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October 13, 2020

What to Expect in Washington (October 13)

The presidential candidates were in two battleground states October 12, Ohio and Florida. President Trump won both in 2016, but polls last week put Democratic nominee Joe Biden ahead among likely voters in Ohio 45%-44% (NYT) and in Florida 51%-45% (UNF). The New York Times reported Biden as saying during his Ohio appearance that he would "stand up to China's trade abuses," ensure that no one making less than $400,000 a year would see a tax increase, and target aspects of the tax system that have allegedly benefited President Trump. "The system's rigged … We're going to change it," he said.

Putting the state into political context, the report said, "after a sound defeat four years ago and several other disappointments since, many Democrats still view flipping Ohio as a stretch compared with other places. The state has not been a central focus of Mr. Biden's team throughout the race, though officials emphasize that they want to create as many pathways to electoral victory as possible."

President Trump, meanwhile, during a Florida rally highlighted the strength of the stock market and implored voters to "don't blow it" because Biden wants to "quadruple your taxes." The President later tweeted: "Great Florida Rally tonight. Big crowd, lot of enthusiasm (you win races with enthusiasm). Just got back. Tomorrow night it's off to Pennsylvania and another BIG crowd. We are winning. Economy is starting to boom. Good timing!!!"

The President has been widely reported as wanting a packed campaign schedule leading up to the election, The Washington Post reported, "After rallies the first half of the week in Florida, Pennsylvania and Iowa, Trump is expected to return to Florida on Thursday and Friday, as well as hold more rallies over the weekend, probably in Ohio and Wisconsin … Trump's argument, one adviser said, is that the campaign is simply a series of rallies and television appearances and that to win, he must dominate the airwaves and the stage at almost all times."

On the mechanics of the election and prospects that a winner won't be known on election night, both the New York Times and USA Today reported that Arizona and Florida could provide some early indications.

  • USA Today: "Florida … begins processing mail ballots 22 days before the election; Arizona … starts that process two weeks before the election."
  • NYT: "Two battleground states that give election officials a lot of time to process ballots before Election Day are Florida and Arizona, which means they are likely to have a lot of results on election night."

Politico Playbook continued the speculation over who could serve in a Biden cabinet should he win, suggesting that Lael Brainard, a Fed governor and former Obama Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs, could be Treasury Secretary, and Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham are among those in the running for HHS Secretary.

In Senate election news, the Cook Political report today moved the Georgia special election to a "toss-up" rating from "lean Republican." It is essentially a three-person race among Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), GOP challenger Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), and Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock. If none gets 50% or more of the vote, the race goes to a runoff between the top two vote-getters on January 5, 2021. The same rules apply to the regular GA Senate election, and even incumbent Senator David Perdue (R-GA) has remarked about the prospect of both races being undecided well past election day and control of the Senate perhaps hanging in the balance. In other ratings changes, Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) hold looser grips on their reelection prospects, with both races moved from "likely" to "lean" Republican.

Coronavirus — No reported progress from Administration negotiators or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on bipartisan negotiations over additional coronavirus relief/stimulus after the Administration's latest $1.8 trillion offer faced criticism from Democrats and Republicans over the weekend. President Trump directed a tweet at his own party: "Republicans should be strongly focused on completing a wonderful stimulus package for the American People!"

New this morning: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said: "When the full Senate returns on October 19th, our first order of business will be voting again on targeted relief for American workers, including new funding for the PPP." While the exact intentions are unclear, a Senate GOP targeted bill providing for a second round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was blocked in the Senate by Democrats September 10 but, as Senator McConnell noted, did get 52 GOP votes (60 were required).

The Speaker October 13 released a new letter to her members on the issue — the third in four days — saying of the latest White House offer "in some instances, it make matters worse," and including commentary from committee chairs such as Ways & Means' Richard Neal (D-MA), who said the Administration won't back expansions of the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit "while continuing tax benefits for some of the wealthiest in America," which may refer to CARES Act excess business loss and NOL provisions.

Tax — Today at noon is the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee hearing on "Taxpayer Fairness."


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