Wild Senate week coming: Supreme Court fight, Twitter subpoena, and vote on virus aid

Senate lawmakers will begin consideration of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett after they revote a narrow coronavirus aid package and send a subpoena to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled last week the Senate will begin consideration of Barrett’s nomination on Oct. 23, one day after her expected approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Barrett’s confirmation hearing this week appeared to reinforce the already significant enthusiasm for her nomination from Senate Republicans, who are expected to vote nearly unanimously to confirm her by the end of October.

The Senate is expected to spend several days debating her nomination and taking procedural votes before a final vote sometime next week.

Two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, are expected to vote against bringing up the Barrett nomination. It is extremely rare for a lawmaker to vote against his or her party’s high-court nominee.

Both lawmakers said they object to the confirmation taking place so close to the Nov. 3 election.

But the GOP will be able to confirm Barrett easily with the Senate’s remaining 51 Republicans.

“We have the votes,” McConnell said this week at a Louisville press conference.

Before considering Barrett, lawmakers plan to vote again on a $500 billion coronavirus aid package that last month won nearly unanimous GOP support but was ultimately filibustered by all Democrats and one Republican.

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said he won’t bring up a $1.8 trillion package Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has offered Democrats on behalf of President Trump, who has urged Congress to “go big” on a new round of spending, “or go home.”

The Mnuchin offer is far too costly for most GOP lawmakers, who want to repurpose unspent coronavirus funding rather than continue to increase the debt with new spending.

Mnuchin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been in talks for several days on a new round of aid. Pelosi is seeking at least $2 trillion, and it appears very unlikely Congress will clear an agreement prior to the election.

According to Pelosi deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill, Mnuchin indicated Trump would try to convince McConnell to back a deal.

“The secretary indicated that the president would weigh in with Leader McConnell should an agreement be reached,” Hammill said Thursday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on the Barrett nomination on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the panel will vote to subpoena Twitter’s Dorsey, an unusual move prompted by the social media giant’s blocking of a story about alleged influence-peddling by Hunter Biden, son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Twitter this week blocked a New York Post story about alleged emails recovered from Hunter Biden’s laptop that suggest the younger Biden was securing millions of dollars in exchange for connecting a Ukraine oil company oligarch with his father.

“This is election interference, and we’re 19 days out from an election,” Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, said. “It has no precedent in the history of democracy. The Senate Judiciary Committee wants to know what the hell is going on.”

Republicans have increasingly complained about social media’s treatment of the party and in particular conservative viewpoints.

On Friday, Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican and member of the Judiciary Committee, said the panel must also subpoena Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Hawley sent a letter to Zuckerberg, inviting him to testify.

“As your company is no doubt aware, corporations are forbidden from contributing anything of value — financial or otherwise — to support the election of candidates for public office,” Hawley wrote to Zuckerberg. “Accordingly, this hearing will consider potential campaign law violations arising from your company’s decision, on October 14, 2020, to support the presidential campaign of Joe Biden by suppressing the distribution of a New York Post article entitled ‘Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad.’”

Facebook communications director Andy Stone said the story was questionable and blocked it from the site.

“While I will intentionally not link to the New York Post, I want be clear that this story is eligible to be fact checked by Facebook’s third-party fact checking partners,” Stone tweeted. “In the meantime, we are reducing its distribution on our platform.”

The validity of the emails have neither been verified nor disproven, but critics of the social media blocking point out that unproven stories about Trump were not blocked, nor were stories that had leaked information, including Trump’s tax returns or recordings of first lady Melania Trump.

Stone was once a high-ranking Democratic operative. He served as press secretary for former Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, communications director for a major Democratic political action committee, press secretary for the Senate Democratic campaign arm, and other Democratic positions.

Republicans acknowledged this week they are unsure of the validity of the New York Post story.

“The point is,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said Thursday, “the power behind these platforms has been taken to a level that truly is dangerous.”


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