It’s Wednesday, September 23, 2020. Election Day is 41 days away. The first presidential debate is 6 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
🎧: Moderator Chris Wallace announced the topics on Tuesday for the first presidential debate next week. Listen to the latest episode of the Wake Up To Politics Podcast, a deep dive into the history of presidential debates. If you like what you hear, subscribe and leave a rating.
The United States surpassed a grim milestone on Tuesday: more than 200,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. now accounts for more than 20% of the world’s coronavirus deaths.
In Washington, a grassroots group calling itself the “COVID Memorial Project” placed 20,000 American flags around the Washington Monument to honor the 200,000 victims. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) paid a visit to the striking display on Tuesday, speaking at an interfaith service that also included a rabbi and a nun.
Pelosi touched on the Friday death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to address those who have lost relatives to COVID-19. “It came as a shock and we all felt as if we had a death in the family,” the Speaker said. “I want all of these families to know that we feel the same about them.”
The flags pointedly faced towards the White House; Pelosi did not name President Trump, but she did blame “political decisions” for the spread of the pandemic. “This was preventable,” she said. “Not all of it, but much of it. And what could be lost in the future is preventable too, if we embrace science.”
Pelosi was joined by Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL), a freshman congressman. In an interview with Wake Up To Politics, Casten placed the onus squarely on the president: “People are dead because [Trump] decided that somehow it is cute to politicize science,” he said. “It is so horribly irresponsible.”
“It is shameful,” Casten continued, pointing to the tens of thousands of flags. “These people didn’t have to die... Yeah, I’m angry.”
The flags were funded by a Kickstarter and set up by a group that included several veteran Democratic campaign hands. One of the operatives told Wake Up To Politics that the idea emerged out of a disappointment that the United States had yet to hold a national moment of mourning as the COVID-19 death toll ticks upward: no flags at half-staff,
As Pelosi finished speaking, a Washington, D.C., man named Christopher Duncan arrived at the temporary memorial. He quietly knelt down and added something to the sea of flags: a picture of his mother, Connie, who died of coronavirus at a Virginia nursing home in May.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) announced his support Tuesday for an election-year Supreme Court vote, clearing the way for the Senate to approve President Trump’s eventual nominee to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “The historical precedent of election-year nominations is that the Senate generally does not confirm an opposing party’s nominee but does confirm a nominee of its own,” Romney said in a statement.
“If the nominee reaches the Senate floor,” he added, “I intend to vote based upon their qualifications.”
Meanwhile, President Trump announced plans to unveil his nominee at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the White House. The Senate is expected to move quickly after Trump names his choice: according to the Washington Post, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is “looking at scheduling a confirmation hearing for the week of Oct. 12 and a committee vote near the end of the following week, with a vote on the floor before Halloween.”
If that timeline is upheld — and, with the support of all but two Senate Republicans, there appears to be little stopping Trump from pushing forward — the president’s nominee would be confirmed in under 35 days, the shortest confirmation process since Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981.
The House passed a short-term spending bill on Tuesday night after a bipartisan agreement was struck between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The measure, which passed in a 359-57 vote, funds the government through December 11.
The deal between Pelosi and Mnuchin provides $30 billion sought by the White House for the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), a farm bailout program that President Trump has used to reimburse farmers hurt by his tariff policies. In exchange, Democrats received $8 billion for nutrition programs, including one for children who no longer have access to school lunches because of the coronavirus pandemic, and an assurance that none of the CCC funds would go to fossil fuel refiners and importers.
The bill now heads to the Senate, which must pass it before midnight on Sept. 30 to avoid a government shutdown.
Two Republican-led Senate committees released a report this morning after an investigation into work done by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son Hunter in Ukraine. The 87-page report, prepared by the Homeland Security and Finance Committees, found that two Obama administration officials raised concerns at the time about the younger Biden serving on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma while his father oversaw U.S. policy in Ukraine.
However, while the report concludes that Hunter Biden’s work created “awkward” and “problematic” conflicts of interest, it stops short of confirming a key claim made by President Donald Trump: that the younger Biden’s work resulted in major changes to U.S. policy toward Ukraine.
The report says that Hunter Biden’s work “did interfere in the efficient execution of policy with respect to Ukraine,” but “the extent to which Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board affected U.S. policy toward Ukraine is not clear.” President Trump has claimed that Vice President Biden pushed for a Ukrainian prosecutor to protect Burisma from an ongoing investigation; no evidence has emerged to support that allegation.
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump will deliver remarks in honor of Bay of Pigs veterans at 11 a.m. and participate in a discussion with state attorneys general on “protecting consumers from social media abuses” at 3 p.m.
The Senate will vote at 11:45 a.m. to advance the nomination of John Charles Hinderaker to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Arizona.
Later, at 4 p.m., the chamber will hold three additional roll call votes: to confirm Hinderaker, to advance the nomination of Roderick C. Young to be a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, and to confirm the nomination of Jocelyn Samuels to be a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
- The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hold a 10 a.m. hearing on the federal response to COVID-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Robert Redfield, testing czar Brett Giroir, and FDA Commissioner Stephen Han will testify.
- The Senate Homeland Security Committee will hold a 10 a.m. confirmation hearing for Chad Wolf, who has been nominated to be Secretary of Homeland Security.
The House will vote on six bipartisan pieces of legislation, mostly related to veterans’ health care.
- The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis will hold a 10 a.m. hearing featuring testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.
The Supreme Court is on its summer recess.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, to attend a “Black economic summit.”
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