Senate – Following the news that several Senators tested positive for COVID-19, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that the Senate will only be meeting in pro-forma sessions until October 19. While Senate Democrats have argued that it is not safe for the Senate to move ahead with Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s hearings, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is still proceeding with the hearings next week. The first is scheduled for October 12, with additional hearings occurring over the next three to four days.
Senate Judiciary Committee members Mike Lee (R-UT) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) announced last week that they had tested positive for COVID-19 and will remain in quarantine. They will likely return to the Senate when the committee is expected to vote on Barrett’s nomination–which will come as soon as October 22. Leader McConnell has said he would bring Barrett’s nomination to the full Senate as soon as the Senate Judiciary Committee’s work is done, which would mean a confirmation vote about a week before Election Day.
Negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on a potential COVID-19 relief package remain in flux. Secretary Mnuchin spoke with President Trump this weekend to provide an update on current discussions. Differences over the topline spending number and various policy issues continue to frustrate negotiations. The White House favors a $1.5 to $1.6 trillion relief package, while Speaker Pelosi is insistent on a higher number, closer to $2.2 trillion, which is what the House approved on a partisan basis last week.
Significant policy differences surrounding tax issues, state and local funding, unemployment benefits, and COVID-19 testing remain unresolved. Any final negotiated package will need President Trump’s imprimatur and will potentially require his direct engagement with Congressional Republicans to garner their firm support.
House – The House is now out of session until after the election in November. Members could be called back to vote, or conduct proxy voting, on a COVID-19 stimulus package should an agreement be reached. Some remote committee hearings will occur while the House is in recess.
White House – President Trump is recovering following his positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Expect members of President Trump’s family to try and fill in on the campaign trail this week.
The Vice-Presidential debate will occur this Wednesday, October 7. We expect Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) to focus much of her attention on policy and not on personal attacks. Vice President Pence is expected to take a measured and methodical debate stance that focuses on the past successes of the Trump presidency.