted fetuses to be buried or cremated, she argued that the law should have been upheld because it didn’t burden women seeking abortions. She is adored by pro-life groups and law professors, with Senator Josh Hawley saying “I don’t think there’s much doubt” that she would overturn Roe. And she has deep personal convictions on the topic, having carried her son to term even after learning that he would have Down syndrome.

As for her views on health care, Coney Barrett wrote in a 2017 essay that Chief Justice Roberts “pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute” and criticized him for disobeying the plain text of the Constitution. If confirmed, Coney Barrett would surprise no one by voting to topple Obama’s signature legislation – a possibility which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has noted in agitating for a delayed nomination.

Her jurisprudence on the Second Amendment would be similarly conservative, resembling that of the late Justice Scalia more than it would Justice Ginsburg’s. We can expect this thanks to her March 2019 dissent in Kanter v. Barr, when Coney Barrett was the only judge (on a panel with two other conservatives) who voted to overturn a law banning felons from possessing guns, writing that her colleagues “[treated] the Second Amendment as a ‘second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees’” (quoting from McDonald v. City of Chicago). Her belief in a fulsome Second Amendment means that she will be far readier than Ginsburg to strike down gun control laws.

Judges of different partisan backgrounds prefer different parts of the Constitution. To a left-leaning justice like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Equal Protection Clause was a tool for ensuring gender equality; to conservatives like Amy Coney Barrett, the Second Amendment and the Free Exercise Clause are vital for restoring Americans’ freedom. It’s a matter of when and not if Coney Barrett will bring her distinct constitutional preferences to the Supreme Court.


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump will travel to Bedminister, New Jersey, where he will participate in a pair of fundraisers at 3 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. He will then return to Washington, D.C.

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Iowa. He will deliver remarks at a campaign event in Carter Lake at 1 p.m. and deliver remarks on “the importance of faith in America” in Des Moines at 4:20 p.m.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will attend a virtual fundraiser.

The Senate will convene at 12 p.m. The chamber will hold a procedural vote at 1 p.m. on S. 4653, a bill by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to block the Justice Department from intervening in support of lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act.

The House will convene at 9 a.m. and vote on 16 pieces of legislation:

  1. H.R. 8124 – Criminal Judicial Administration Act of 2020, as amended
  2. H.R. 7718 – Pregnant Women In Custody
  3. H.R. 8225 – Fight Notario Fraud Act of 2020
  4. S. 2330 – Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020
  5. H.R. 6813 – Promoting Alzheimer’s Awareness to Prevent Elder Abuse Act
  6. S. 3051 – America's Conservation Enhancement Act
  7. H.R. 5126 – DESCEND Act of 2020, as amended
  8. H.R. 5068 – Women Who Worked on the Home Front World War II Memorial Act
  9. S. 3758 – A bill to amend the Klamath Basin Water Supply Enhancement Act of 2000 to make certain technical corrections
  10. H.R. 5139 – Stop Sexual Assault and Harassment in Transportation Act, as amended
  11. S. 2638 – Friendly Airports for Mothers Improvement Act
  12. S. 4075 – RLF Act
  13. H.R. 5912 – Expedited Delivery of Airport Infrastructure Act of 2020, as amended
  14. H.R. 4470 – To rename the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, as amended
  15. S. 1982 – Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, as amended

The chamber may also vote on H.R. 925, the $2.5 trillion Democratic coronavirus relief package; H.Res. 1154, a resolution condemning the QAnon conspiracy theory; and H.Res. 1153, a resolution condemning “unwanted, unnecessary medical procedures on individuals without their full, informed consent.”

The Supreme Court is on its summer recess.

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