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Pelosi, who tested negative for the virus Friday, met in her speaker’s suite with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has regular contact with the president, for 90 minutes Wednesday. Mnuchin announced Friday morning he has tested negative for the disease.

Still, Trump’s positive test has set off a scramble inside the Capitol as lawmakers and aides work to determine who may be in danger after being exposed to those in the president’s orbit. And the news has set off a new round of questioning about why congressional leaders continue to refuse to implement a testing system for the Capitol complex, which encompasses hundreds of lawmakers and thousands of aides and support staff.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on the Senate to develop a testing and contact tracing program on Friday.

“We simply cannot allow the administration’s cavalier attitude to adversely affect this branch of government,” Schumer said. “It is imperative that all results be made public in order to contain a possible outbreak and so we can determine the need for Senators and staff to quarantine or self-isolate.”

Some Republicans groused that the Senate’s testing regime and schedule needed to be reevaluated. One Republican aide called the lack of tests “ridiculous,” while another said the Senate should not come into session next week: “We cannot afford to have half the caucus get sick right before the Barrett hearings. “ Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, both members of the Judiciary Committee, said Friday that they tested positive for coronavirus and will quarantine for 10 days.

While some influential Senate Republicans have also stumped for a comprehensive testing program in the Capitol, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have so far rejected it. That makes it difficult to know at the moment whether the spread of coronavirus has breached the Capitol, particularly after the Senate adjourned for the weekend and sent senators back to their home states across the country. The House held votes on Friday, though members were allowed to vote by proxy.

Moreover, Barrett has met with roughly two dozen senators since being introduced by Trump last weekend. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and counsel Pat Cipollone have attended these meetings; neither they nor Barrett have tested positive at this time. Judd Deere, a White House spokesperson, said Barrett is tested daily for coronavirus and received a negative result Friday morning.

On Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, McConnell said on Friday that he didn’t know whether any senators had the virus right now, and emphasized the importance that lawmakers follow public health guidelines. He said some of Barrett’s hearing is likely to be conducted remotely and that Trump’s diagnosis “underscores that the coronavirus is not concerned about” the election.

“It can sneak up on you as it did with the president and the first lady. So we’re keeping an eye on everyone,” McConnell said.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) rejected McConnell’s characterization. He noted the White House “has had multiple positive cases, including several people who have direct contact with Trump” and that the president still refused to wear a mask in private and public meetings.

McConnell did not commit to holding a vote on Barrett before the election, though that is his members’ stated goal. After speaking with Trump by phone, McConnell tweeted that the Senate will move “full steam ahead” on the nomination, with hearings in the Judiciary Committee scheduled to begin Oct. 12. A Republican aide confirmed there are no changes to Barrett’s schedule. The Senate will convene on Monday afternoon to vote on lower-level judicial nominees.

At an event in Kentucky later Friday, McConnell indicated again that he saw no change in plans for the Senate schedule.

“So far, the disease has not kept us from operating as we would normally and there’s no reason to expect that to be the case in the foreseeable future,” he said.

Given the number of meetings top Senate and House members have at the White House with his president and his staff, the diagnosis of the president and his aides at a minimum highlights the risk to a Capitol filled with lawmakers in their 70s and 80s particularly susceptible to the deadly pandemic’s effects.

And it’s not just congressional leaders, like Pelosi and McConnell, who have interacted with Trump aides this week.

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US citizen abducted in Niger, State Department says

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“We are aware of a US citizen abducted in Niger. We are providing their family all possible consular assistance,” a State Department spokesman said in a comment to CNN.

A US official tells CNN the individual was working in Niger as a missionary. CNN has not been able to confirm the citizen’s identity.

The governor of the local region where the abduction took place was quoted in various local media and by French media reporting from Niger as saying that six men on motorbikes armed with AK47s came to the man’s property in the village of Massalata, close to the border with Nigeria.

The governor, Abdourahamane Moussa, told these media outlets that after demanding money, the men took the American citizen with them in the direction of the Nigerian border.

The State Department spokesman said that “when a US citizen is missing, we work closely with local authorities as they carry out their search efforts, and we share information with families however we can.

“The welfare and safety of US citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State. We stand ready to provide appropriate assistance to US citizens in need and to their families. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment at this time.”

The US embassy in Niamey, Niger, did not respond to requests for comment.

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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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