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“I don’t think anything’s changed, I think Senator Schumer wants to vote in February, most of my Republican colleagues want to vote Thursday,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, who plans to attend the hearing in person. “I figure we’ll meet in the middle and vote some time before the election.”

The Republicans’ insistence that they will push forward quickly with Barrett’s confirmation comes after President Donald Trump late last week announced that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for coronavirus. At least 30 people connected to the president or the GOP have tested positive since his early Friday announcement, and two of the three senators who have the virus — Lee and Tillis — attended the Sept. 26 Rose Garden event at the White House, where Trump officially announced Barrett as his nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Johnson (R-Wis.), who revealed Saturday he has coronavirus and will stay isolated until his doctor gives him the all-clear, said in an interview with “The Ross Kaminsky Show” that he would do whatever it takes to vote for Barrett, even with a positive diagnosis.

“If we have to go in and vote, I’ve already told leadership I’ll go in a moon suit,” said Johnson, who canceled his in-state events to prevent having to go into self-quarantine before the vote. “I would certainly try to find a way, making sure that everybody was safe … where there’s a will there’s a way.”

In a sign that the confirmation process is going according to plan, the Judiciary Committee on Monday officially noticed Barrett’s hearing to begin at 9 a.m. next Monday and will run through Oct. 15. The first day will include opening statements from Barrett and several senators, the second and third day will be reserved for senators to ask questions of the nominee, and the fourth day will consist of outside experts.

Senators will have the option to attend the hearing virtually, similar to previous Judiciary Committee hearings, though Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) will appear in person.

Lee (R-Utah) and Tillis (R-N.C), who are quarantining for 10 days, sit on the committee and are expected to return for a panel vote, slated for Oct. 22. A spokesperson for Tillis said Monday that the North Carolina Republican is no longer exhibiting symptoms and continues to self-isolate.

But Senate Democrats argue that if the Senate isn’t safe enough to be in session, the Judiciary Committee also shouldn’t convene.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reiterated his calls Monday for Graham to stop Barrett’s hearing. But Schumer added that if Graham won’t delay the hearing, the South Carolina Republican should implement a testing procedure.

“Every Senator and relevant staff must have negative tests on two consecutive days and have completed the appropriate quarantining period, and there should be mandatory testing every day of the hearing,” Schumer said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) shot back at Schumer’s request to delay the hearing Monday, arguing that the Senate has held 150 hybrid hearings and therefore is well-prepared.

“It is nonsense to suggest that the tools that Senate Democrats have been happily using across all our committees for months have suddenly gone bad overnight,” McConnell said.

The battle to confirm Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee is taking place just weeks before Election Day. Democrats are calling for Senate Republicans to allow the winner of the election to fill the vacancy and have cited McConnell’s 2016 blocking of former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, from going forward. Republicans, however, have claimed the situation is different now because the GOP holds both the Senate and White House.

The latest round of coronavirus cases on Capitol Hill has renewed calls for House and Senate leadership to implement widespread testing for members and their staff. But so far, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and McConnell are not signaling any change of course.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, however, is taking precautions for next week’s hearings, including stations with personal protective gear, sanitary stations and limiting the number of people allowed to enter the hearing room.

During a call with reporters Monday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the Rules Committee, acknowledged that lawmakers will have the option of a remote hearing, but reiterated concerns about health for staffers and senators, as well as the format.

“This is for the highest court in the land,” Klobuchar said. “We should be able to go back and forth, we should be able to respond to our colleagues, which is very difficult to do remotely.”

“If it’s not safe enough for the whole Senate and Mitch McConnell, it shouldn’t be safe enough for the members of the Judiciary Committee and our staff,” she said, referencing McConnell’s announcement over the weekend to keep senators away from Washington Oct. 19.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), another member of the Judiciary Committee, accused Schumer and Democrats of trying to use delay tactics.

“They’re going to say it is different because they don’t want it to happen,” Blackburn said. “Their premise is if they won, they don’t want the Supreme Court standing in their way to implement their agenda.”

Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

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Pelosi: Covid relief deal could still happen before Election Day

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On Friday, Pelosi told CNN she sent Mnuchin a list of concerns “that we still had about ‘what is the answer?'”

“My understanding is he will be reviewing that over the weekend, and we will have some answers on Monday,” she said Sunday.

Pelosi said she’ll not hold out to see whether Democrats win the White House and the Senate and keep the House after in the Nov. 3 elections to pursue a bill more to Democrats’ liking. Instead, she said she’ll continue working to get a relief bill passed “as soon as possible.”

The speaker went on to say that a relief bill could be passed as soon as this week in the House, but that it’s up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell whether it would go to the Senate floor.

McConnell has largely steered clear of stimulus talks recently and many GOP senators are opposed to the $2 trillion deal being discussed by Pelosi and Mnuchin. On Tuesday, McConnell softened his stance a bit, saying he would allow the Senate to vote on a Pelosi-Mnuchin agreement — assuming that first Trump agrees to sign it.

Earlier Sunday on CNN, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said, “We’ve identified those Senate Republicans most likely to vote” for the relief deal to pass. But he said Republicans will not blindly pass the bill without first reading its terms fully.

“We are not Nancy Pelosi. We are not going to vote or opine on a bill and pass it before we have read it,” he said.

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one man’s reflections on what has gone wrong with ‘the family’

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Jeremy Corbyn is elected as the new leader of Labour Party, September 2015: Forde barely hides his contempt for the MPs ‘who put a Marxist on the ballot paper’. | PA Images

4 min read

At times searing in his criticism of those he holds responsible for trashing the prospects of the Labour party, Gisela Stuart finds Matt Forde’s new book both entertaining and insightful

Matt Forde’s “Politically Homeless” is like an episode from the Archers’ in the early months of the lockdown. One man’s reflections on what has gone wrong with “the family”. To be fair to Forde, unlike the Archers, he does make you laugh.

We often think of political parties as families, and there is a reason for that. We like some members more than others, every so often we have a big row, but eventually we find a way of rubbing along. And we have secrets; things which we either all know to be true, but we would rather not talk about or which we hope will go away if we ignore them long enough.  Even when things get really bad, we rarely pack our bags and, move in with the family on the other side of the road.  

Matt Forde is as entertaining as he is insightful and like many of us, he wants to get back to the days when Labour was in government, invested in Sure Start centres, schools and hospitals, introduced a national minimum wage and ended boom and bust.

Every MP or party activist who has ever screamed and shouted at Regional Office for not doing this, that or the other, would benefit from Forde’s take on what it is like to be a regional organiser. The joys and tribulations of by-elections, ministerial visits, and photo calls. Needs must, and if that means dressing up as a chicken and stalking Charles Kennedy, then so be it. He is generous in naming some MPs he’s worked with who genuinely cared about their constituents and even occasionally said “Thank you”. He thought the late Tessa Jowell “made you behave better by her just being there” and he is right.

Every MP or party activist who has ever screamed and shouted at Regional Office for not doing this, that or the other, would benefit from Forde’s take on what it is like to be a regional organiser

But he is searing in his criticism of the string of events which started with Ed Miliband trashing the achievements of the Blair/Brown governments and culminated with the party electing Jeremy Corbyn as its leader. He barely hides his contempt for the MPs who put a Marxist on the ballot paper. He wonders if those who did so to “broaden the debate” were gutted because they couldn’t find a fascist.

Anyone who is still in doubt about the mountain Labour has to climb only needs to read his chapter on Stoke on Trent. A collection of six towns, represented by three Labour MPs, where the local council was so divided that a grand coalition of Britain’s three biggest political parties could only muster a majority of one against a collection of BNP and independent councillors who were either hard-left ex-Labour or had never been part of any political party.

Corbyn’s Labour Party hoped that by ignoring the stain of antisemitism, which became attached to the party as a whole, it would just somehow go away, which of course it didn’t. But there is an even bigger secret much of today’s Labour Party tries to not talk about. It is the simple fact that the whole point of a political party is to win elections. If you are not in power then you can’t make the changes necessary to help the people you claim to care about.

Jacqui Smith, when she was chief whip, used to remind MPs that the “worst day in government was better than the best day in opposition”. Entertaining as opposition might be, it can’t be your purpose.

It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to have a good heart-to-heart with our friends about the state of the party, drown our sorrows with a glass of wine and have a good laugh, but we can give each other Forde’s book as a Christmas present.

Baroness Stuart of Edgbaston is a Non-Affiliated peer and was Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston 1997-2017

Politically Homeless by Matt Forde is published by Quercus

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Nasa moon announcement: What is on the Moon?


The US space agency, Nasa, has revealed conclusive evidence of water on the Moon.

Unlike previous detections of water in permanently shadowed parts of lunar craters, scientists have now detected the molecule in sunlit regions of the Moon’s surface.

Nasa has said it will send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024.

But what does this new discovery mean for this mission and future missions to the Moon?

What else is on the surface of the Moon?

BBC Science Correspondent Laura Foster explains.

Video by Laura Foster, Terry Saunders and Mattea Bubalo.

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