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September 28, 2020

What to Expect in Washington

This may be the last week of regular business in Congress before the election, aside from Supreme Court action and the potential for a coronavirus aid deal. The Senate is expected to clear, probably on Tuesday, the House-passed continuing resolution to extend government funding and health extenders through December 11, and surface transportation and flood programs for one year. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) plans to assemble a $2.4 trillion coronavirus relief bill that will include elements of the $3 trillion-plus HEROES Act passed in May plus relief for airlines and restaurants, though it is unclear whether the House will vote on the package or whether the move can produce a breakthrough in negotiations with the Administration that have been gridlocked since August 7.

On CNN's State of the Union September 27, Speaker Pelosi suggested she is unwavering over a package of that size, saying, "at some point, the public is going to have to see why $2.2- or now $2.4 trillion, perhaps, is necessary." She said another House vote on a Democratic bill — the HEROES Act was passed on May 15 — is a possibility, "But I'm hoping for a deal. I'd rather have a deal which puts money in people's pockets than to have a rhetorical argument."

Attention on the Hill turns fully to the Supreme Court vacancy. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced that the hearing to consider the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to serve as a Supreme Court Justice will begin October 12 and last three to four days.

It's unclear to what extent Democrats may protest the swift action on the vacancy — they want the confirmation process to occur next year — but they plan on focusing on the health care ramifications.

In a September 27 letter to Senate colleagues reported by Politico, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said: "All the data show that with COVID raging, the number one priority for the American people is health care — its affordability, accessibility and quality … We must focus like a laser on health care because Judge Barrett's record is so clear on this issue."

The issue is a focus for President Trump, as well. He tweeted September 27: "Obamacare will be replaced with a MUCH better, and FAR cheaper, alternative if it is terminated in the Supreme Court. Would be a big WIN for the USA!"

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) released statements on a press report about President Trump's taxes.

Election — A poll reported in the September 27 Washington Post showed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leading President Trump among likely voters nationally 54%-44%.

A New York Times/Marist poll reported September 27 showed Biden leading President Trump among likely voters nationally 49%-41%.

NBC News/Marist polls released September 27 showed Democratic nominee Biden leading President Trump among likely voters 52%-44% in Michigan and 54%-44% in Wisconsin.

CBS polls reported September 27 show, among likely voters:

  • Biden leading President Trump 48%-47% in North Carolina
  • President Trump leading Biden 52%-42% in South Carolina
  • President Trump leading Biden 47%-46% in Georgia

In Senate races, the polls show:

  • Cal Cunningham up over Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) 48%-38% in North Carolina
  • Jaime Harrison roughly even with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in South Carolina
  • Senator David Perdue (R-GA) leading Jon Ossoff 47%-42% in Georgia.

The first presidential debate will be moderated by Fox News' Chris Wallace in Cleveland on September 29. Wallace has selected as topics for six 15-minute segments:

  • The Trump and Biden Records
  • The Supreme Court
  • Covid-19
  • The Economy
  • Race and Violence in our Cities
  • The Integrity of the Election

Speaker Pelosi wrote to Democratic members September 27 stressing the importance of winning state delegations in the event that neither President Trump nor Joe Biden get 270 electoral votes and a decision goes to the House, Politico reported. "The Constitution says that a candidate must receive a majority of the state delegations to win," Speaker Pelosi wrote, according to the report. "We must achieve that majority of delegations or keep the Republicans from doing so." The determination if one of the tickets has received a majority of 270 or more electoral votes is slated to occur January 6, 2021, after a new Congress is sworn in. As the Congressional Research Service has observed, "The House votes by state: each state delegation votes internally to decide for whom the state's vote shall be cast."


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For additional information concerning this Alert, please contact:
Washington Council Ernst & Young
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