The House races to avoid a shutdown, while the Senate prepares for a hasty Supreme Court confirmation process. It’s Wednesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.
Where things stand
House Democrats reached a deal with the White House yesterday on a stopgap spending measure that seeks to avert a government shutdown just weeks before the November election.
The bill now needs to be approved by the Senate before it can be sent to President Trump’s desk. Congress has been unable to agree on the broader spending bills that would keep the government funded when the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.
There has also been virtually no progress on a new round of coronavirus relief legislation, but a bipartisan group of lawmakers is pressing for the House to remain in session until a bill is passed.
In a letter signed by 20 Democrats and 14 Republicans, the lawmakers wrote, “Our constituents do not want us home campaigning while businesses continue to shutter.”
The House passed a stimulus package of more than $3 trillion in May, after which Senate Republicans proposed a narrower measure, but negotiations have been stalled since then.
Yesterday was National Voter Registration Day — not that many voters needed the reminder. Political experts say this election could drive record turnout, and even before yesterday’s pseudo-holiday, more than 61.4 million general-election ballots had been requested by or sent to absentee voters, according to a New York Times analysis.
And there was an infusion of energy after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday: Vote.org, which leads a nonpartisan get-out-the-vote effort, reported a 118 percent increase in registration verifications on Saturday and Sunday, compared with the previous weekend.
Mitt Romney said yesterday that he would support Trump’s effort to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ginsburg, seemingly ensuring that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, will have enough votes to push through a hasty confirmation.
Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are now the only Senate Republicans publicly opposing a vote before the November election.
“At this point, I would say that our conference is committed to moving forward,” said John Thune of South Dakota, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican.
The Food and Drug Administration is planning to release newly strengthened guidelines around a potential coronavirus vaccine — throwing further cold water on Trump’s claims that an immunization will be ready in coming weeks.
The guidelines, which could be released as early as this week, are expected to lay out required criteria for clinical trial data and recommend that a committee of independent experts vet that data before the F.D.A. approves a vaccine.
The pandemic’s recorded death toll in the United States topped 200,000 yesterday — the grimmest virus-related milestone yet for a country that accounts for one in five coronavirus deaths worldwide, despite having just 4 percent of the world’s population. The actual death count is most likely far higher, according to an analysis by The Times.
Just hours before the official count hit 200,000, Trump once again sought to downplay the virus’s impact. He falsely told a crowd at a late-night rally on Monday in Dayton, Ohio, that the virus mostly affects “elderly people, elderly people with heart problems,” then went further. “It affects virtually nobody,” he said. “It’s an amazing thing — by the way, open your schools!”
Trump’s advisers have urged him to avoid talking at length about the pandemic, recognizing that most Americans trust his opponent, Joe Biden, more on the issue. Biden’s campaign, meanwhile, has kept its focus squarely on Trump’s mismanagement of the virus.
In Michigan yesterday, Kamala Harris met with small businesses that had been affected by the pandemic as she courted Black voters in Flint and Detroit.
Want to read something surprising? Then skip this bullet. The C.I.A. recently distributed a report affirming that President Vladimir Putin of Russia is most likely still working to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.
While that might not exactly be startling news, given all that happened in 2016, it’s still significant: Russia has steadily continued its attempts to influence American politics since the last presidential election, and in the final weeks of the campaign close observers expect it to ramp up its efforts to sow disinformation and tilt things in Trump’s favor.
The C.I.A. made its most recent determination after an investigation into Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian lawmaker in Ukraine who has disseminated a range of sometimes baseless criticisms of Biden. It is consistent with a warning intelligence officials gave to lawmakers in January, when they said Russia was interfering in the election on Trump’s behalf.
In related news, Facebook announced yesterday that it had taken down a number of fake accounts created in China and aimed at influencing the November election.
The nefarious activity was relatively modest, Facebook said, and fewer than 3,000 U.S.-based users had followed the ersatz accounts.
Intelligence officials in the United States have concluded that China opposes Trump’s re-election, but Facebook’s announcement — which said that a mix of pro-Biden and pro-Trump accounts had been uncovered — could undercut Trump’s argument that China is working to help Biden’s campaign. None of the canceled accounts were specifically tied to the Chinese government, and the intelligence community has not found evidence that Beijing is interfering directly in the election.
Biden and Trump will meet onstage next Tuesday for their first of three nationally televised debates, and yesterday the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the six topics that will dominate the discussion.
They are the coronavirus pandemic; the fate of the Supreme Court; “race and violence in our cities”; the integrity of the general election; and the political records of both candidates. Each of those topics will be the focus of a 15-minute section.
The debate will take place at 9 p.m. Eastern and will be moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News.
Photo of the day
Senator Kamala Harris visited a farmers market in Flint, Mich., yesterday.
How Biden is facing pressure from donors to shut out the fossil fuel industry.
When it comes to climate change, Biden has been eager to play up the contrasts between himself and Trump, who has systematically rolled back environmental regulations.
But the Democratic presidential nominee is facing new pressure from the left to confront environmental issues more aggressively: Last week, as Lisa Friedman and Thomas Kaplan report in a new article, more than 60 wealthy donors asked Biden to commit to a moratorium on all new coal, oil and natural gas development — and to reject advisers with ties to fossil fuel companies.
We talked to Lisa, a reporter on the Climate desk, about the latest effort to push Biden leftward on climate issues.
When Biden released his climate plan this summer, activists roundly praised it as a bold proposal. And his recent speech amid the wildfires in the West drew kudos from many environmentalists. But now there’s an appetite for him to make more commitments. How come?
It’s true — Biden’s climate plan drew praise from almost all parts of the environmentalist community, as did his speech linking the wildfires out West to climate change and excoriating Trump’s climate denial.
Now activists and donors alike are pushing him on the issue of personnel, urging him to commit to advisers — and potentially a cabinet — free of fossil fuel influences.
I think the reason we’re seeing that push now is because this is when the more progressive wing of the party feels it has some leverage, and it wants to keep the pressure on Biden to ensure that he takes aggressive action on climate change if he wins in November.
To what degree has Biden already purged his campaign of oil- and gas-industry veterans?
To my knowledge there are no oil- and gas-industry veterans at all serving on the Biden campaign in the climate policy arena. But there are some people volunteering and informally advising the campaign who have served on the boards of energy companies, like former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, which is something that progressives have raised as a concern.
If the debate over whether to ban hydraulic fracking has a geographic epicenter, it’s in Pennsylvania, where labor leaders support continuing the practice — and where Biden is fighting hard to win back a state that Trump took in 2016. What is the political calculus on this issue, and how much of a deal breaker is it for some environmental groups and left-wing voters?
In 2016, Trump won Pennsylvania by less than one percentage point, so this state is critically important.
Biden has been really threading a needle on this issue for just that reason. He has not called for a national ban on fracking, as climate activists have urged him to, but he has pledged a ban on new oil and gas permits on federal lands and waters.
Biden hasn’t budged on this, despite overwhelming pressure from the left, and I wouldn’t expect him to now. Environmental groups at this point appear disappointed but resigned, and I haven’t heard of any significant organization that is pulling its support because of his position on this.
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President Trump will name his Supreme Court pick on Saturday, and he appears to have the G.O.P. votes he needs. The election is six weeks away.
Paths to 270
Joe Biden and Donald Trump need 270 electoral votes to reach the White House. Try building your own coalition of battleground states to see potential outcomes.
Early voting for the presidential election starts in September in some states. Take a look at key dates where you live. If you’re voting by mail, it’s risky to procrastinate.
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