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October 30, 2020

What to expect in Washington (October 30)

Both President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden campaigned in Florida October 29 and some of their closing arguments ahead of next week's election focused on the pandemic. President Trump, who has been suggesting that Biden would seek further virus-related 'lockdowns' and appealing for a return to 'normal life,' said, "The Obama-Biden recovery was the worst recovery since the Great Depression. All Biden does is talks about COVID," Fox News reported. Biden said, "I'm not going to shut down the economy. I'm not going to shut down the country. But I am going to shut down the virus."

The New York Times said, "The rare convergence of the two men on the same day … was one of the clearest signs yet that both candidates not only see their political fortunes tied to the state but also are far from confident that they are ahead here."

Tweeting about the 33.1% GDP increase in the third quarter, President Trump said in part, "Biden and his proposed record setting tax increase, would kill it all." By contrast, in Florida, Biden focused on individual economic situations. "[M]illions of people are out of work, on the edge. They can't see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

Both candidates campaign today in Wisconsin, where a coronavirus surge "is keeping the president's management of the crisis squarely at the center of the conversation days before the election," the Wall Street Journal said.


On the battle for control of the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Fox Radio October 29, "We've got seven or eight … dog fights all over the country. It's going to be a close election for the Senate, and probably a long night, or maybe several days thereafter." He previously said Republicans have a 50/50 chance of retaining control of the chamber.

During an October 29 news conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) looked toward a potential Biden presidency, saying, "We're going to build the infrastructure of America in a green way. We're going to make sure health care is available to all Americans, lower the cost of prescription drugs." She said, "this will be impacted by the Joe Biden agenda," but, referencing infrastructure, Biden's "Build [Back] Better is similar to our Moving America Forward, but nonetheless, we'll be working between the White House and the Congress to get those jobs done."


Asked during the news conference about Biden's intention to increase corporate taxes early on in a potential presidency, Speaker Pelosi said she would wait to let Biden set the agenda, but: "I always have thought that when we do major tax policy, we should try to do it in as most bipartisan way possible, contrary to the dark of night, speed of light passage of a bill that gave 83% of the benefits to the top one percent in our country, and then they reinforce that in the CARES Act in the dark of night as well. So, it's not a question of having that discussion here. I think there's a large - quite an agreement that we should have brought down the corporate rate, but we should not have given away the store at the expense of America's working families."

On potential cabinet picks, Politico reported, "Elizabeth Warren wants to be Joe Biden's Treasury secretary and will make her case for it if he wins next week, according to three Democratic officials who have spoken with her inner circle."

Election mechanics

In the latest development over some states' plans to allow mail-in ballots to be counted after Election Day, the Washington Post reported, "A federal appeals court ruled Thursday evening that Minnesota must reject ballots received after polls close on Election Day, upending the state's plan to count absentee ballots received up to seven days after the election, so long as they were postmarked on Election Day."

After the Supreme Court declined to block Pennsylvania from counting ballots received after Election Day, a separate Washington Post report said, "Local election officials are now bracing for possible legal filings challenging the tabulation of mail-in and absentee ballots, which have arrived in record-shattering numbers ahead of Election Day."

Coronavirus relief

Negotiations over a bipartisan coronavirus relief and stimulus bill that have been mostly cordial over the past few weeks have turned accusatory as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin hit back against a letter from Speaker Pelosi blaming the White House. In an October 29 letter, the Secretary said that, with Pelosi's refusal to bring to a House vote a piecemeal bill on issues like airline relief and Paycheck Protection Program payments, "Your ALL OR NONE approach is hurting hard-working Americans." He said Speaker Pelosi's late October 28 letter released simultaneously to the press, where Mnuchin first saw it, led him to "conclude that it is a political stunt."

Still, Speaker Pelosi signaled some optimism for a lame-duck session deal, saying on Bloomberg TV of whether it's possible, "Well I think so." Asked during her news conference about the prospect for a smaller deal after the election if Biden wins then revisiting the issue in 2021, she said she wants a deal both for the American people and to clear the decks for a Democratic agenda to move next year. "We want to have as clean a slate as possible going into January," the Speaker said.

On Friday, November 6 (at 12:00 p.m. ET), is the EY Webcast, "Tax in the time of COVID-19: Post election outlook." The coronavirus (COVID-19) and the resulting economic crisis — all occurring in an election year — have made reacting to tax and trade developments more complicated and more difficult. After election day, what might be on the horizon for tax policy, tax legislation and any further economic stimulus? Panelists will provide updates on: (i) elections, US economy and tax policy; (ii) breaking developments; and (iii) what's happening at the IRS. Register for this Thought Center Webcast.


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