Pelosi Presses for a Virus Aid Bill
Biden courts military families and Latino voters in Florida, while Harris travels to California in pursuit of voters worried about climate change. 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
Nancy Pelosi is not interested in sending House lawmakers home to face discontented voters without first passing another round of legislation to fortify the coronavirus-ravaged economy.
The speaker told CNBC yesterday that she would not adjourn the House for the November elections without taking further legislative action, and in private she was blunt with fellow lawmakers. “We have to stay here until we have a bill,” she said, according to two people familiar with the comments.
In the afternoon, a bipartisan group of 50 legislators, calling themselves the House Problem Solvers Caucus, unveiled a $1.5 trillion proposal for the next round of economic relief. It seeks common ground on a number of measures that have so far left Democrats and Republicans stalemated all summer — but it also shies away from certain elements demanded by partisans on each side of the aisle. It’s altogether less ambitious than the $3 trillion legislation passed by the House in May.
The proposal is largely symbolic: Some members of the Problem Solvers Caucus have privately acknowledged it has little chance of passing. Still, it underscores the pressure that incumbents in both parties feel to address the pandemic and shore up the economy in advance of the November elections.
Bill and Melinda Gates are lobbying Congress to craft a stimulus package that includes $4 billion to help distribute a coronavirus vaccine to poor countries. A report released on Monday by their foundation argued that twice as many deaths could be avoided if vaccines were distributed based strictly on countries’ populations, rather than given to the richest countries first.
Michael Caputo, a top Health and Human Services official and former Trump campaign aide, is eating his words after a Facebook outburst in which he accused federal scientists of “sedition” and said that Joe Biden would lose the presidential election and then be responsible for left-wing violence “when Donald Trump refuses to stand down.”
Caputo apologized yesterday to his boss, Alex Azar, and their staff, and said that he was under stress because of concerns about his physical health and threats to his safety. One person close to the situation said Caputo was considering taking a leave of absence.
His online diatribe came after a series of public reports emerged detailing how Caputo and a top aide had combed through health bulletins from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and sought to edit their findings or even stop their publication, in an attempt to cast the administration in a more positive light.
In parts of the South and the Midwest, the virus is continuing to surge. This week, Kansas and Tennessee each reported their highest tallies yet of virus-related deaths in a seven-day period. And Missouri, Wisconsin and North Dakota reported record numbers of new cases. North Dakota now has the highest number of new cases per capita in the country.
The Justice Department is investigating whether John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, revealed classified information in his tell-all memoir, “The Room Where It Happened,” according to three people familiar with the matter.
Trump has long publicly attacked Bolton and has called for him to be prosecuted.
The Justice Department lost a lawsuit in June trying to stop the book’s release, on the grounds that Bolton had moved ahead with publishing it before the government was able to complete its review for classified information.
Yet the judge in that case, Royce Lamberth, also sharply criticized Bolton, saying that he was rejecting the Justice Department’s suit only because the book had already been released to the news media. “The damage is done,” Lamberth wrote. “There is no restoring the status quo.”
Trump hosted the leaders of the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Bahrain yesterday for a signing ceremony at the White House, where they adopted a new accord normalizing diplomatic relations.
Although few voters’ attention is focused on foreign affairs these days, the moment was both significant and full of spectacle — clearly meant to invoke the historic handshake that took place 25 years earlier, also on the White House’s South Lawn, between Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister, and Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader.
Until now, Israel had normal relations with only two other Arab states, Jordan and Egypt. The new agreements outline how the three countries will open embassies and forge economic ties. They don’t address the future of the Palestinians, whose fate under Israeli rule has long been a sticking point in negotiations with Arab leaders.
Kamala Harris visited her home state, California, yesterday, touring the destruction wrought by wildfires there and meeting with its governor, Gavin Newsom, a day after Trump did the same.
Unlike the president, Harris tied the fires directly to global warming. “It is incumbent on us, in terms of the leadership of this nation, to take seriously these new changes in our climate and to do what we can to mitigate against the damage,” she said.
Harris and Biden have sought to seize on the wildfires — and Trump’s unapologetic rejection of the scientific consensus on climate change — in an attempt to win over suburban voters, particularly women, who tend to show higher levels of concern about the environment in polls.
Photo of the day
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and President Trump answered questions from reporters at the White House yesterday.
Biden targets military voters and Latinos in Florida.
As Harris traveled to California, Biden went to Florida in hopes of protecting his vulnerable lead over Trump among Hispanic voters, while also possibly expanding his support among a historically Republican group whose faith in the president is being tested: military families.
Biden began his first visit to the Sunshine State as the Democrats’ presidential nominee at a community college in Tampa, holding an event focused on veterans.
As he has done repeatedly in recent speeches and campaign ads, Biden pointed to a report in The Atlantic that said Trump had privately referred to fallen American soldiers as “losers” and “suckers.”
“Quite frankly, it makes me very upset the way he gets in front of a camera and crows about how much he has done for veterans, and then turns around and insults our service members and fallen heroes when the camera’s off,” Biden said.
A Monmouth University poll released yesterday found Biden with an edge of five percentage points over Trump among likely voters in Florida. That difference was within the margin of error, but nonetheless more encouraging for the former vice president than projections in some other recent surveys of the state.
In the Monmouth poll, he was nipping at Trump’s heels among voters in military households — a key demographic in Florida, which has one of the highest concentrations of military recruits in the country. Trump had the support of 50 percent of voters in military households, and Biden had 46 percent.
When asked whether each candidate respected the military a “great deal,” 43 percent of those voters said Trump did, while 49 percent said Biden did.
The Monmouth poll provided a dose of reassuring news for Biden on another front: He was leading Trump by 26 points among Hispanic likely voters, roughly even with Hillary Clinton’s margin among this group in 2016, according to exit polls. That was a far better result for Biden than in other recent polls of Florida, which have put him and Trump roughly even among Hispanic voters.
Biden attended a Hispanic Heritage Month event in Kissimmee, Fla., last night, hours after his campaign had introduced a plan to support Puerto Rico, which has struggled to recover from a series of hurricanes and a prolonged economic downturn.
While the Trump campaign has targeted Florida’s Cuban-American population, which trends conservative, some Biden allies have privately urged him to do more to shore up his support among Hispanic voters in Florida of different backgrounds, particularly the large share with ties to Puerto Rico.
New York Times Events
The politics of fiction
This moment can be difficult to grasp. Can fiction help us to make sense of it all and better understand what lies ahead?
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