The state of American politics:
1. THE PRESIDENT HAS CORONAVIRUS. Not only that, but the virus was perculating through Trump’s inner-circle at Tuesday’s debate, potentially exposing Joe Biden and his family and staff. Biden has tested negative as of this morning, but experts say a test may not be conclusive for another few days. Trump is already demonstrating mild symptoms. Every coronavirus case is different and it’s impossible to predict how Trump’s recovery will go. We do know Trump is in several risk categories for the virus. The WHO lists the average recovery time for mild coronavirus cases as two weeks, with 3–6 weeks for more severe cases. With the election in less than five weeks, there’s a real chance Trump will be absent for the rest of the campaign. Aides are preparing a slew of virtual events, but that’s all based on the assumption that Trump’s case will remain minor. Medical research from Europe indicates that a 74-year-old COVID patient has a 1 in 25 moltarity rate. Trump has not tweeted or made a public statement since he announced his diagnosis last night.
2. IN THE HOUSE, Democrats and Republicans are increasingly close to agreeing on an additional round of coronavirus relief. House Leader Nancy Pelosi has signaled a new willingness to provide relief to airline employees even through a standalone bill, a depature from her previous position. Acknowledging that Trump’s diagnosis “changes the dynamic” of negotiating a deal with Republicans, Pelosi told CNBC that she was optimistic a deal could still be made with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Mnuchin has offered a $1.6 trillion package, while Democrats in the House passed a $2.2 trillion bill last night. That’s significantly less than the trillions of dollars apart the two parties were in the past few weeks. The always-essential Washington Post economics reporter Jeff Stein says that sources on the Hill are “most bullish I’ve heard” about reaching a deal. Specifics of what relief will be passed in the package is unclear, but it’s expected to include another round of $1,200 direct payments with similar elegability requirements as what passed in the Spring.
3. IN THE SENATE, Mitch McConnell’s dream of a fast confirmation for Supreme Court justice Barrett is hitting serious roadblocks. In his statement wishing the President a speedy recovery, McConnell reinstated his intention of waving in Barrett as quickly as possible. Hours later, Senator Mike Lee announced he tested positive for cornavirus. Lee has been an active and often unmasked presence on the Senate floor over the past week. He also attended the President’s nomination ceremony for Barrett last Saturday, where he appears to have gone on a big old hug spree with a bunch of fellow Republicans. The Senate Republican cacucus, which is very old, is reportedly getting skittish about remaining in session. McConnell’s timeline for nominating Barrett before the election is already incredibly tight; a delay of any kind would likely mean Barrett couldn’t be confirmed until the Senate’s lame-duck session, a move that would be more unpopular with the public and mean Barrett couldn’t weigh in on a hypothetical Supreme Court decision involving the election.
4. IN THE SUPREME COURT, we probably don’t have to worry about Barrett getting coronavirus. That’s because she apparently already had coronavirus over the summer. Good news for Republicans! Less good news is that the Supreme Court remains engulfed in an ongoing legitmacy crisis over McConnell’s brazen political tactics. Biden continues to punt on the question of court packing, while Trump’s illness raises a number of troubling questions about what comes next in a` worst-case scenerio. A number of these nightmare scenerios would involve a judgement from the currently 4–4 split Court. In modern political history, the future of the Court has never been more in doubt.