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BPAA Federal Policy Update - October 16, 2020

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COVID-19 and Federal Update:

  • Pelosi Flags Poison Pills in Stimulus Talks: As the record figures were announced, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told Democratic colleagues that a divide persists with the White House over a number of components of the fiscal stimulus she’s seeking to negotiate, even as an agreement nears on a Covid testing program. The establishment of a national testing strategy had been a roadblock cited by Pelosi and her aides this week amid talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. After a call lasting more than an hour yesterday, Mnuchin said the administration would only make minor edits to a Democratic salvo on that score. “Many other disagreements remain,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues yesterday. “These include but are not limited to funding for state and local government, tax benefits for working families, support for vulnerable small businesses, and child care funding.” 
    • Pelosi also cited multiple “poison pills,” such as liability protections for businesses which she said “forces workers to risk their lives in unsafe workplaces with no legal recourse.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been a strong advocate for liability provisions to shield businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits as they open.
    • White House National Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow suggested the continuing disputes show Pelosi doesn’t want to compromise. “The goalposts are moving -- you get to this point and then something else happens,” he said today on Fox Business.
    • Mnuchin and Pelosi don’t have any talks scheduled for now, according to two people familiar with the administration’s thinking, though neither ruled out a resumption. A House Democratic aide said there was no sign the negotiations were being cut off or ended at this point. Billy House has more. Read more at Bloomberg Government.
  • Mnuchin Says Trump to Lean on McConnell If Stimulus Deal Reached: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday that President Donald Trump would personally lobby to get reluctant Senate Republicans behind any stimulus deal they reach. Trump said he’s willing to go beyond the $1.8 trillion offer for a virus relief plan that’s already been offered by the administration, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected that, saying GOP lawmakers won’t go along. Mnuchin in a call with Pelosi Thursday “indicated that the president would weigh in with Leader McConnell should an agreement be reached,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill tweeted.A Treasury official confirmed the accuracy of Hammill’s account of the call. Trump has repeatedly blamed Pelosi, who wants a $2.2 trillion package, for standing in the way of an agreement. Yet Senate Republicans would pose the roadblock if any deal between the House and the administration materializes after months of talks.
    • “He’s talking about a much larger amount than I can sell to my members,” McConnell said of administration’s offer to Democrats. Pelosi, speaking to Democrats in a private conference call later Thursday, cited the opposition Trump is facing from his own party, according to a person on the call. She said while she doesn’t want to wait until January -- when Joe Biden might be sworn in as president -- to pass the next stimulus package, Democrats cannot give up fighting for their priorities, according to the person. Read more at BGOV. 

Political Update

  • Graham and Trump both hold leads in South Carolina, BGOV reports: Trump and his close ally Senator Lindsey Graham both have solid leads in South Carolina, a Republican stronghold that hasn’t backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1975. A New York Times/Siena College poll released Thursday found Trump leading Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by 8 percentage points, 49% to 41%. Trump won the state by 14 percentage points in 2016. While Graham is ahead by 6 points, 46%-40%, he is facing an unexpectedly competitive race from Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison. In the poll, 12% of Black voters say they remain undecided, which could mean more support for Harrison, who is African-American and announced this week that he shattered Senate campaign fundraising records with a $57 million third-quarter haul. The poll was conducted Oct. 9-15 and has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.
    • Bloomberg reports, Sen. Graham, who has tied his fate to Trump perhaps more than any other senator in his party, is starting to talk about the possibility of a future without the president. At yesterday’s Senate Judiciary hearing, Graham delivered some sober and unusually candid remarks about the Nov. 3 election, in which both he and Trump are on the ballot and confronting serious challenges to re-election. “I’ll just say this, if I’m around I will commit myself to starting over. Looking forward not backward,” he said.
    • Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee combined to raise $247.8 million in September, their best month in the campaign but well short of the record $383 million raised by Biden in the same period. Trump’s re-election effort, which includes two joint fundraising committees that split their money between Trump’s campaign, the RNC and state party committees, had $251.4 million in the bank heading into the final month. Jen O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s campaign manager, said on Twitter that his campaign has $432 million in the bank.
    • U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has set a fundraising record for Republican Senate candidates, bringing in $28 million in the third quarter of a reelection battle that is swiftly becoming among the more expensive in the country — and his toughest to date. Graham's campaign said Wednesday the amount raised in the final full fundraising quarter before the Nov. 3 general election is the most ever raised in a single quarter by any Republican Senate candidate in the country. Read more at 
  • North Carolina Senate race tilts toward Cunningham despite scandal, poll shows A Monmouth University poll released on Tuesday shows that Democrat Cal Cunningham has increased his lead in the North Carolina's Senate race despite revelations of his extramarital affair with an Army veteran's wife.Cunningham has 48% support among registered voters compared to 44% support for Republican incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis, according to the poll. Monmouth conducted the poll from Oct. 8 to Oct. 11. Read more here at Fox News.

  • Biden Narrowly Ahead in Florida Poll, BGOV reports: Biden has a 3 percentage-point advantage over Trump in Florida, a critical battleground in November, according to a Mason-Dixon poll released Friday. The poll showed that 48% of registered voters in Florida backed Biden, while 45% favored Trump. But the number of undecided voters in the poll, 6%, indicates the race remains wide open. Biden’s lead was also within the survey’s margin of error of 4 points. The poll showed Biden leading among Democrats, independents, women, African-Americans and Hispanics. Trump was ahead among Republicans, men and White voters. Florida remains the most closely fought battleground, with Biden ahead by 2.7 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics average of polls.
  • Kamala Harris Cancels Travel After Two on Her Plane Get Covid-19, BGOV reports: Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris has canceled her travel until Monday after her communications director and a member of her flight crew tested positive for Covid-19, the Biden campaign said Thursday. The campaign said Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, both tested negative on Thursday. But the campaign said earlier that even though the California senator was not in “close contact” with communications director Liz Allen or the crew member in the days before they tested positive, her travel would be paused “out of an abundance of caution.” Neither infected person was in contact with presidential nominee Joe Biden, whose travel schedule won’t be interrupted.

  • McConnell Says Barrett Has Enough Votes for Senate Confirmation, Bloomberg reports: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Judge Amy Coney Barrett has enough support to win Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court and he expects to bring her nomination to the floor on Oct. 23. Senate Republicans are powering ahead with their plan to place Barrett on the Supreme Court before Election Day. After three days of hearings, the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday set an Oct. 22 vote to advance her nomination to the full Senate. Speaking at an event in his home state of Kentucky, McConnell said he will bring the nomination to the full Senate the next day, confident that Barrett has the backing of at least 51 Republicans. “We have the votes,” he said.
  • Tightening Michigan race gives GOP hope of hanging on to the Senate Amid the well-justified doom and gloom for Republicans, the Senate race in Michigan is giving the party a glimmer of hope in their bid to hang on to the chamber in November. First-term Sen. Gary Peters is one of just two Democrats up for reelection in states President Donald Trump carried in 2016. For the better part of the election cycle, he's been seen as a sizable favorite over Republican John James — particularly as Trump sank in the polls in Michigan and elsewhere.For Republicans, Michigan represents what South Carolina, Montana or several other red states represent for Democrats: a difficult state where the party’s challenger has to outrun the top of the ticket by a healthy margin to win, but where the Senate contest is more competitive than the presidential race. Outrunning the top of the ticket is not uncommon. Several Republican senators who won reelection in 2016 outpaced Trump in their states; Democratic senators in 2018 significantly outran Hillary Clinton’s past performance, whether they won or lost. But a challenger defeating an incumbent while the president loses their state is exceedingly rare. Read more at Politico. 
  • Many Maine voters like Susan Collins. It may not be enough. Walking around Maine with Sen. Susan Collins (R), it’s clear that after a quarter century of representing the state, Mainers know her and like her. Yet even as these voters hold Collins in high esteem, they may vote her out of office next month. Democrats have a strong chance of defeating Collins, who reignited ire from the left with her vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and who has been facing a steady line of attack for not being tougher on President Trump. On the campaign trail, Collins is as eager to show her roots with the state run deep as her competitor Sara Gideon is to show that Collins has changed over her 24 years in the Senate. Read more at the Hill.
  • Cawthorn raises $2.2M, Davis $1.1M in 3rd quarter. 11th District foes pull in $4.4M total Fundraising for Western North Carolina's 11th District U.S. House race has hit a record $4.4 million, with Republican candidate Madison Cawthorn doubling Democrat Moe Davis' money. The fundraising numbers were provided to the Citizen Times by the campaigns. Official reports were not posted on the Federal Election Commission website as of 1 p.m. Oct. 15. Cawthorn raised $2.2 million July 1-Sept. 30, bringing his total to $2.8 million for the entire election cycle. Davis raised $1.1 million in the third quarter and $1.6 million overall. Read more at Citizen-Times.


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