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Analysis | The Daily 202: Voting wars flare up as Justice Barrett joins Supreme Court

James Hohmann

Barrett was confirmed Monday on a 52 to 48 vote, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joining every Democrat in opposition. The 48-year-old, sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas at the White House in the 9 p.m. hour, became the 115th justice – and the fifth woman – in the court's 231-year history.

Barrett now holds the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg less than six weeks after she passed away, shortly after dictating a deathbed wish to her granddaughter that the seat be filled by the winner of the November election.

At least 66 million Americans had already voted in the election when the Senate voted to confirm Barrett.

Republicans celebrated what they acknowledged was a raw display of political power. “The reason we were able to do what we did in 2016, 2018 and 2020 is because we had the majority,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

In another floor speech on Sunday, McConnell appeared to acknowledge he could lose his majority next week but bragged that Democrats will not be able to offset the generational impact that the 220 judges appointed by President Trump will have on the country’s jurisprudence. “A lot of what we have done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election,” McConnell mused. “It won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

Republican presidents have appointed 15 of the most recent 19 justices, including six of the current nine. That is all the more remarkable when you consider that the Republican candidate for president has only won the national popular vote once since 1988: George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection. And Republican senators have only represented a majority of the American population for one Congress in the last three decades. With Barrett joining Justices Brett Kavanaugh and John Roberts, three of the nine justices worked for Bush on Bush v. Gore. A fourth, Neil Gorsuch, volunteered as a lawyer for Bush’s reelection campaign. A fifth, Sam Alito, was appointed by Bush to the high court. A sixth, Thomas, was appointed by George H.W. Bush.

McConnell’s decision to change the rules of the Senate in 2017 to be able to confirm Gorsuch with 51 votes, instead of 60, has removed any moderating influence for presidents when their party also controls the chamber. The majority leader invoked what was known as “the nuclear option” after refusing to schedule a hearing or a vote for President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. McConnell justified changing the rules for the Supreme Court by noting that his predecessor, former senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), had lowered the threshold to confirm lower-court nominees in 2013. Reid answered that this was because McConnell was abusing the filibuster to block Obama’s nominees.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), who voted to confirm Kavanaugh as a justice in 2018 and to put Barrett on the circuit court in 2017, decried Senate Republicans for “further politicizing” the judiciary. “This degradation of Senate norms and procedures didn’t start with [Barrett], and it won’t end here,” Manchin said Monday night after the vote. “The U.S. Senate is supposed to be the greatest deliberative body in the world, and perhaps we used to be. But each time a Senate majority – regardless of party – changes the rules, we reduce the incentive to work together across party lines. Instead, the partisan governing of the last 10 years, and the rushed nomination of Judge Barrett, only fans the flames of division.”

Someone as outspokenly hostile to abortion rights as Barrett would have faced far lower odds of being nominated if the 60-vote threshold still existed. Moreover, since she did not need a single Democratic vote to secure her lifetime appointment, Barrett made no meaningful effort to win over any members of the opposition during her confirmation hearing. She refused to commit to recuse herself on cases involving Trump, the impending election or the challenge to the Affordable Care Act that is on the docket next week. Barrett refused to answer whether a president can unilaterally postpone an election and whether voter intimidation is illegal. He cannot, and it is.

Barrett’s return to the White House for her investiture came exactly one month after Trump announced her nomination in the Rose Garden during what became a superspreader event for the coronavirus. The president, first lady, two senators, the president of the University of Notre Dame and top Trump advisers including Kellyanne Conway and Chris Christie all contracted the contagion after attending the Sept. 26 event. (Vice President Pence opted not to preside over the Senate during the final confirmation vote on Monday evening amid blowback from lawmakers who thought that would be reckless after five of his close aides tested positive in recent days.)

After being sworn in on Monday, Barrett delivered brief remarks while standing next to Trump. She promised to do the job without fear or favor. “A judge declares independence not only from Congress and the president, but also from the private beliefs that might otherwise move her,” the justice said. “My fellow Americans, even though we judges don’t face elections, we still work for you.” 

But one reason Trump was fixated on getting Barrett confirmed before the election is because he expects her to rule his way on pending campaign-related litigation. He has said as much publicly. This could quickly become consequential. 

Moments before her swearing-in, the Supreme Court rejected a pandemic-related request from Democrats and civil rights groups to extend the deadline for counting mail-in ballots received after Election Day in Wisconsin. “The vote was 5 to 3, with the Republican-nominated conservatives in the majority and the Democratic-nominated liberals in dissent,” Robert Barnes reports. “The decision was a victory for Republicans and Trump in a state where he narrowly won in 2016 and polls show him behind this year. … 

“The court in coming days will consider a similar issue in other battleground states. Republicans in North Carolina are challenging an extension for ballots postmarked before and on Election Day but received afterward. And the Pennsylvania GOP has again asked the court to overturn an extension granted there by the state Supreme Court. The court last week allowed that decision to stand on a 4-to-4 vote, with [Roberts] siding with the liberals. But [Barrett] begins work Tuesday and is set to shift the court’s balance yet again.”

Roberts did not come to the White House for Barrett’s ceremony. He did not explain why, but he has defended the independence of the judicial system against rhetorical broadsides by Trump. Perhaps he wanted to avoid an awkward scene. Perhaps he wanted to avoid what could have been another unsafe ceremony. Perhaps he wasn’t invited. Whatever the reason, he will administer the judicial oath to his new colleague during a private ceremony at the Supreme Court today. (Thomas administered a separate oath to uphold the Constitution.) 

The lead story in today’s Wall Street Journal declares that the high court now has “a broad conservative majority for the first time since the 1930s.” Mike Davis, a former Senate GOP staffer who advocates for right-wing nominees through a group called the Article III Project, bragged: “For the first time in more than 80 years, we will have a true conservative majority on the Supreme Court.”

This is the culmination of a generation-long project on the right. “The last time the court had a majority of justices nominated by a Democratic president was in 1969, when Abe Fortas resigned,” writes deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus, an expert on the subject. “During a less partisan era, and in particular during an era when ideological considerations played a less decisive role in selecting Supreme Court justices, the fact of significantly greater numbers of Republican- than Democratic-appointed justices mattered far less. After all, two of the liberal leaders of the Warren court, Earl Warren himself and William J. Brennan Jr., were named by Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower. Other Republican presidents have found themselves disappointed by their nominees’ liberal tendencies on the court, including Nixon (Harry A. Blackmun), Gerald Ford (John Paul Stevens), Ronald Reagan (Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony M. Kennedy), and George H.W. Bush (David Souter). But the era of justices who surprise is over. 

“The conservative legal movement learned from its mistakes; its rallying cry has been, ‘No more Souters.’ It created an ideological and financial architecture to identify and groom promising candidates, and to give them enough seasoning on the bench to ensure that nominees’ legal philosophies were reliably conservative,” Marcus writes. “The court serves an important counter-majoritarian role in preserving constitutional protections; we don’t want it to slavishly follow the election returns. But neither is it good for the court to be sharply out of step with the national consensus. That’s bad for the institution and bad for the country. The court’s makeup is determined by the electoral landscape (control of the presidency and the Senate). But its rulings — on gerrymandering, on campaign finance, on voting rights — help define the contours of that landscape.”

More on the voting wars

Five red states refuse to make any accommodations because of covid-19.

“Coronavirus cases are rising again in Texas, but most voters fearful of infection are not allowed to cast ballots by mail. For the limited number who qualify with a separate excuse, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott restricted drop-off locations to one per county. And when the Democratic stronghold of Harris County took steps to make voting easier, GOP leaders sued local officials,” Elise Viebeck and Arelis Hernández report. “Texas is one of five red states that emerged as conspicuous holdouts this year as the rest of the country rushed to loosen voting rules because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of the roughly 30 million registered voters who live there and in Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee have no choice but to cast ballots in person this fall."

In Harris County, which includes Houston, voters are turning out in droves despite the barriers erected by Republicans: "Nearly 7.4 million Texans had already cast their ballots at of late Monday — exceeding the state’s total 2016 early vote by nearly 3 million. … Despite the surge in turnout, voting rights advocates said the rules in these states limit access to the ballot box for less-privileged groups, including younger voters, people of color and, this year, people with medical conditions that leave them more vulnerable to the coronavirus.”

  • Ohio’s drop-box dispute shows how voting rights groups and Democrats fear Trump’s influence. (Michael Kranish)
  • Some desperate absentee voters from Pennsylvania and other key states who have not received their ballots in the mail are flying home to vote. (Teo Armus
  • Federal judges have so far declined to halt $400 million in grants to city and county election administrators from Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, despite a conservative law firm's efforts to overturn them. Federal judges have declined to halt the funding to counties in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Iowa and South Carolina, saying they see no partisan tilt in the grants, which were also given to many rural and Republican counties. (Joseph Marks)
  • A federal judge rejected the Justice Department’s bid to make the U.S. government the defendant in a defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says Trump raped her several years ago, paving the way for the case to again proceed. “In a 59-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan wrote that Trump did not qualify as a federal ‘employee’ under federal law, nor was he acting ‘within the scope of his employment’ when he denied during interviews in 2019 that he had raped journalist E. Jean Carroll more than two decades ago in a New York City department store,” Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett report.

The Supreme Court has issued most of its voting orders with no explanation.

“At least nine times since April, the Supreme Court has issued rulings in election disputes. Or perhaps ‘rulings’ is too generous a word for those unsigned orders, which addressed matters as consequential as absentee voting during the pandemic in Alabama, South Carolina and Texas, and the potential disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of people with felony convictions in Florida. Most of the orders, issued on what scholars call the court’s ‘shadow docket,’ did not bother to supply even a whisper of reasoning,” Adam Liptak notes in the New York Times. “The orders were responses to emergency applications, and they were issued quickly, without full briefing or oral arguments (hence the ‘shadow docket’).”

  • “This idea of unexplained, unreasoned court orders seems so contrary to what courts are supposed to be all about,” said Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a law professor at Harvard. “If courts don’t have to defend their decisions, then they’re just acts of will, of power. They’re not even pretending to be legal decisions.”
  • “The political branches of government claim legitimacy by election, judges by reason,” Judge Frank Easterbrook explained in 2000. “Any step that withdraws an element of the judicial process from public view makes the ensuing decision look more like fiat, which requires compelling justification.” 

Guns at voting sites are emerging as a flash point in Michigan.

“Many Americans will be able to show up at their polling locations with guns, something that has unnerved law enforcement officials and experts nationwide at a time of pitched anxiety over whether clashes or violence could break out before, on or after Election Day,” Mark Berman reports. “According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which supports stricter gun laws, six states and D.C. ban firearms at polling locations entirely, while another four ban concealed weapons at these spots. Guns might also be outlawed at some polling locations by virtue of where they are housed, such as a church or a school … 

"Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) invoked the possibility of voter intimidation when she announced … that she was banning openly carried firearms in any polling place as well as ‘within 100 feet of any entrance to a building in which a polling place is located.’ … Her move prompted a lawsuit from three pro-gun rights groups, who … argued that her directive was ‘conjured without any legal basis or authorization under Michigan law.’ … Benson’s directive also prompted some pushback from law enforcement officials, including Michael J. Murphy, sheriff of Livingston County, Mich., who said in a video statement on Facebook that he would not enforce Benson’s directive: ‘I’m a law enforcement officer, not a directive enforcement officer.’”

  • The Department of Homeland Security’s immigration agencies – ICE and Customs and Border Protection – are preparing for civil unrest surrounding the election. (CNN)
  • Citing a history of voter suppression, Black Marylanders turned out to vote in person during the state’s first day of early voting. Across the state, lines snaked out of venues that had never before hosted polling places, including Orioles Park in Baltimore. (Ovetta Wiggins, Rebecca Tan, Rachel Chason and Erin Cox)
  • Twitter added new warnings about misinformation to the top of people's timelines in the election's runup. “You might encounter misleading information about voting by mail,” one prompt says. Another reminds users that election results might be delayed because of the increase in voting by mail. (Rachel Lerman)
  • David Byler and Alyssa Rosenberg prepared a “survival guide to election night and beyond,” in 17 questions and answers.

While you were sleeping

Protests grip Philly overnight after police killed a Black man.

“The Philadelphia Police Department said two officers fatally shot [27-year-old] Walter Wallace Jr. several times Monday afternoon after he refused to drop [a] knife as his mother followed closely behind, trying to restrain him. But Wallace’s family and local activists pointed to cellphone video of the shooting, asking why officers didn’t use less lethal weapons to try to subdue him,” Katie Shepherd reports. “‘Why didn’t they use a Taser?’ Walter Wallace Sr., his father, asked the Philadelphia Inquirer, noting that his son was on medication. ‘He has mental issues. Why you have to gun him down?’ In the hours after the shooting, about 300 protesters massed in the streets, facing down officers in riot gear who pushed them back with shields and batons. As the night wore on, multiple businesses were looted, a police vehicle was set ablaze, and at least 12 officers were injured, including one who was hospitalized with a broken leg after being struck by a truck, WTXF reported early Tuesday. Philadelphia officials have called for a full investigation of the shooting, but also asked the public to remain patient as investigators determine whether the officers violated any policies or laws.”

  • The Silverado Fire has forced about 90,000 people to evacuate in Irvine, Calif. The fire grew to 7,200 acres, threatening numerous homes. (Andrew Freedman)
  • Hurricane Zeta intensified overnight, becoming a hurricane as it drew nearer to Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. The system is likely to make landfall across the northern Gulf Coast tomorrow. (Matthew Cappucci)
  • Eleven people sued New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and his police department over their handling of racial justice protests earlier this year, saying their rights were violated when law enforcement employed heavy-handed tactics to quell demonstrations. (Shayna Jacobs)
  • George Floyd, whose death on Memorial Day sparked those protests, was stopped by police or charged at least 19 times in his adult life, according to records, an experience uncommon for most Americans, unless you're a Black man. (Arelis Hernández)
  • The superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute resigned after Black cadets described relentless racism at the nation’s oldest state-supported military college. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) ordered an independent probe of the school’s culture. Retired Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III had been superintendent since 2003. (Ian Shapira)

More on the coronavirus

Hospitals in nearly every region are reporting a flood of covid-19 patients. 

More than 62,000 new infections were reported nationwide on Monday, bringing the total since February to at least 8,667,000. “More than 42,000 people were hospitalized nationally with the virus Monday, a figure that is steadily climbing toward the midsummer peak caused by massive outbreaks in the Sun Belt. In the places hit the hardest, this is nudging hospitals toward the nightmare scenario of rationing care,” Joel Achenbach, Karin Brulliard, Brittany Shammas and Jacqueline Dupree report. “Forty-one states and Puerto Rico have more hospitalized covid-19 patients now than at the end of September, and 22 of those states have seen increases in excess of 50 percent, according to health data analyzed by The Post. … Rural America is particularly vulnerable. In the entire state of North Dakota, only 25 intensive care unit beds remained staffed and available Monday in the 11 hospitals that have ICUs, according to state data. Even hospital officials in places not yet in a full-blown crisis are looking with concern at the national trends, worried about a potential drain of experienced nurses who may be lured to other parts of the country to help combat outbreaks.”

The contagion is spreading like wildfire into the nation’s last untouched areas.

“Few places would seem better able to ride out an infectious-disease pandemic than Petroleum County, Mont., whose 500 people spread over 1,656 square miles, much of it public lands and cattle ranches. For most of the year, it did just that,” Brulliard reports. “Then came October. Three residents tested positive, knocking Petroleum off zero-case lists, forcing the county’s lone school to close for a week and proving, as Sheriff Bill Cassell put it, that ‘eventually we were going to get it,’ and that the virus ‘ain’t gone yet.’ That is a lesson people in many other wide-open places have been learning as the coronavirus surges anew. Months after it raced in successive waves along the nation’s coasts and through the Sun Belt, it is reaching deep into its final frontier — the most sparsely populated states and counties, where distance from others has long been part of the appeal and this year had appeared to be a buffer against a deadly communicable disease.”

  • Seven Republican lawmakers in the Arkansas Capitol tested positive. State Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, 76, whose son is the state’s surgeon general and whose husband is a chief physician specialist at the Arkansas Department of Health, is the latest to be stricken. (Jaclyn Peiser)
  • Nearly half the inmates in South Dakota’s prison system have tested positive. Out of 3,138 prisoners spread across nine facilities, 1,555 had tested positive as of Monday. (Antonia Farzan)
  • At least 20 people who attended a South Carolina “shag dancing” event in September have contracted the coronavirus and another five have died, the Myrtle Beach Sun News reports. The event, hosted by a beach club, received approval from the state. 

Trump further ties his reelection bid by falsely declaring the danger is fading.

“Over the past week, the nation has suffered a 20 percent increase in new diagnosed cases, a 13 percent rise in hospitalizations and an 11 percent rise in daily deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, with the seven-day average of new cases reaching its highest level ever. The increase has been driven by spread in rural communities and northern states, including Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and parts of Michigan, all of which could play a decisive role in the presidential contest,” Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey report. "Trump nonetheless argued in three Pennsylvania rallies — where thousands gathered without social distancing or consistent mask-wearing — that the viral danger has been exaggerated by the news media and that Democratic politicians, including the governors of several swing states, had imposed unnecessary restrictions on large gatherings for political reasons. … ‘It’s ending anyway,’ Trump said of the virus at an outdoor stop in Allentown, Pa. …

"In a stark contrast to Trump’s packed campaign schedule, Joe Biden, who tested negative for the virus again Monday, traveled for a single unannounced campaign stop in Chester, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, where he addressed reporters. ‘The bottom line is, Donald Trump is the worst possible president, the worst possible person, to try to lead us through this pandemic,’ Biden said. … Biden said he plans travel in the coming week to Iowa, Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia and possibly other states. …

“Trump has been pushing aides, in conversations on Air Force One and from the White House residence, to schedule more campaign rallies for the final stretch — hoping to do four or five a day. Aides say his travel is likely to focus heavily on Midwest states — Pennsylvania and Wisconsin chief among them. The president has become convinced, aides said, that people are tired of the coronavirus and of staying home. … While Trump traveled the Keystone State, Pence appeared at a closely packed outside event in Minnesota, the state the White House coronavirus task force he chairs categorized on Oct. 18 as in the ‘red zone for cases,’ the highest level, with the 19th-highest rate of covid-19 spread in the country. Nonetheless, many in his audience did not wear masks.” 

Trump appears to be planning an election night party at his D.C. hotel. Over the past few days, the campaign has pushed out fundraising emails offering donors the chance to enter a drawing “to join Team Trump at the Election Night Party in my favorite hotel." It’s unclear how big the party will be. D.C. rules cap mass gatherings at 50 people. (AP)

White House insiders blame Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for making the pandemic response worse.

“Meadows, after seven months on the job, has developed a close and durable relationship with Trump, who regularly calls his top aide eight or 10 times a day,” Dawsey reports. “Many of those with whom he works, however, say the former House lawmaker has struggled with the management challenges of the chief-of-staff position — sending mixed messages in stimulus negotiations, bungling aspects of Trump’s recent coronavirus hospitalization and regularly failing to communicate inside the West Wing and with many other parts of the administration. … This accounting is based on interviews with 18 White House officials, Trump advisers, Capitol Hill aides and others … Meadows, for his part, has told others that he consults ‘The Gatekeepers,’ a book on presidential chiefs of staff by Chris Whipple. … ‘It’s hard to count the ways Meadows has failed as chief of staff,’ Whipple said. ‘It’s been an unmitigated disaster.’ …

Frustrations in the West Wing boiled over earlier this month when Trump went to Walter Reed … Four senior administration officials said there was no communication for several days from Meadows to the staff about the president’s condition; whether the West Wing would partially close and whether they should work from home; what precautions were in place after the widespread infections; or how many other staffers had the virus. Meadows slept near Trump at Walter Reed in an ICU bed and largely kept his communication limited to the president …

Earlier this year, aides say, Meadows tried to move the president’s schedule away from the coronavirus and ‘move on,’ in the words of a senior administration official with direct knowledge of internal discussions. He has not usually attended meetings of the coronavirus task force, officials said, and has battled with infectious-disease director Anthony S. Fauci and other administration scientists. Meadows has encouraged large campaign events and has not forced staff to follow all CDC guidelines, leaving some allies, such as Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA commissioner, saying that the chief of staff should have done more to protect the president. He also has helped empower Scott Atlas, a Fox News commentator and radiologist who espouses disputed theories, in the West Wing. …

People close to Trump say the president likes Meadows because he executes the president’s wishes … For example, Meadows was heavily involved this summer in the deployment of the military across Washington after nights of protests … Some aides in the White House say that such key offices as the Domestic Policy Council are largely dormant under Meadows. He has pursued some policies, such as a bid to create $200 drug cards for Medicare recipients ahead of the election, largely on his own; aides note those cards have now come under legal scrutiny and won’t be delivered before Election Day. A number of aides said it was unclear how policy was made in the West Wing under his tenure. Meadows has been a deeply political chief of staff, regularly reviewing campaign data with Trump, attending fundraisers and approving campaign travel. Meadows is particularly involved in legislative affairs and has cut Amy Swonger, the head of the office, out of most meetings with Trump. Meadows has told members of Congress to instead interact with John Fleming, his senior adviser…”

Quote of the day

“In retrospect, I wish the president might have turned his marketing genius from his red MAGA hats to red MAGA masks,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). (AP)

CDC staffers say morale inside the agency has plummeted. 

“‘The house is not only on fire,’ said a veteran CDC staffer who did not want to be named for fear of retribution. ‘We're standing in ashes,’” NBC News reports. “Current and former CDC employees said that career staffers are still struggling to influence key decisions about the pandemic … but that they are overruled by Trump appointees when politics intrudes. … A current staffer said that during a recent Zoom call, a supervisor went so far as to instruct CDC staff members to be loyal to the Constitution, not to the president. Another current employee said: ‘I don't know if the damage to our reputation can be overcome with a new administration. I worry it's a permanent problem.’” 

  • “The Trump administration this week will announce a plan to cover the out-of-pocket costs of Covid-19 vaccines for millions of Americans who receive Medicare or Medicaid, said four people with knowledge of the pending announcement,” Politico reports
  • Delta, United and Alaska Airlines have banned more than 900 passengers for not wearing masks. (Shannon McMahon)
  • Struggling California restaurants are arguing that the state should return the money that they’ve paid for liquor licenses and health permits while the pandemic prevents them from being open. (Farzan)
  • D.C. says 190,000 people have activated a new contact-tracing tool on their smartphones since the city joined a new program operated by Apple and Google, making the city one of the few that have most quickly embraced the technology. (Julie Zauzmer
  • The Big Ten’s 21-day rule for positive test could make its first major impact after Wisconsin freshman quarterback Graham Ertz tested positive a day after his record-setting debut. (Matt Bonesteel)
  • The head of the World Health Organization urged governments to “not give up” on trying to contain the pandemic in an implicit dig at Meadows. The WHO's director-general noted that countries like Australia have figured out how to stop the spread and suggested the United States could learn from them. (Antonia Farzan)
  • Russia recorded more than 17,000 new cases on Monday, a record one-day increase. The country announced a series of new restrictions while still stopping short of the strict stay-at-home order it had in spring. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
  • Case counts in much of Canada keep climbing, and authorities are pointing to Thanksgiving gatherings as a cause. Canadian Thanksgiving, celebrated two weeks ago on the second Monday of October, provides a cautionary tale for Americans. Officials advised Canadians to curtail plans, but many ignored that advice. (Amanda Coletta)

The economy is great for the superrich – but not so much for the rest of us.

“Several major brands, including Hertz Global, J.C. Penney and Neiman Marcus, doled out millions in executive bonuses just before filing for Chapter 11 protection, according to a Post analysis of regulatory filings and court documents,” Abha Bhattarai and Daniela Santamariña report. “Since the pandemic took hold in March, at least 18 large companies have rewarded executives with six- and seven-figure payouts before asking bankruptcy courts to shield them from landlords, suppliers and other creditors while they restructured … They collectively meted out more than $135 million … while listing $79 billion in debts. Labor experts and bankruptcy attorneys say the payouts are particularly egregious — and unjustifiable — during an economic crisis, and were timed to bypass a 2005 law passed specifically to prevent executives from prospering while their companies flailed. …

“Utobia Hornbuckle, 49, lost her job at Chuck E. Cheese’s corporate office near Dallas just as the nation was preparing to shut down. The part-time position booking birthday parties had been just enough to lift her out of homelessness, she said, allowing her to afford a motel room. She’d hoped it would eventually help her into a one-bedroom apartment that she could share with her daughter and three grandchildren. … But on March 17, she was furloughed from her $12.50-an-hour job. Six months later, she was among dozens of corporate employees laid off … During that time, Chuck E. Cheese’s parent company filed for bankruptcy, citing $2 billion in debt. But first it awarded nearly $3 million in bonuses to top executives, including $1.3 million to chief executive David McKillips, who had been with the company less than five months.”

The Trump appointee running the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation is embroiled in controversy over the $765 million loan he tried to give Kodak, which was intended to transform the domestic photography company into a pharmaceutical firm, the Times reports. “The Securities and Exchange Commission is probing allegations of insider trading by Kodak executives ahead of the deal’s announcement, and the Development Finance Corporation’s inspector general is looking into how Kodak got the loan.” The funding is currently on hold and Trump, who hailed the deal as “momentous,” is trying to distance himself. The head of the agency is friends with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

More companies are sending jobs overseas than when Trump took office. “The Carrier plant in Indianapolis is where outsourcing was supposed to have stopped. Within days of winning the 2016 election, Trump persuaded the company — in return for $7 million in Indiana state incentives and some presidential goodwill — to keep in the United States most of the 1,100 jobs it had planned to ship to Mexico,” David Lynch reports. “Trump advertised Carrier’s Dec. 1, 2016, announcement that it would preserve about 800 jobs in Indianapolis as a decisive break from decades of U.S. executives capitalizing on lower labor costs overseas at the expense of blue-collar workers at home. Four years later, it has proved to be nothing of the sort. This year alone, Indiana employers have sent more jobs to Mexico, China, India and other foreign countries than were saved at Carrier. Without headlines or presidential notice, at least 17 companies … have closed plants or otherwise reduced employment in Indiana and moved jobs abroad, according to U.S. Department of Labor filings.”

Americans’ debts are mounting, putting a new focus on Biden’s role opposing bankruptcy protections. An expected surge in bankruptcy filings has renewed a debate about the legacy of a 2005 law backed by Biden. (Douglas MacMillan and Jonathan O'Connell)

More on the election

Can Biden pull off an upset in Georgia? 

“The last time a Democratic nominee for president won Georgia, ‘Wayne’s World’ was a box office hit, Boyz II Men topped the charts and Senate hopeful Jon Ossoff was 5 years old,” Sean Sullivan and Toluse Olorunnipa report. “On Tuesday, Biden will campaign there, sending the strongest signal yet that Democrats are serious about trying to shake the Republican Party’s decades-long grip on the second most populous state in the Deep South… The Biden camp is pinning its hopes on demographic shifts and rising anger with [Trump]. … Its two competitive Senate races could determine which party controls the chamber, and the state also hosts a pair of closely watched House races and a fierce battle for control of the statehouse. … An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released Monday illustrated how close the state has become, with Biden winning 47 percent of likely voters and Trump taking 46 percent."

  • Jaime Harrison is is betting on a “New South” coalition in his against-the-odds bid to oust South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. (Robert Samuels
  • Democrats are targeting districts in Trump territory as the party grows optimistic about expanding its House majority. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is airing TV ads in 11 GOP districts that Trump won by double digits in 2016. (Paulina Firozi and Rachael Bade)
  • Trump holds a narrow lead in Texas, 47 percent to 43 percent, according to a New York Times-Siena College poll. Sen. John Cornyn (R) holds a larger, 10-point lead over Democrat M.J. Hegar. 

A Trump appointee resigns over the president’s order removing civil service protections.

“The order, which could affect tens of thousands or more career positions involved in making or carrying out policy, ‘is nothing more than a smoke screen for what is clearly an attempt to require the political loyalty of those who advise the President, or failing that, to enable their removal with little if any due process,’ Ronald Sanders wrote in his letter of resignation Sunday from the Federal Salary Council,” Eric Yoder reports. "Sanders has served in federal personnel positions across four decades, starting as a local labor relations officer for management and then holding senior positions at the Defense Department, the Internal Revenue Service, the Office of Personnel Management and in the intelligence community, among other roles.”

  • The White House released a new plan for seismic tests in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska as a prelude for drilling for oil there. (NYT)
  • The Office of Special Counsel is looking into whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo violated the Hatch Act with his speech to the Republican National Convention from Jerusalem. (Daily Beast)
  • During an August 2015 interview with New York’s AM970, Kayleigh McEnany praised Biden as a “funny and likable” “man of the people” who resonates with “middle class voters” over Trump, who she called a “tycoon.” The woman who is now White House press secretary said back then that Biden had a better chance of beating Trump in 2016 than Clinton. (CNN)

Trump is sparking a rise of Patriot Churches. 

“The new congregation is gathered in a barn in Lenoir City, Tenn., with a roof that has a 60-foot American flag painted on it. And they are praying for a Trump landslide,” Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports. “This is a Patriot Church, part of an evolving network of nondenominational start-up congregations that say they want to take the country back for God. While most White conservative Christian churches might only touch on politics around election time and otherwise choose to keep the focus during worship on God, politics and religion are inseparable here. … The Patriot Churches belong to what religion experts describe as a loosely organized Christian nationalist movement that has flourished under Trump. In just four years, he has helped reshape the landscape of American Christianity by elevating Christians once considered fringe, including Messianic Jews, preachers of the prosperity gospel and self-styled prophets.”

Social media speed read

McConnell’s Democratic challenger in Kentucky attacked the majority leader for leaving Washington until the election without passing an economic relief bill after the vote to confirm Barrett:

A CNN reporter said Kavanaugh took a law professor’s argument out of context in his concurring opinion on the Wisconsin case:

D.C. has a new memorial for coronavirus victims: 

A CNN reporter replied to Trump's criticism of how the media is covering the coronavirus:

Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, said many in the Black community don't “want to be successful.” Many had responses like this one from Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.):

Videos of the day

Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush never faced a pandemic, but both came to understand what a major global health crisis could mean for the United States, and each took steps to prepare. In part one of a three-part documentary produced by our video team, Kenneth Bernard, Tommy Thompson, Mike Leavitt, and Frances Townsend discuss how both administrations attempted to take precautions, from the creation of the Strategic National Stockpile in 1999 to the passage of the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act in 2006, which fast-tracked the manufacture of vaccines:

There is water on the moon’s surface, and ice may be widespread in its many shadows, according to a pair of new studies published in the journal Nature Astronomy:

Seth Meyers said the Trump administration has given up: 

Stephen Colbert said Trump won’t let covid stop his campaign: 


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