White House pushes for pre-election SCOTUS vote

Good morning, NBC News readers.

President Donald Trump appears to have secured enough Senate support to push a vote on his Supreme Court nominee. “Zombie” storm Paulette has come back to life and Covid-19 claims another victim: Halloween.

Here’s what we’re watching this Wednesday morning.

White House gets behind idea of pushing Supreme Court nominee vote before the election

A consensus has formed within the West Wing to push for a vote on President Donald Trump’s coming Supreme Court nominee before the election, with aides and advisers saying they are increasingly optimistic that they will be able to pull off the speedy confirmation, three NBC News White House correspondents report.

Some outside advisers had initially argued that waiting to hold a vote until after Election Day could be the most politically advantageous strategy, said a person familiar with the thinking. Having the seat vacant could motivate conservatives to turn out for Trump to ensure that it got filled and save senators in tight races from having to make a controversial vote so close to the election.

But the momentum in the past 48 hours has swung toward getting a vote done as soon as possible, with those inside and outside the White House arguing that the quicker the process, the more likely they are to fill the seat, senior administration officials said.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, added to GOP confidence Tuesday when he threw his support behind Trump’s push to fill the seat vacated by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg quickly.

All eyes had been on Romney, often a Trump critic who voted to convict the president during the Senate impeachment trial earlier this year, as someone who could join Democrats to block the confirmation vote.

Trump even expressed appreciation toward his frequent foe during a rally in Pennsylvania Tuesday, saying: “Thank you, Mitt.”

To date, only two Republican senators have said it is too close to the presidential election to consider a court nomination, not enough to block it.

The president promised to “reveal” his nominee at the White House at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Meantime, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden punted on the hypothetical question of how Democrats should retaliate if Republicans manage to secure their nominee. Asked if he’d be open to expanding on the number of Supreme Court seats if given the opportunity, he demurred.

“It’s a legitimate question. But let me tell you why I’m not going to answer that question. Because it will shift the focus,” Biden said.

The former vice president also won an interesting endorsement Tuesday: Cindy McCain threw her support behind Biden in a stinging rebuke of Trump by the widow of the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee.

Trump has had a fraught relationship with members of John McCain’s family since he disparaged the Arizona senator during his 2016 campaign. But the McCains have stopped short of endorsing Trump’s rivals until now.

Cindy McCain’s backing could help Biden appeal to Republicans disaffected with Trump and give him a boost the crucial swing state that McCain represented in Congress for 35 years.

‘No way in hell’: Wary parents won’t vaccinate kids, setting up future school showdowns

As pharmaceutical companies race to manufacture a Covid-19 vaccine, many people are wary of a shot that is working its way through the approval process at record speed during a highly politicized pandemic.

While some professions could require employees to get the vaccine, experts say schools almost certainly will require students to — potentially setting the stage for a showdown between reluctant parents and education officials.

“This is going to be a huge issue, and I don’t think most people understand that yet,” said one education law attorney.

Meantime, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new warnings about Covid-19 that will make Halloween more frightful and may dash any would-be trick-or-treaters dreams.

DHS gave millions in contracts to firm where acting chief’s wife works

The consulting firm where the wife of acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf is an executive has been awarded more than $6 million in contracts from the Department of Homeland Security since September 2018, according to records on the federal government website USA Spending.

Wolf became chief of staff at the Transportation Security Administration, a DHS agency, in 2017 and chief of staff to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in 2018.

He took over as acting secretary in November and has been nominated to become secretary. His confirmation hearing before the Senate is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Wolf’s wife, Hope Wolf, is vice president of professional staff operations at Berkeley Research Group, a consulting firm. Although the company has a long history of federal contracts, it did not do work for DHS until after Wolf became the TSA’s chief of staff in 2017.

Image: CHad Wolf (Oliver Contreras / Sipa USA via AP file)
Image: CHad Wolf (Oliver Contreras / Sipa USA via AP file)

Four issues that must be resolved for Afghan peace talks to succeed

Taliban militants and delegates appointed by the Afghan government are meeting in Qatar in an attempt to end decades of war that have torn Afghanistan apart and left it reliant on foreign aid.

And as the sheen of the opening ceremony begins to fade, the huge task remains of resolving one of the world’s deadliest conflicts.

NBC News has spoken to Taliban commanders, an Afghan government negotiator and a former high-level diplomat to find out what barriers could prevent the cycle of conflict being broken.

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THINK about it

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s “Top Secret” clearance raised red flags. Here’s why it didn’t matter, Washington correspondent for The New York Times Michael S. Schmidt writes in an excerpt from his new book “Donald Trump v. the United States.”


Where are the healthiest places to live in the U.S.? The 2020 rankings revealed.


Molekule’s new Air Pro air purifier is a larger version of its full-size model, sports new features and targets professional spaces, larger homes and schools.

One fun thing

From book reports to Halloween costumes to law school inspiration, young women are speaking out about how Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg impacted and motivated them.

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Thanks, Petra

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