with help from Andrew Desiderio
PANIC AT THE DISCO — Another week, another news cycle of Republicans begging President Donald Trump to put out a self-made fire. Last week, the GOP was pleading with Trump to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. But this week, they’re urging the president to more forcefully denounce white supremacy, just his latest headache-inducing controversy for the GOP. (Spoiler alert: Trump has still done neither.)
Republicans, like the rest of the nation, were reeling yesterday from the disastrous first presidential debate: Sen. Ben Sasse called it a “s— show,” Sen. Mitt Romney thought it was an “embarrassment”, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski said it was “awful.” It seems like very few, if any, GOP lawmakers were willing to say Trump helped himself with his debate performance. In fact, some of them are privately worried it will actually damage him and the party come November.
Most problematic for the GOP was that the president did not explicitly condemn white nationalists and other domestic terrorist groups when given the direct opportunity by the moderator, instead telling the far-right Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” For some, it was a flashback to when Trump claimed there were “very fine people on both sides” of a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va.
Republicans on Capitol Hill made crystal clear that they don’t support white supremacy and called on Trump to clarify his remarks. Sen. John Thune, a member of leadership, urged Trump to “clear it up”; Sen. Tim Scott, the Senate’s lone black Republican, said he thought the president “misspoke” and “should correct it”; and Sen. Susan Collins, who is in a tough race, said he “absolutely” needs to denounce white supremacy and believes it was a mistake that he didn’t do so right away.
After facing a barrage of bipartisan criticism, Trump tried to clean up his remarks Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t know who the Proud Boys are,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn. “Whoever they are, they need to stand down.” But it was hardly the clear and forceful denunciation that members of his own party had been looking for, leaving Republicans still feeling uneasy. The dispatch from Nick Niedzwiadek, Marianne and Burgess: https://politi.co/34bXpdA.
MEANWHILE … Democrats felt quite differently about the whole debacle. While they agreed the debate was a mess, Dems are urging Joe Biden to keep debating Trump, arguing that the striking contrast between the two candidates gives Biden a leg up in the race. “The American people saw what Donald Trump is all about and sometimes people just see clips on the news of his rallies. And I think it’s important for them to see that. So yes, I think that he should continue doing these debates,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). The latest from Burgess and Marianne: https://politi.co/33f5IGe.
Related reads: “G.O.P. Alarmed by Trump’s Comments on Extremist Group, Fearing a Drag on the Party,” by NYT’s Alexander Burns, Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman: https://nyti.ms/3ihLq3a; and “Belligerent Trump debate performance stokes fears among Republicans about November,” from WaPo’s Robert Costa and Matt Viser: https://wapo.st/34dONTD.
IT AIN’T OVER, TILL IT’S OVER –– House Democrats are giving themselves one more day — really this time! — to clinch a bipartisan agreement on coronavirus aid. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met in person with Speaker Nancy Pelosi for over an hour yesterday to present the GOP’s counter offer and then huddled with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Today, Secretary Mnuchin and I had an extensive conversation and we found areas where we are seeking further clarification,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Our conversations will continue.”
Mnuchin also struck a pretty positive tone after the meeting. “We made a lot of progress over the last few days,” Mnuchin told reporters as he left the Capitol. “We still don’t have an agreement, but we have more work to do. And we’re gonna see where we end up.”
But Pelosi told her members during a private caucus call that there are still some major outstanding issues, including state and local money and liability reform. Not to mention, they’re still far apart on a price tag: Dems are pushing for $2.2 trillion, but the GOP’s latest offer was roughly $1.5 trillion. “The president instructed us to come up significantly, so we have come up from the trillion dollar deal,” Mnuchin said on Fox Business last night.
If they don’t reach a deal today, House Dems will press ahead with a floor vote on their own relief bill. (Lawmakers were supposed to vote yesterday, but Dems gave themselves another day to strike a deal.) Of course, the measure would go nowhere in the GOP-controlled Senate. But it’s a contingency plan for if the bipartisan talks go south, so vulnerable frontline Democrats don’t go home totally empty handed. The latest from Sarah, Heather and Bres: https://politi.co/3jmj5tU.
DETAILS of Mnuchin’s $1.6T offer to Pelosi, via Roll Call’s Lindsey McPherson (@lindsemcpherson):
-$250B for state/local
-$400 weekly federal unemployment
-$75B testing/tracing [meets Dem demand]
-$60B rental/mortgage assistance
-$15B food assistance
GOOD READ: “Covering Congress amid coronavirus means masks, hallway contortions and apologies for the crying baby,” via Sarah D. Wire of the Los Angeles Times: https://lat.ms/3n6kqXR.
SCOTUS SHOWDOWN — Not a whole lot of news on the SCOTUS front yesterday. Trump’s nominee to the high court, Amy Coney Barrett, continued to meet with senators and make the rounds on Capitol Hill. And Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote a letter to Chairman Lindsey Graham formally objecting to the GOP’s lightning-fast confirmation plans and questioning whether there’s enough time for follow-up questions and the FBI background check.
An excerpt from their letter: “The timeline for consideration of Judge Barrett’s nomination is incompatible with the Senate’s constitutional role. We again urge you to delay consideration of this nomination until after the presidential inauguration. The Senate and the American public deserve a deliberative, thorough process, and this falls far short.”
One tidbit of scheduling news, per WaPo’s Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim): “Inside the GOP lunch today, McConnell warned senators to prepare to be in session next week (!) due to procedural tactics from Dems that would force senators to be here, per sources. Ds say no final decision but they are pulling out all procedural weapons as they protest SCOTUS”
Related read: “Female Republican senators laud Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett: ‘This is what a mom can do,’” from Fox News’ Marisa Schultz: https://fxn.ws/3ipoNde.
GOOD MORNING! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Thursday, Oct. 1, where your host is ready to get spooky — bring on the horror films and Halloween candy!
WEDNESDAY’S MOST CLICKED: POLITICO’s report on Sen. Chuck Schumer forcing the GOP to go on the record on dismantling the Affordable Care Act was the big winner.
CR-ISIS AVERTED — Trump signed a continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a shutdown and keep the government’s lights on until Dec. 11, though he briefly missed a midnight signing deadline and funding briefly lapsed. The deets from Caitlin Emma: “The Senate cleared the continuing resolution — which would extend about $1.4 trillion in government funding until Dec. 11 — on Wednesday in a bipartisan 84-10 vote.
“The Office of Management and Budget had warned federal agencies in a memo on Wednesday that Trump — who was returning from a campaign rally in Duluth, Minn., late Wednesday night — might not sign the measure until early Thursday. Federal agencies should not trigger any government shutdown activities if the midnight deadline slipped, OMB told departments.” More: https://politi.co/33iQ5xq.
TAKING IT TO TECH: “At White House’s urging, Republicans launch anti-tech blitz ahead of election,” per Cristiano Lima and John Hendel: https://politi.co/3l4CEaw.
QRAZY TOWN — The House may vote on a resolution today “condemning QAnon and rejecting the conspiracy theories it promotes,” which is sponsored by freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski. The potential vote comes as the New Jersey Democrat has become a target of QAnon — and is even facing death threats.
Here’s the story from BuzzFeed’s Sarah Mimms: “Tuesday he was the subject of a ‘Q drop’ — conspiracy-filled, false messages posted to message boards from the self-proclaimed US government insider to their followers. The post included a screenshot of Malinowski’s resolution, but it also capitalized on a press release from the National Republican Campaign Committee that falsely alleged that Malinowski ‘lobbied to protect sexual predators,’ along with the message, ‘Those who scream the loudest…’
“Malinowski received multiple death threats on Tuesday after the Q post went up, he and his office told BuzzFeed News. The NRCC’s press release — as well as a TV ad the group is running against the New Jersey Democrat falsely accusing him of ‘helping sexual predators hide in the shadows’ — echo a baseless conspiracy theory frequently used by QAnon followers that powerful Democrats and global elites are engaged in child trafficking. The ad, which has been repeatedly debunked, includes a narrator saying, ‘Tom Malinowski chose sex offenders over your family.’” More: https://bit.ly/2ENDw3F.
NO NOTICE — The nation’s top intelligence official hastily arranged a briefing on Tuesday night for senators after declassifying what he acknowledged was an unverified Russian intelligence assessment about Hillary Clinton. John Ratcliffe’s office gave lawmakers just 39 minutes’ notice for a 7:15pm briefing, according to an email Andrew and Kyle obtained, catching aides off guard and exacerbating concerns about Ratcliffe’s role in boosting Trump’s effort to discredit the Russia probe.
The timing and rushed nature of the briefing — a sharp departure from typical briefings arranged by ODNI — led some Democrats to suggest it appeared designed to offer Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who released the Russian assessment after Ratcliffe declassified it, and only a limited audience of lawmakers and aides the details about a significant national security matter, while blocking others’ access and creating logistical challenges they knew couldn’t be overcome. More from Andrew and Kyle: https://politi.co/36kFUuc.
COMEY ON CAPITOL HILL: “Comey refutes Trump’s debate claim that Biden pushed for Flynn prosecution,” from Kyle and Andrew: https://politi.co/3cNGBNK.
CHINA CRACKDOWN — A House GOP-led task force unveiled recommendations Wednesday to crack down on China, following a monthslong probe into the Chinese Communist Party over the origins of the coronavirus outbreak and flaws in medical supply chains, among other things. The task force was formally launched in May amid the global pandemic and was supposed to be bipartisan, but Democrats bailed at the last minute, according to House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy.
The GOP has made China-bashing a central campaign theme, and some Democrats worried that Republicans would use China as the sole scapegoat for the mishandling of the coronavirus instead of placing any blame on the Trump administration. But the House GOP’s report wasn’t just focused on the virus and it wasn’t partisan: the report laid out 430 policy recommendations for combating various threats from China, two-thirds of which are bipartisan. More from your Huddle host: https://politi.co/30nNDE4.
BUT … there was a bipartisan meeting on China at the White House yesterday: Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) and John Katko (R-N.Y.) led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to meet with Deputy National Security Advisor Matthew Pottinger and have a classified discussion on U.S. policy toward Beijing.
PHRMA PROBE: “House panel says drugmakers inflated prices to boost profits and reap bonuses,” from Sarah Owermohle: https://politi.co/3ilo9gK.
Andrew Taverrite is now comms director for the Senate Judiciary Dems. He previously was New Hampshire comms director for Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign, and is a Planned Parenthood alum.
The House gavels in at 9 a.m., with first votes expected around 2:30 p.m. Today’s agenda: https://bit.ly/3ifCpHD.
The Senate meets at noon. Lawmakers will resume consideration of the nomination of Michael Newman to be a U.S. district judge for the Southern District of Ohio. Unless unanimous consent is reached to change the time, they will vote at 1 p.m. on a motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to S. 4653, a bill from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that would prohibit the Justice Department from arguing in court that any part of the Affordable Care Act, H.R. 3590, should be declared unconstitutional.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) holds her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m. in HVC Studio A.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) holds his weekly press conference at 1 p.m. in HVC Studio A.
TUESDAY’S WINNER: Tracey Minkin was the first person to guess that George Cassiday was the name of the bootlegger known as the Man in the Green Hat who ran his operation out of first the Cannon House Office Building and then the Russell Senate Office Building.
TODAY’S QUESTION: From Tracey: Which former U.S. president, who had voted for the 18th amendment imposing Prohibition as a senator, went on to serve alcohol illegally in the White House during his tenure? The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your best guess to [email protected].
GET HUDDLE emailed to your phone each morning
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .