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“There’s not much of a margin for error. But we don’t have much error,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). “We have our [party] meetings and no one has ever gotten up and made the case for why we should do this after the election.”

“There’s going to be plenty of time, plenty of time for both the nominee and the committee for questions, plenty of time to vote. I’m not worried about the timing,” added Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who serves on the Judiciary Committee. “I’m obviously not Mitch McConnell, but I think we’ll have a vote before the election.”

The two leading contenders for the nomination, Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa, are both Circuit Court judges who have already been confirmed by most sitting Republican senators. Republicans argue that those candidates are almost pre-vetted, allowing them to be confirmed more quickly than someone unknown.

Confirming either one would lock in a conservative majority on the Supreme Court for a generation. And it would avoid any risks that might come with a lame duck confirmation, such as losing a Senate seat in Arizona that narrows the GOP majority or conducting a confirmation after being defeated in the election.

Democrats counter that a Supreme Court confirmation deserves more scrutiny than a Circuit Court seat. After all, President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland had been confirmed as a Circuit judge with a big bipartisan vote, but McConnell blocked his high court appointment in 2016.

Barrett in particular could move quickly given her vetting for a vacant Supreme Court seat in 2018 and her rock-solid support on the party’s right wing. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), the two GOP members most supportive of abortion rights and likely to be skeptical of Barrett’s socially conservative views, are the only two in the party opposed to a quick confirmation. Since Trump and GOP leaders don’t need either centrist Republican senator, Barrett pretty much already has the 51 other votes locked up, pending any new revelations.

Of course, no senators planned for Brett Kavanaugh to be accused of sexual assault during his Supreme Court fight in 2018. And Democrats are sure to do whatever they can to slow down the nomination, both through their limited procedural tools and through the vetting process in the Judiciary Committee. A delay of just a few days could make a big difference on timing for a vote with Election Day barely a month away.

But getting Republicans to slow down at all will prove to be a herculean task. A Democratic senator, who asked for anonymity to explain a lengthy recent private conversation with Graham, said there’s simply no talking them out of it right now.

“He and Trump and McConnell are fully committed to barreling ahead,” the senator said. The senator said Democrats’ message will be this: “Push back, push back, push back, and say, ‘we shouldn’t be doing this. We ought to be delivering relief, we ought to be delivering a response to the pandemic.’”

Senate Republicans are preparing for Democrats’ dilatory tactics, including forcing a series of roll call votes on the Senate floor that Republicans would have to win to keep the nomination moving forward in the Judiciary Committee. That could spoil campaign season for incumbent GOP senators, and McConnell has already told his members to be prepared to be in D.C. to bat down floor votes from the 47-member Democratic minority.

“I understand from the leader that there might be multiple votes that require 51 people present in the Senate chamber, so there’s going to be a premium on people actually being physically present,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). McConnell “has told us that there might be a lot of that back and forth that will require physical voting.”

McConnell eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in 2017, so Democrats are limited in what they can do to stall. They can try to cut off committee hearings early, for example, with floor votes. But as long as McConnell has a few more members in town than Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrats can’t win unless they get Republicans to think twice about moving forward.

Asked whether he doubted McConnell could get it done in the next month, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) replied: “Give him an hour on the floor.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said the only way to prevail is to treat the nomination like Democrats’ battle against Obamacare repeal and bring the fight outside the halls of the Capitol and into competitive Senate races.

“People across the country have 30 days to reach out to Republican members of the Senate and tell them not to do this,” Stabenow said. “I know it’s a shorter timeframe, but I don’t start from the assumption that it’s impossible to have four people stand up.”

Republicans say they have some slack built into their schedule, which currently points to a late October confirmation. But not much. And Democrats expect little time to mount their pressure campaign.

“This outcome is baked. We know what’s going to be. It’s already baked in,” said incumbent Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who opposed Kavanaugh and is the most vulnerable senator this fall. “That was not the case with Kavanaugh.”

A replay of the weeklong delay that took place on Kavanaugh’s confirmation for an FBI investigation into sexual assault allegations, for example, would probably push a confirmation past the election. And there’s little appetite for that among this year’s Senate GOP, which says that unlike Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee already has the votes to be confirmed.

“It will all have to fall into place. But I think a lot of the variables were eliminated, especially in terms of who may or may not vote for [her]. That’s pretty clear,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.). “That’s a little different than it was back with Kavanaugh.”

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Democrats elect Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney to lead campaign arm

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As incoming DCCC chief, Maloney will have one of the trickiest jobs in Washington after the Democrats’ down-ballot trouncing at the polls last month that left Republicans between five and seven seats away from the majority. He will have to convince dozens of new candidates to run in a potentially unfavorable environment and in districts that have yet to be drawn.

Maloney will be immediately inserted into the center of an ideological debate that has gripped House Democrats since Nov 3., with the caucus’s warring factions pointing fingers at each other over exactly why they’re staring down a shrunken majority come January.

Many moderate Democrats — who largely supported Maloney for his ability to win in a Trump-won district — are demanding a new party message that veers starkly away from the GOP’s attacks on socialism and progressive slogans like “defund the police.”

Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, are dissecting the internal gears at DCCC, arguing that the operation needs to rely on more diverse staff and consultants, devote more resources to get-out-the-vote efforts and completely rethink its digital operations.

Many progressives, particularly lawmakers of color, had flocked behind Cárdenas, who proved to be a prolific fundraiser and organizer as he built the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s campaign arm, BOLD Pac, from the ground up. And he staked his campaign on a vow to Democrats’ increasingly apparent struggles with Latino. The party suffered surprising losses in heavily Latino seats in Florida, Texas and California.

Cárdenas was vocal about reforming some of DCCC’s practices, including ending a contentious policy that banned the organization from hiring any consultant that has helped a primary challenger of a sitting Democrat — a practice that enraged progressives.

Maloney has acknowledged concerns with messaging and said he would reconsider the DCCC blacklist, though he has been mostly restrained — both publicly and privately — in his assessment of DCCC’s miscalculations.

“The smart thing for the DCCC chair to do is to say, I don’t know what happened until I’ve really had a chance to dig into the numbers,” Maloney said in a recent interview.

As chair, Maloney will have an additional task of shepherding members through the decennial redistricting process, which is fraught with politics and internal bickering, particularly in states that are on track to lose a seat. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that the Census Bureau will almost certainly not be able to release its reapportionment data in December, delaying states ability to draw new maps.

It’s entirely possible that redistricting alone creates enough red-friendly seats to place Republicans in the majority in 2022. The GOP has total control of the process in many key states, including Texas, Florida and North Carolina, which could have a combined total of 82 seats.

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.

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Students May Not Be Allowed To Return To University For Five Weeks After Christmas To Prevent Spreading Coronavirus Round Campus

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Many students can only begin to return to campus at the end of January, and some not until 5 week into the spring term

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Students who go home for Christmas may have to wait five weeks into the spring term before they can return to campus.

That is according to new government coronavirus guidance, which says the measure “is to minimise transmission risks from the mass movement of students”.

The plan says those on practical or medical courses should be allowed to come back on a staggered basis over three weeks from 4 January.

But for those who do not have work, clinical or practical placements or on “courses requiring access to specialist or technical equipment”, they should not begin to go back until 25 January at the earliest, and should be spread out over a fortnight until 7 February.

As most universities plan to end their spring term after 12 weeks on 26 March, some students may be away from campus for almost half of that time.

And with the education department guidance on going home for Christmas stating people should return between tomorrow and 9 December, some students may be off-campus for more than two months.

Professor Glen O’Hara, who teaches modern and contemporary history at Oxford Brookes university criticised the plans, tweeting: “It is a total joke and an insult to hard-working lecturers and students. 

“It is badly-written, badly-planned and a complete mess. Disgusting.”

The document to higher education providers, published this afternoon, states: “The government is committed to prioritising education and wants to enable all students, including those who have travelled home for the winter break, to return to university and resume blended learning. 

“While we are confident that the face-to-face teaching element of blended learning can be done in COVID-secure environments, the mass movement of students across the country poses a greater risk for the transmission of infection between areas.

“It is important that measures are taken to manage the return to university carefully, to protect students, staff and local communities, while reducing disruption to education. 

“This guidance sets out how we will support HE providers to enable students to return as safely as possible following the winter break, by staggering this process and to facilitate testing for all.”

Providers are advised that: “The return of students should be staggered over 5 weeks – this is to minimise transmission risks from the mass movement of students.”

It also states universities must offer “asymptomatic mass testing to all students on their return”, and says if they are using lateral flow tests then they should be tested twice, the second one three days after their arrival.

The guidance on who can return says “from 4 January to week commencing 18 January 2021 HE providers should allow those students on practical courses to return to campus in line with their planned start dates”.

It adds: “The remaining courses should be offered online from the beginning of term so that students can continue their studies from home. 

“HE providers should plan for students to return gradually from 25 January, over a 2-week period.”

Students are also told to “use private transport wherever possible and only use public transport if they have no other option”, and universities should encourage people to “avoid car sharing with anyone outside their household or support bubble”.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said:   “The health and wellbeing of students, staff and local communities is always our primary concern and this plan will enable a safer return for all students. But we must do this in a way which minimises the risk of transmission.

“I know students have had to make sacrifices this year and have faced a number of challenges, but this staggered return will help to protect students, staff and communities.

“It is so important students have the support they need to continue their education, which is why we are providing up to £20m funding for those facing hardship in these exceptional times.”

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Joe Biden: Covid vaccination in US will not be mandatory

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Mr Biden, and state governors who would be on the front lines of any such mandate, might prefer to target only certain segments of the population more at risk of contracting or spreading Covid-19. For instance, employers could be encouraged to require healthcare and nursing home workers to be immunised, and most children already must have up-to-date shot records before attending public or private schools.

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