ABC - Politics News

Official White House Photo by Tia DufourBy GARY LANGER

(NEW YORK) -- Donald Trump's economic argument pushes back against Joe Biden's pitch that he can better handle the coronavirus pandemic in Florida and Arizona alike, producing closely divided presidential contests in both states in new ABC News/Washington Post polls.

The critical Arizona Senate race, where the Democrats are pinning their hopes for control of the chamber, is also essentially tied in the new survey there.

[ CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FULL RESULTS FROM THE POLL ]

Registered voters in Florida split almost precisely evenly for the president, 47%-48%, Trump versus Biden, while it's 51%-47% among those most likely to vote. In Arizona, the presidential race stands at 47%-49% among registered voters and 49%-48% among likely voters. None of these differences is statistically significant.

Ditto for the Arizona Senate contest, where a 50%-45% match among registered voters between Democrat Mark Kelly and incumbent Republican Martha McSally is a still-tighter 49%-48% among likely voters.

The result in Florida befits its swing-state status, with sharp differences across regions and demographic groups. A challenge for Biden is his tepid 13-point lead among Hispanics in the state (using registered voters for an adequate sample size); Hillary Clinton won Florida Hispanics by 27 percentage points in 2016, yet narrowly lost the state. Trump also does better than elsewhere in Florida among college-educated whites -- though far better still with their non-college counterparts.

In Arizona, the closeness of the contest is a different story, given that the state has voted for a Democratic candidate for president just once since 1952 -- in 1996. There, Biden leads 61%-34% among Hispanic registered voters, leads among independents and is stronger than in Florida with college graduates. Trump makes it back by way of an advantage in party loyalty; among Arizona likely voters, Republicans outnumber Democrats by 7 points.

In both states, while Biden is strong among moderates, fewer liberals appear as likely voters compared with the 2016 exit polls. Conservatives account for nearly 4 in 10 voters; liberals, about 2 in 10.

Interviews for this survey, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, were conducted Sept. 15 to 20, overlapping the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There were no significant differences in partisan vote preferences before and after her death.

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Official White House Photo by Shealah CraigheadBy LUKE BARR and QUINN OWEN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf is set for a confirmation hearing on Wednesday in front of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and if he is confirmed, he'll be the first Senate-confirmed secretary in more than a year.

President Donald Trump formally nominated Wolf for the Homeland Security job in August, but he has been serving as the acting secretary since November.

Last week, Wolf was subpoenaed to a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee, but did not show up -- citing his pending nomination.

Senate Homeland Security committee staff met with Wolf about his confirmation that day, two committee aides and the DHS confirmed to ABC News, but it was unclear whether the meeting took place during the time he was supposed to be testifying in front of the House Homeland Security Committee.

House Democrats had hoped to question Wolf on security threats and immigration policy.

On immigration, Wolf has been a loyal supporter of Trump's agenda even as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which falls under DHS, faces continued scrutiny over medical care in civil detention facilities.

A new report from the House Committee on Homeland Security found that officials used the threat of isolated confinement in order to maintain control over detainees at the River Correctional Center in Louisiana and Otero County Processing Center in New Mexico.

Detainees who had submitted repeated medical requests or engaged in hunger strikes were segregated as a form of discipline, according to the report.

The findings suggest that officials at three facilities ignored mental health warnings from detainees by minimizing some suicide red flags despite evidence of self harm. Evidence of suicide attempts at Otero, River, and the LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Louisiana was written off as not “serious,” according to the report.

Democrats on the committee also announced the start of a new investigation into allegations from a detention facility nurse, including reports that ICE detainees in the Irwin County Detention Center were subjected to hysterectomy operations without their full understanding or consent.

Homeland Security officials have promised to investigate the matter in addition to an independent watchdog review. ABC News has not independently confirmed the allegations.

"If there is any truth to these allegations, it is my commitment to make the corrections necessary to ensure we continue to prioritize the health, welfare and safety of ICE detainees," ICE chief Tony Pham said in a statement last week.

Under Wolf, the department's Intelligence and Analysis Unit has also drawn scrutiny, specifically by a whistleblower, who has alleged that the DHS withheld intelligence based on political preference.

The former chief of intelligence at the DHS, Brian Murphy, filed a whistleblower complaint describing repeated instances in which he claims the Trump administration sought to "censor or manipulate" intelligence for political purposes, including information about Russian efforts to interfere in the 2020 elections.

The document, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News, alleges a pattern of behavior ranging from "attempted abuse of authority" to possible violations of federal law perpetrated by some of the administration's senior-most law enforcement and intelligence officials.

DHS has denied Murphy's claims.

"The Department generally does not comment on the specifics of OIG referrals, but we flatly deny that there is any truth to the merits of Mr. Murphy's claim. DHS looks forward to the results of any resulting investigation and we expect it will conclude that no retaliatory action was taken against Mr. Murphy," a spokesperson for the department said.

Wolf's profile rose earlier this summer when he sent federal agents -- against the wishes of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler -- to quell violence occurring outside the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, during protests over police brutality and racial injustice.

Wolf has largely defended the department's actions.

"We will be happy to provide resources to bring this violence to an end … across the ideological spectrum left or right, the violence needs to end." Wolf said in August on ABC's This Week, adding a message to local officials: "If you see this activity, take early action, bring law and order to your streets, and we can address and really avoid some of the violent activity that we're seeing."

Wolf and the department's number two, Ken Cuccinelli, have also been in the hot seat after the Government Accountability Office found they were unlawfully appointed to their current roles. The DHS claimed that the GAO's reading of the report was inaccurate and the DHS Inspector General declined to take action against the two leaders based on the GAO report.

"While DHS OIG does not have a strict policy against reviewing matters that are the subject of litigation, under the particular circumstances presented it would be pointless for DHS OIG to add its voice to what has become a bitter inter-branch disagreement," the IG wrote in a letter to members of the House Homeland Security Committee. "Neither GAO nor DHS OIG can issue a binding determination on that issue, but a federal court can and probably will."

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P_Wei/iStockBy BENJAMIN SIEGEL and KENDALL KARSON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Hours after news of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death on Friday, Republicans rushed to embrace President Donald Trump's and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plans to fill her seat on the court, despite the looming presidential election. Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., was one of the first GOP senators to support the decision, leaving Democrats scrambling for a plan to avoid welcoming a justice that could erase the decades of progress Ginsburg made for women, minorities and those in need.

She wasn't alone: Nearly every Republican senator lined behind Trump and McConnell, despite GOP opposition to holding a hearing for President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, eight months from the election in 2016.

That includes all but one of the half-dozen Republicans who, like McSally, are running for reelection in purple states this fall.

Even as they struggle to adjust to the surprise Supreme Court development in the final weeks before the election, Republicans running for reelection see both a historic opportunity to push the Supreme Court to the right for decades, with a 6-3 majority, and an opportunity to align more closely with Trump on a key issue for their party.

"Voting for a highly qualified woman justice may provide an energy to counteract what continues to be the biggest liability for many of the Republicans in swing seats: Trump," said Barbara Comstock, a former GOP congresswoman who worked in the Justice Department in the Bush administration, and on the confirmations of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.

REPUBLICAN SENATORS CLOSE RANKS

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who is seen as the most endangered Republican incumbent ahead of November, didn't have an answer to questions about the vacancy at a candidate forum on Saturday.

But his office was prepared with a press release Monday evening, after he returned to Washington.

"I have and will continue to support judicial nominees who will protect our Constitution, not legislate from the bench, and uphold the law. Should a qualified nominee who meets this criteria be put forward, I will vote to confirm," he said in a statement released at 7 p.m., local time.

"Once the president puts forward his nominee for the Supreme Court, I will carry out my duty -- as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- to evaluate the nominee for our nation's highest court," Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who is running neck-and-neck with Democrat Theresa Greenfield, said on Monday.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., who is in a competitive race against Democratic attorney Cal Cunningham, drew Trump's ire in 2017, after introducing a bill to help protect special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, and nearly faced a primary over what some state Republicans considered a lack of support for the president.

But he's drawn closer to Trump since then, warming up the crowd for him at a North Carolina rally on Saturday after announcing his support for considering Trump's nominee. There, the president even praised him for "being by my side."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is the only Republican up for reelection this year -- and one of two in the Senate, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska -- who has challenged McConnell's plans to bring a Supreme Court nominee through the chamber, weeks before the election.

"We're simply too close to the election, and in the interest of being fair to the American people -- and consistent, since it was with the Garland nomination -- the decision was made not to proceed, a decision that I disagreed with, but my position did not prevail," Collins said Tuesday on Capitol Hill. "I now think we need to play by the same set of rules."

By Tuesday, however, it appeared that McConnell had enough support to move ahead with confirming who Trump will name his nominee, especially after Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said he supports plans to fill the vacancy.

Collins is an exception to what appears to be the rule, having carved out a career as a moderate, pro-choice voice in the Senate GOP, who could also take issue with Trump's pledge to appoint judges who would "automatically" overturn Roe. v. Wade.

The timing of the Supreme Court vacancy could pose a challenge for Collins, and resurface her vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018. That move put her in Democrats' crosshairs in 2020, helping to propel her opponent Sara Gideon, the Democratic speaker of the Maine House. And her decision two years ago may still resonate with moderate voters who could ultimately decide the election.

"People will be reminded in Maine of how important that vote was and they are going to hold it against Collins in all likelihood," Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said.

Sabato's crystal ball shifted Maine's Senate race in Democrats' favor on Monday morning, moving it from a toss-up to a lean toward the party.

Trump, too, is squeezing Collins for stepping out of line with his strategy, suggesting she will face electoral consequences.

"I think that Susan Collins is going to be hurt very badly, her people aren't going to take this. People are not going to take it," he said on Fox & Friends Monday.

WHERE THE SUPREME COURT FIGHT COULD HELP REPUBLICANS

Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster, said supporting Trump's nominee and plans for the confirmation process will likely benefit some candidates -- particularly those like Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana Republican up for reelection against Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, in a state the president carried by 20 percentage points.

"It depends totally upon what the president's job approval is in the state you're talking about," Ayres said.

In states where Trump's approval numbers are poor, "it complicates matters substantially because those Republicans need to have 100% of the Trump supporters plus a significant number of Biden supporters in order to win," he said.

With both sides looking to turn that energy into an electoral edge, that effort is becoming increasingly important in North Carolina, where a tight race could be the one that determines the balance of power in the Senate. Experts view the vacancy as a likely boon for Tillis' reelection bid, providing the first-term senator, who is trailing his Democratic rival in most polling, with a galvanizing issue for Republican voters still on the fence about him.

"It seems to me that would help him. North Carolina is right on the edge," Sabato said. "This could be the difference right here -- 10, 15, 20,000 votes -- keeping North Carolina in the Republican column for president and for Senate. It's too early."

DEMOCRATS WANT TO DELAY CONFIRMATION

As Republicans (mostly) toe the line with McConnell's path forward, the Democratic challengers across the key battlegrounds are issuing a singular refrain: Wait on the confirmation process until after the election.

Mark Kelly, a top Democratic recruit who is seeking to oust McSally in a special election, argued against rushing the process "for political purposes," previewing the fights to come over the next month or so.

"This is a decision that will impact Arizonans, especially with an upcoming case about health care and protections for pre-existing conditions," he said in a statement.

Kelly is in a unique position come the fall, since a special election allows for the possibility of him being seated early -- a hurdle that could complicate McConnell's plans if they extend into a lame duck session.

Barring any significant legal challenges, Kelly could be seated as early as Nov. 30, and both Republican and Democratic election law experts told ABC News that Arizona state law would allow him to take certified election results, showing him as the winner, to the Senate before January, in an attempt to assume McSally's seat.

"There's nothing in the statute that says that he has to wait until all the other new senators are sworn in," Andrew Gordon, a lawyer and a Democrat, said.

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FilmMagic/FilmMagic for U.S.VETSBy MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain, has crossed party lines to offer her endorsement of Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, in a statement Tuesday night.

"My husband John lived by a code: country first. We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost. There's only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is Joe Biden," Cindy McCain said.

"Joe and I don't always agree on the issues, and I know he and John certainly had some passionate arguments, but he is a good and honest man. He will lead us with dignity. He will be a commander in chief that the finest fighting force in the history of the world can depend on, because he knows what it is like to send a child off to fight," she continued. "There is too much at risk in this election to sit on the sidelines. Everything this country stands for is on the line. I'll be putting our country first and voting for Joe Biden, and I hope you will join me."

News of Cindy McCain's endorsement first came from Biden himself, who revealed during a virtual fundraiser Tuesday afternoon that he was speaking with her about her impending endorsement.

"Maybe I shouldn't say it, but I'm about to go on one of these Zooms with John McCain's wife, who... first time ever is endorsing me because of what he talks about with my son and John's who are heroes, who served their country, you know he [the president] said they're losers, they're suckers," Biden said, alluding to a report by the Atlantic that President Donald Trump made disparaging remarks about service members.

ABC News has not independently confirmed The Atlantic report, which cites four unnamed sources with direct knowledge of the claims.

Prior to her official endorsement of Biden, Cindy McCain hinted at her support, lending her voice to a video highlighting Biden's friendship with her late husband during the Democratic National Convention in August.

Trump and the late senator had an adversarial relationship throughout the 2016 campaign and Trump's presidency, with the president arguing that he did not view McCain, who was held as a prisoner of war for more than five years during the Vietnam War, a hero, because he was captured.

The Republican senator, in turn, withdrew his support for Trump during the 2016 election following the release of the Access Hollywood video that featured Trump making lewd comments about women. He also further angered the president by delivering a "thumbs down" vote to thwart efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017.

Cindy McCain joins a growing list of Republicans who have offered their support to Biden -- including former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and former Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent -- and could help Biden win over disaffected Republicans in the 2020 election, which is just 42 days away.

Her endorsement also comes as Biden is looking to expand his electoral map to include Cindy McCain's home state of Arizona, with recent state polling showing he and Trump are in a tight race in the state.

Biden and John McCain shared a bipartisan friendship throughout their long political careers that included facing off against one another in the 2008 presidential election. Following McCain's death in 2018 from Glioblastoma, Biden gave a tearful eulogy of his friend.

"My name is Joe Biden. I'm a Democrat. And I loved John McCain," said Biden, who lost his son Beau in 2015 to the same disease that claimed John McCain's life.

"I always thought of John as a brother," he added. "We had a hell of a lot of family fights. We go back a long way."

In a tweet Tuesday night, Biden thanked Cindy McCain for her support.

"Cindy — I'm deeply honored to have your support and your friendship. This election is bigger than any one political party. It requires all of us to come together as one America to restore the soul of the nation. Together, we'll get it done," he wrote.

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uschools/iStockBy MARIAM KHAN and JOHN PARKINSON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The House approved late Tuesday night, in a 359-5-1 vote, a stopgap bill to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month.

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did not vote yes or no, but "present."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced earlier Tuesday that Democrats had reached a deal with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to avert a government shutdown and fund the government with a continuing resolution through Dec. 11.

The Senate will likely vote on the measure by the end of the week -- where it is also expected to pass -- before it heads to President Donald Trump's desk for his signature. The stopgap measure must pass by Oct. 1 to keep U.S. agencies open.

The deal will add nearly $8 billion to the continuing resolution for food and nutrition assistance programs. And funding for farmers and the agriculture community is also included, at the GOP's request, with increased accountability measures.

"We have reached an agreement with Republicans on the CR to add nearly $8 billion in desperately needed nutrition assistance for hungry schoolchildren and families," Pelosi said in a statement. "We also increase accountability in the Commodity Credit Corporation, preventing funds for farmers from being misused for a Big Oil bailout."

"To help the millions of families struggling to keep food on the table during the pandemic, Democrats have renewed the vital, expiring lifeline of Pandemic EBT for a full year and enabled our fellow Americans in the territories to receive this critical nutrition assistance," she continued. "Democrats secured urgently needed assistance for schoolchildren to receive meals despite the coronavirus's disruption of their usual schedules, whether virtual or in-person, and expanded Pandemic EBT access for young children in child care. We also extended key flexibility for states to lower administrative requirements on SNAP for families in the middle of this crisis."

The surprise late-night agreement came just days after talks crumbled late last week over policy disagreements.

Democrats have contended that the farm aid for the Commodity Credit Corporation -- a GOP priority -- "wasn't help for farmers" but was "a bottomless, unaccountable political slush fund."

"House Democrats already passed more than $30 billion in targeted and tailored emergency aid to farm country in response to the pandemic as part of the Heroes Act, including language to ensure greater transparency and accountability with the Administration's use of the Commodity Credit Corporation, including decreasing the Secretary's ability to spend billions of taxpayer dollars without telling Congress," the aide added.

After lengthy negotiations did not produce a bipartisan agreement with Republicans, House Democrats introduced their own proposal Monday afternoon funding government until Dec. 11, moving "full steam ahead" on a vote Tuesday, according to a senior Democratic aide.

Recognizing the lack of an agreement, a senior House Democratic aide warned that the bill "may get stuck in the Senate" after House passage, creating an impasse leading up to the deadline at the end of the month.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had said on Monday that the Commodity Credit Corporation was a necessity for GOP support.

"House Democrats' rough draft of a government funding bill shamefully leaves out key relief and support that American farmers need," he tweeted. "This is no time to add insult to injury and defund help for farmers and rural America."

Despite the disputes, both Pelosi and McConnell have been adamant about avoiding a government shutdown at the end of the month with the presidential election right around the corner.

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ABC NewsBY: BEN GITTLESON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump this week continued to minimize the severity of the coronavirus pandemic even as the United States surpassed the grim milestone of 200,000 reported deaths related to COVID-19.

Months after admitting to intentionally "playing it down" in order to avoid "panic," Trump has bucked public health experts' warnings about the virus at an increasing clip, repeating false and misleading statements about the pandemic as he fights for reelection.

During a Tuesday interview with Fox television stations, Trump alternately called his response to the pandemic "incredible" and "tremendous." The comment shortly before the toll passed 200,000 reported deaths, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. He has awarded himself a grade of "A " for his handling of the pandemic but said he deserved a "D" for what he called "public relations."

"We have in this country now, you know, close to 200,000 deaths," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a Monday interview with "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah." "We have 6 million-plus infections. You can't look at that and say that's terrific."

Trump has in recent weeks repeatedly claimed that the United States is "rounding the corner" and "rounded the final turn."

But there have been an average of 764 reported deaths and nearly 40,000 new reported cases each day the past week, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Public health experts warn the fall and winter -- with seasonal influenza striking at the same time, and cold weather pushing people indoors -- could worsen outbreaks across the country.

Trump on 200,000 dead: 'It's a shame'

As the country this week hit 200,000 reported deaths, Trump made no special effort to mark the milestone, commenting Tuesday evening only when a reporter asked asked about it.

"I think it's a shame,” Trump said, saying nothing more about those who've died before quickly turning to praise how he's handled the pandemic, claiming the death toll would have been far worse if not for his administration’s efforts.

On Tuesday, a short walk away from the White House, a group called the "COVID Memorial Project" had placed 20,000 American flags in the grass alongside the Washington Monument, each representing 10 deaths.

"We’re in very good shape," Trump said Monday. "The vaccines are coming along. I just got a report: The vaccines are coming along rapidly."

"Things seem to be very good," he said.

Trump paints misleading picture of threat to average American

At a Monday campaign rally in Ohio, Trump emphasized the virus's impact on elderly people with pre-existing conditions, suggesting other Americans were largely safe.

"It affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems and other problems -- if they have other problems," he said. "That's what it really affects. That's it."

But that portrayal masks the rising cases among young and middle-aged adults across the country, who -- while they experience severe symptoms and death at a lower rate -- make up a significant percentage of the case count and spread the virus to others who are more vulnerable.

Trump added that "nobody young, below the age of 18, like nobody" is affected -- directly contradicting his own comment in a March interview with veteran journalist Bob Woodward that the virus impacted "plenty of young people."

"Take your hat off to the young, because they have a hell of an immune system," Trump said Monday. "But, it affects virtually nobody. It's an amazing thing."

But evidence has been building that young people aren't as impervious to coronavirus as initially thought.

Children are not immune to COVID-19 -- and while scientists do not fully understand the potential long-term health problems kids could have -- they have generally have had fewer severe symptoms in the short term. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a recent analysis of 143,273 deaths revealed that 843, about 0.6%, occurred in people younger than 30, while 88, about 0.06%, occurred in people younger than 18.

While serious illness among young kids is rare, in the United States, at least 109 children have died from the coronavirus, and at least 587,948 have become infected, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. They represent 10.3% of reported cases in areas of the U.S. that provide an age breakdown, according to the academy.

Young adults also are at risk for severe complications of COVID-19. A recent JAMA Internal Medicine study of roughly 3,200 people ages 18 to 34 showed that about 21% required intensive care and about 10% required ventilators. Ninety people, about 3%, died.

But scientists do not yet understand the degree to which children spread the disease to others, such as teachers, parents and grandparents, because there has been limited in-person schooling and limited contact tracing to track transmissions.

Hyping a vaccine


Over the last few weeks, Trump has more frequently claimed that a vaccine could be available to Americans next month and has even connected its timing to the Nov. 3 election. Last week, he said a vaccine could be distributed "sometime in October" -- using ambiguous language that clashes with public health officials' views.

"We essentially have it," Trump said, even though ongoing safety trials have not concluded.

Experts have said it's possible, though unlikely, that by the end of October there could be enough data from the trials to determine one of the vaccine candidate's safety and efficacy, but even then it would only start being given to a limited number of people; most Americans would not get access to it until next year, top U.S. public health officials have said.

Trump's desire to convince Americans the pandemic is nearing its conclusion -- and that the average person has little to fear -- has become even more extreme as Election Day approaches on Nov. 3.

"I wanted to always play it down," Trump told Woodward in March. "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."

The president's campaign rallies, where thousands of supporters cram together with few masks and almost no credence to social-distancing recommendations, have become emblematic of his disregard for his own scientific advisers' advice for the American public.

Over the last couple months, he has attempted to shift the conversation away from the pandemic to exaggerated caricatures of lawlessness in American cities and warnings about crime coming to the suburbs. A sudden vacancy on the Supreme Court has given him another opportunity to distract from the virus.

ABC News' Dr. Leah Croll contributed to this report.

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JPecha/iStockBy JORDYN PHELPS, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- While President Donald Trump is expected to wait until Saturday to announce his Supreme Court nominee, he said Tuesday he’s already “very close” to making a final decision.

During a Tuesday interview with Fox television stations, Trump cited public services to honor the life of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday, as the reason for delaying his announcement.

“I would say that I’m very close to making it a decision in my own mind and I'm going to reveal it on Saturday,” Trump said.“I'm doing that out of respect for Justice Ginsburg, you're having a service on Thursday, so I didn't really want to do anything to cut into the service.”

While the average Supreme Court nomination process takes 70 days to run its course, Trump has said he’d like to see a vote on his nominee before the Nov. 3 election, just 42 days away from Tuesday, and has said he believes it can be done.

Buoyed by support from Republican senators previously eyed as potential holdouts against a nomination process so close to the election, the president said Tuesday, “I guess we have all the votes we’re going to need.”

His expression of confidence on the vote tally -- even before he has named his nominee -- came after his close political ally and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham, similarly predicted Republicans will have the votes.

“We've got the votes to confirm Justice Ginsburg's replacement before the election. We're going to move forward in the committee. We're going to report the nomination out of the committee to the floor of the United States Senate so we can vote before the election," Graham told Fox News.

Asked about Graham’s comments Tuesday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows explained that the path for the eventual nominee should be eased by the fact that the president is choosing from among a group of people who have previously vetted.

"Most of the people that would be considered on the shortlist have actually gone through the confirmation process, either in this Congress, or the one just prior to it. So, it's not like we're going to have a new vetting system, necessarily,” Meadows said.

Meadows said that the Republican senators should feel comfortable voting to confirm “Republican nominees” and that it “generally works out well for them.”

But whatever the White House’s wishes, it will ultimately be up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to set to the timetable for the confirmation process. Meadows said the White House is deferring to McConnell on those specifics but that they are in touch with him “multiple times a day.”

Whether the vote is ultimately before or after the election, Meadows said, “I’m confident that this person will get confirmed.”

The president has said he’s deciding from among a group of five women but that, among that group, “I have one or two that I think are -- they’re all outstanding but I have one or two that have in mind.”

The president already met with Judge Amy Coney Barrett, widely considered one of the leading contenders for the job, at the White House Monday. Barrett, who currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago, is a former clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia, and is a favorite among anti-abortion activists.

The president has also offered high praise publicly for Barbara Lagoa, a Cuban-American federal judge from Florida. The president has said he may meet with her when he travels to Florida later this week.

Meadows also mentioned Judge Allison Rushing as a “a great Fourth Circuit appellate judge” and “worthy of consideration.” Meadows said there’s no “official short list,” but added that if there were, “she would certainly be on that.”

Meadows said what Trump was “looking for is someone who will uphold the Constitution” and that he would look at “how this particular nominee views the constitution and whether their record would support more of a conservative interpretation of jurisprudence.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president is looking to select someone who is a “Constitution-abiding, textualist, originalist."

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ABC NewsBY: CONOR FINNEGAN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Nothing about this year's United Nations General Assembly is the same.

International delegations have not descended upon New York City, the streets of midtown Manhattan aren't clogged with traffic, and more heads of state are addressing the global stage through video submissions, instead of speeches.

But it's the warnings of a world coming apart at the seams or redefined by high tensions between the U.S. and China that have made this among the starkest meetings yet.

As the U.N.'s chief warned, the world is "moving in a very dangerous direction."

In a short speech just weeks before facing reelection, President Donald Trump lashed out at China, a now frequent political target.

He laid blame for the coronavirus pandemic at Beijing's feet and condemned "China's rampant pollution" despite his own administration's environmental record. Notably, he did not criticize China's human rights record or regional aggression, like in the South China Sea or against Taiwan.

China's authoritarian president Xi Jinping spoke shortly after Trump, with Turkey's strongman president Recep Tayyip Erdogan a buttress in between their recorded speeches.

The Chinese leader did not mention the U.S. or Trump by name, but he offered implicit rebukes of Trump's worldview, even as his words didn't match the aggressive actions of his own government.

"Any attempt of politicizing the issue [of COVID-19] or stigmatization must be rejected," he told the General Assembly -- offering praise for recurring Trump targets the World Health Organization and World Trade Organization and urging countries to say "no to unilaterialism and protectionism" and reject "the trap of clash of civilizations."

"We will never seek hegemony, expansion of sphere of influence. We have no intention to fight either a cold war or a hot one with any country," he added -- even as China uses its growing military to assert dominance in Asia and its economic power to spread its influence globally.

The division between the U.S. and China was a defining feature of others' speeches as well.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of a world beset by "five horsemen" -- "the highest global geostrategic tensions in years," "existential climate crisis," "deep and growing global mistrust," "the dark side of the digital world," and the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are moving in a very dangerous direction. Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a great fracture -- each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities. A technological and economic divide risks inevitably turning into a geo-strategic and military divide. We must avoid this at all costs," he added.

In a speech nearly seven times longer than Trump's, French President Emmanuel Macron urged "international cooperation" based on a "new order."

"Today's world cannot be reduced to the rivalry between China and the United States, regardless of the weight in the world that these two great powers share, regardless of the history that ties us in particular to the United States," he said.

ABC News's Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.

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ABC NewsBY: JOANNE ROSA, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- In the wake of 200,000 Americans confirmed dead from COVID-19, Chelsea Clinton blames President Donald Trump for the country's failure to contain the coronavirus.

Clinton appeared on "The View" Tuesday, where she reacted to the president admitting to deliberately minimizing the seriousness of the coronavirus despite understanding its true danger in an interview with journalist Bob Woodward released on Sept. 9 and reportedly recorded on March 19, according to CNN.

In response to the reports about Woodward's new book, "Rage," Trump did not deny that he sought to publicly play down the seriousness of the virus but instead defended his rosy public assessments as an effort to not "create panic.” He ultimately denounced the book as a political "hit job."

"I blame [Trump] pretty fundamentally," Clinton said on "The View," referring to the American lives lost because of the virus. "It's unconscionable [that] he lied to the American public about COVID, that he's continued to lie to the American people."

"He has such a blatant disregard for public health and ... the advice from public health experts that's pretty uniform around things like masks, the continued importance of social distancing, how much safer it is to be kind of outside than inside, how important good ventilation is. Things that we have known for months," Clinton said.

"I blame him, full stop. I also blame him for all that he's not doing now to help prepare for when the scientists have a proven vaccine that's safe and effective at scale. I blame him for not kind of marshaling a real effort to kind of build ... public confidence and demand for a vaccine that, again, is proven safe and effective," Clinton said. "I blame him for not having a transparent national plan for how he's gonna ensure that our front-line workers are vaccinated, that our elderly and medically compromised are vaccinated and then how the rest of us are gonna get vaccinated."

"I blame him, you know, for lying to the American people, for continuing to kind of disparage science and public health advice and for not helping to prepare and protect us today, including preparing us for when we do have a vaccine," she added. "There's a lot of blame for the president and his administration for where we are and where we're supposed to be."

COVID-19 has taken a particularly brutal toll on Americans since it was first detected in China in December. The U.S. currently has the largest share of the world's 930,000 COVID-19 deaths with 21%.

In February, Trump said, "A lot of people think that it goes away in April with the heat."

When that didn't happen, he told Fox News this summer: "It's going to disappear, and I'll be right."

By a nearly two to one margin, Americans distrust what the president says about the pandemic, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll from July. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll from this month also found that 62% of Americans were worried that political pressure from the Trump administration would lead the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to rush to approve a COVID-19 vaccine without making sure that it is safe and effective.

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iStock/Raghu RamaswamyBY: LUKE BARR, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The Justice Department on Tuesday announced the largest seizure of online drugs in the U.S. darknet history.

According to the Justice Department, the operation resulted in the seizure of over $6.5 million in both cash and virtual currencies, and 274 kilograms of drugs such as fentanyl, oxycodone, meth and other drugs.

The takedown was part of Operation DisrupTor, an international effort with the Justice Department's law enforcement partners in Europe.

According to the Oxford dictionary, the darknet is a computer network with restricted access that is used chiefly for illegal peer-to-peer file sharing.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffery Rosen outlined a number of cases from jurisdictions around the U.S.

“There will be no safe haven, or drug dealing in cyberspace,” Rosen said.

"Today’s announcement is very much a success story in international law enforcement cooperation, as crime on the Darknet is truly a global problem that requires global partnership," Rosen said in his prepared remarks. "However, the global nature of the threat also means that foreign countries who fail to act can easily become safe harbors for criminals who seek to pump lethal, addictive drugs into the United States from abroad. The Department cannot and will not allow criminals to operate with impunity."

FBI Director Chris Wray told ABC News that the dark-net is a “perfect storm” of traditional crime and cyber crime. Acting Drug Enforcement Administration head Tim Shea, said many of the drugs are coming from Mexico.

“At the same time, we've seen an increase in fentanyl deaths, and that's synthetic opioids, which is a major threat emanating from Mexico, drugs, produced on industrial scale in Mexico are shipped to the United States using the dark-web,” Shea said.

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iStock/liveslowBY: STEPHANIE EBBS and CHEYENNE HASLETT, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The Commerce Department's internal watchdog has warned that the order to cut short the 2020 census did not come from the Census Bureau and even the bureau's director doesn't know who ultimately made the call.

In a new report, the department's inspector general said the decision to accelerate the deadline for data collection increases the risks of an incomplete or inaccurate census.

So far, the 2020 census has counted 95.4% of households in the U.S. either from self-submitted responses or field data collection, according to the bureau's website.

But in some states, including Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Montana, that percentage is under 90%.

The once-in-a-decade count is closely watched because it will determine major political and economic fallout for the next 10 years. The census determines how many seats states get in the House of Representatives, and states including New York and California are at risk of losing seats if there's an undercount.

The census also is used to allocate trillions of dollars of federal funding that keeps schools, health and public safety programs afloat in communities across the country.

Ending the count earlier than expected, some experts say, makes it more likely that those requiring the most effort to reach -- immigrants or people live in rural areas, for example -- will be left uncounted, underfunded and underrepresented in years to come.

The alert from the watchdog said the inspector general's office is monitoring "pressing and emerging issues" related to the Census.

In early August, the Census Bureau announced that it would stop collecting responses to the Census on Sept. 30, a month earlier than expected, in order to finish collecting and analyzing data that must be reported to Congress by the legally required deadline of Dec. 31.

The announcement raised alarms from lawmakers and advocates who say the Bureau needed more time to conduct the count, especially in areas hit hardest by cases of COVID-19.

In an inquiry launched into how and why the announcement was made, the inspector general said Census Bureau officials said they did not make the decision to move up the timeline and were concerned it would make it harder to get an accurate count.

"The decision to accelerate the 2020 Census schedule was not made by the Bureau. Senior career officials at the Bureau perceived that this decision resulted from the Administration no longer supporting the schedule extension, but ultimately they lacked visibility into this decision process," a report signed by Inspector General Peggy Gustafson said.

The alert was first reported by NPR.

Published last Friday, the alert said that before the accelerated timeline was announced, Census Bureau officials thought the Trump administration would support a push from Congress to extend the deadline to give more time to collect and analyze the data.

Officials interviewed by the inspector general said they're concerned about additional challenges to collecting responses in areas impacted by hurricanes and wildfires this summer.

According to the inspector general, Census Bureau officials were under the impression the Trump administration would support congressional efforts to extend census deadlines to give them more time to conduct operations during the coronavirus pandemic.

But in late July they were asked to brief Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on how they could meet the Dec. 31 deadline. After Ross reacted favorably to that presentation, a release was posted announcing the accelerated timeline.

One senior Census Bureau official told the IG's office the presidential memorandum directing the department to take steps to exclude undocumented immigrants from census calculations that determine congressional representation influenced the administration's decision not to support extending the deadlines.

The Democrat who chairs the House Oversight Committee, Carolyn Maloney, called the IG alert the "latest red flag" that the changed timeline will degrade the census results.

“This should not be a partisan issue. If the Senate fails to extend the deadline, the 2020 Census will undercount people in red states and blue states—and these communities will lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding they are due for healthcare, job training, education, and other programs over the next decade," she said in a statement.

Oversight Committee reports have found that as much as a 1% undercount in the census could mean states lose tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds.

For already underfunded communities who are desperate to retain what little federal money they get, it can even be a "matter of life or death," said Stephen Roe Lewis, governor of a tribe in Arizona called the Gila River Community. Lewis testified before Congress last week.

“It is not an exaggeration to say an accurate census can be a matter of life or death in tribal communities because the programs impacted by census count affects delivery of health care, public safety, our youth and elder programs, housing, violence against women grants and other programs that sustain our tribal communities,” Lewis told Congress. “And we have a reason to be concerned that an accurate count will not occur if the Census Bureau ends field operations at the end of this month.”

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Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, oversees the group's nonpartisan Election Protection voter help hotline. - (ABC News)By DEVIN DWYER, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- A tidal wave of changes to U.S. election procedures caused by the coronavirus pandemic has triggered a cry for help from tens of thousands of American voters.

Nonpartisan voter advocates with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law report a record surge of phone calls to the group's "Election Protection Hotline" from people concerned about their registration status, absentee ballot deadlines and delivery delays by the U.S. Postal Service.

"We've gotten calls in the tens of thousands," said Kristen Clarke, the committee's executive director and one of the nation's leading nonpartisan election lawyers. "We definitely are getting more calls from people who're trying to figure out how to vote absentee for the first time."

ABC News got an inside look at hotline operations and the more than 12,000 volunteer lawyers from across the country who are fielding calls virtually, from home. The corps of volunteers is more than double the number of lawyers who participated in 2016.

"When you call the hotline, we're not selling you anything. We are very focused on: Why are you calling? Are you registered?" said attorney Nadine Mompremier of Brooklyn, New York, who spends several hours nightly taking calls from voters.

Georgia, Texas and North Carolina top the list of states with the most callers, according to the Committee's hotline data.

"We tend to get a lot of calls from Black voters, from Latinos and Native American voters who face disproportionate rates of voter suppression and voter discrimination," said Clarke.

Volunteer John Bennett of New Canaan, Connecticut, who has been helping voters through the hotline for 12 years, said making sure a registration is up to date and active is the most important step to take in late September.

"Oftentimes folks think about it a little bit too late in the game," Bennett told ABC News Live.

Under federal law all states are required to clear from registration lists voters who have died, moved or otherwise become ineligible. At least 17 million people have been removed from state rolls between 2016 and 2018 alone, according to the Brennan Center for Justice which tracks the data.

Six states have so-called "use-it-or-lose-it" laws that cancel registrations of inactive voters, according to the group.

Mompremier told ABC News that the most common voter concern she hears is from voters who show up to vote early in-person or on Election Day and their names are not on the list.

"Let's say you voted in 10 elections, and you decided not to vote in 2016, and you tried to vote in 2018, or you're trying to vote in 2020 but your state or local board of elections have removed you from the polls because you missed one election," she said.

Raising the stakes for volunteers is a surge of misinformation about mail-in voting as now 45 states plus Washington, D.C., allow anyone to send in a ballot as a result of COVID-19.

"There's definitely been folks calling in and expressing some level of concern with the Postal Service given everything that's in the news," said Bennett. "Our advice is just if you do want to vote by mail, request your ballot as soon as you can."

President Donald Trump has recently contributed to voter confusion by suggesting that voters who mail their ballots this year should show up in person on Election Day to vote again if their ballot isn't already in the system.

The Lawyers' Committee says it remains illegal in every state to cast a ballot twice.

There is also a swirl of unfounded claims about fraud, though voting by mail has been a regular part of American elections since the Civil War without any evidence of widespread malfeasance.

"If (your ballot) is mailed by a certain date and postmarked, it will count and that is your vote," said Mompremier. "But it's a matter of also making sure that you sign, because a lot of reasons why the mail-in ballots may be rejected are signatures and (forgetting) to sign it at the bottom."

Clarke says she's confident a historic surge in mail ballots this year can produce a fair election outcome, but she and other nonpartisan election watchdogs worry that some voters might miss out this year on an opportunity to cast a vote.

"Make a plan now," Clarke said. "This year, we're encouraging people to not so much think about Nov. 3rd as Election Day, but really to think about October as election season."

The Election Protection Hotline at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law can be reached at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

ABC News' Jackie Yoo contributed to this report.


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Official White House Photo by Shealah CraigheadBy ANNE FLAHERTY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- It's a grim milestone that President Donald Trump said America would never reach.

The spread of COVID-19 accelerated over the summer, and death tolls now stands at more than 200,000 over eight months -- a figure equal to the lives lost in almost 70 9/11 terror attacks.

"A lot of people think that goes away in April, with the heat," Trump said in February. When that didn't happen, Trump told Fox News this summer: "It's going to disappear, and I'll be right."

As COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have declined in recent weeks, after record highs during the summer, health officials are bracing themselves for a tough winter when Americans move back indoors and the seasonal flu begins to circulate. Seriously complicating the issue is how public trust in the federal response has eroded after a summer of chaotic messaging and unwarranted optimism by Trump and his top advisers.

New #COVID19 cases in most states continued to decline over the last 7 days, but it is still widespread in many areas, especially the upper Great Plains, Midwest, and South. Slow the spread. Wear a mask, stay 6 ft from others & wash your hands. Learn more: https://t.co/ZKtFmW0KDW pic.twitter.com/S2YhYFFwmc

— Dr. Robert R. Redfield (@CDCDirector) September 18, 2020

By a nearly 2 to 1 margin, Americans distrust what the president says about the pandemic, and the latest polling by Langer Research Associates found that 62% are very or somewhat worried that political interference will prompt the government to push out a vaccine without ensuring it's safe and effective.

That distrust likely has only worsened in recent weeks following reports that political appointees pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to alter scientific reports and encourage fewer tests. Trump then publicly rebuked CDC Director Robert Redfield for testifying that most Americans won't get a vaccine until the middle of 2021, and a top communications official resigned after posting an online Facebook rant accusing the CDC of trying to undermine the president.

Now, health experts say, is the time for the Trump administration to play it straight if it wants public cooperation to end the pandemic.

"We have to provide realistic expectations if we are to build public trust," said John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital and professor at Harvard Medical School and and ABC News contributor.

The bureaucracy 'just broke apart'


In many ways, the federal government operated during the crisis much as it typically does -- as a massive, sprawling bureaucracy, lumbering on autopilot.

The CDC deployed staff to trace outbreaks aboard cruise ships and later at nursing homes and meatpacking plants; staff from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration scurried to authorize new tests for the virus; and various offices at Health and Human Services effectively shored up the nation's stockpile of ventilators and respirators desperately needed by medical staff.

But the health crisis quickly outpaced those efforts. More than 100,000 died in the first four months. And then again over the second four months.

In an interview this summer with ABC News, Redfield acknowledged that while the Trump administration cut off travel from China early on in the pandemic -- likely saving lives -- it was a mistake by the government to ignore the threat of spread from European travelers.

"By the time we ... shut down travel to Europe, there was probably already two or three weeks of 60,000 people coming back every day from Europe," he said.

There were other federal missteps. The CDC had bungled the first batches of testing kits. And federal scientific advisers initially urged Americans to not buy masks because of shortages facing hospital workers -- guidance quickly reversed after research showed how easily the virus could be transmitted.

Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!

They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!
https://t.co/UxZRwxxKL9

— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) February 29, 2020

Both the speed of viral transmission and the bureaucratic morass seemed to confound White House staff.

Joe Grogan, who served as a top presidential adviser as director of the White House Domestic Policy Council until late May, said he left the White House with little faith in the federal bureaucracy and skeptical of the judgments of its scientific advisers, who early on in the pandemic wrongly downplayed the threat of asymptomatic spread.

He cites "antiquated and clunky" systems run by the CDC to collect data and track the virus, along with excessive regulation at the FDA and expensive labs at the National Institutes for Health that weren't focused on COVID-19.

"The bureaucracy that was supposed to respond just broke apart," Grogan said.

For Trump's part, the president said it should be up to the states to figure out a response, and he publicly vented on Twitter.

He also stopped holding routine press briefings with members of the White House task force on novel coronavirus. Reporters are now less likely to hear from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, at the podium than Trump's new pick: Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist and a public policy fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution who has questioned the overwhelming scientific consensus that masks are critical.

Fauci has mostly shrugged off the politics, often searching for common ground with the president and others.

"The only thing I can say is that there are a lot of people who are looking carefully and are driven by the truth," Fauci said in a recent interview on MSNBC, "and I think the American people should feel confidence in that."

Jerome Adams, the surgeon general, echoed that statement this month in a livestream even with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and suggested politics has colored everything.

"It makes it hard to have these conversations," he said, "because I say one thing that you may hear completely differently depending on what your priorities are, and what is most important to you."

Now, after a summer of sky-high case numbers as much of America ignored the threat, the country remains at a crossroads. Will the majority agree to fight the virus with masks and social distancing, as Fauci and other health officials have suggested? Or does the country accept the pandemic as a way of life and reopen -- a move that could pave the way for tens of thousands more deaths?

Grogan, who left Trump's White House for a private sector job, said he's skeptical the country needs to remain locked down while waiting for a vaccine.

"Why are we sitting here sheltering in place waiting for a really difficult scientific endeavor to bear fruit?" he said. "It just doesn't make sense to me."

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YinYang/iStockBy TRISH TURNER and ALLISON PECORIN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, announced Tuesday that he will support a vote on his Supreme Court nominee this year -- which could happen before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

“The Constitution gives the President the power to nominate and the Senate the authority to provide advice and consent on Supreme Court nominees. Accordingly, I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the President’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications,” he said in a statement.

“My decision regarding a Supreme Court nomination is not the result of a subjective test of ‘fairness’ which, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It is based on the immutable fairness of following the law, which in this case is the Constitution and precedent. The historical precedent of election year nominations is that the Senate generally does not confirm an opposing party’s nominee but does confirm a nominee of its own," he said.

Romney's announcement is a major boost to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's effort to lock down GOP support for a nomination vote over angry Democratic objections.

McConnell can afford to lose three of the 53 Republican senators and still get a nominee confirmed because Vice President Mike Pence would break any tie.

Romney was seen as a possible vulnerability for Republicans being the only GOP senator to vote to convict Trump during his impeachment trial.

But he dashed Democratic hopes he would join GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska who have stated they oppose moving forward before the election They've cited the Republican move in 2016 to block Judge Merrick Garland, President Barrack Obama's nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy nearly nine months before Election Day, when Republicans then argued it was too close to the election.

Romney said Tuesday that he does not believe moving forward with a nomination now -- with the election just six weeks away -- is inconsistent with the GOP position on the Garland nomination.

BREAKING: GOP Sen. Mitt Romney announces that he will support a vote on President Trump's expected Supreme Court nominee this year, saying, "at this stage, it's appropriate to look at the Constitution." https://t.co/lON6gvVkyV pic.twitter.com/q4B7jM4j7G

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 22, 2020

When Garland was nominated, Republicans controlled the Senate. Romney, echoing the argument many Republicans have made in recent days, said he believes the circumstances are different now because Republicans have control of both the White House and the Senate.

"I think there's some perception on the part of some writers and others that 'Gee, what happened with Merrick Garland and some others was unfair'. I don't agree with that," Romney said. "It wasn't unfair because it was consistent with history."

Romney's announcement keeps him in lockstep with McConnell who on Tuesday said, "history and precedent were on this Senate majority side in 2016 and they are overwhelmingly on our side now."

Other Republicans are also lining up behind McConnell.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia also announced Tuesday that she believes President Trump should be allowed to fill the vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Without at least four Republicans joining their efforts to block the nomination, Democrats have few means to stop McConnell from moving forward.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Republicans Tuesday of using "brute political force" to push for a quick vote despite laying out a different set of rules in 2016.

"Leader McConnell has defiled the Senate like no one in this generation and Leader McConnell may very well destroy it," Schumer said on the Senate floor. "If leader McConnell presses forward the Republican majority would have stolen two Supreme Court seats four years apart using completely contradictory rationales."

Sen. Chuck Schumer: "Leader McConnell has defiled the Senate like no one in this generation. And Leader McConnell may very well destroy it." https://t.co/tvPKCyJDEm pic.twitter.com/goeQAOJ9qa

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 22, 2020

On This Week on Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday suggested to ABC Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos that Democrats were considering all procedural options at their disposal to delay a nominee, not ruling out a new impeachment effort.

"We have our options," Pelosi said. "We have arrows in our quiver that I'm not about to discuss right now but the fact is we have a big challenge in our country."

In days since, some Democrats have signaled they could be open to adding additional justices to the Supreme Court bench if Democrats were to take the Senate majority in November.

McConnell, also on the Senate floor Tuesday, said Democrats are stoking "outrage and hysteria."

"Giving in to political blackmail would not do a thing to secure our institutions," McConnell said. "You do not put a stop to irresponsible hostage taking by making hostage-taking a winning strategy."

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kupicoo/iStockBy JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- It's been more than a year since California became the first state to pass a law banning natural hair discrimination.

On Monday, the organization behind The CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair), which ensures protection against race-based hair discrimination, said the U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar bill ending hair discrimination.

The federal bill will now move on to the U.S. Senate. "We are one step closer to ending #hairdiscrimination nationwide," The CROWN Act tweeted after the news.

 

#TheCROWNAct (H.R. 5309) just PASSED The House of U.S. Representatives! 👑

What’s next? The federal bill will now advance to the U.S. Senate.

We are one step closer to ending #hairdiscrimination NATIONWIDE!

1/3

— The CROWN Act (@thecrownact) September 21, 2020

 

Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond and the Congressional Black Caucus have been leading the charge for the bill's approval.

"I'm proud to have introduced this legislation and thank my colleagues @RepBarbaraLee @RepMarciaFudge @RepPressley for their contributions to this bill and for wearing their own crowns with pride and dignity," Richmond said in a statement.

California Rep. Barbara Lee also chimed in after the bill passed. Along with a moving video featuring several images of herself wearing natural hairstyles, she said, "No one should feel forced to change their natural hair. I've been rocking my crown for decades and everybody should feel empowered to rock theirs too."

 

Today the House passed @RepRichmond @RepMarciaFudge, @RepPressley & my bill to prohibit natural hair discrimination. No one should feel forced to change their natural hair. I've been rocking my crown for decades & everybody should feel empowered to rock theirs too. #CROWNAct pic.twitter.com/8axju7iBVY

— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) September 22, 2020

 

California state senator Holly J. Mitchell was instrumental in getting the bill passed in California in 2019. Following her efforts, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Colorado, Washington and Maryland -- in addition to municipalities in Cincinnati as well as Montgomery County, Maryland -- have also passed laws banning natural hair discrimination.

"Until Congress is able to recognize that the quality of my work as an employee or student is based on what's inside my head and not how I choose to wear my hair, we will continue the state-by-state strategy to pass the CROWN Act in every state in our nation," Mitchell previously told GMA.

 

For far too long, Black women have been penalized for simply existing as themselves—that ends today.

The House just passed the CROWN Act to end hair discrimination.

This passage is long overdue, but an important step forward to combat racial discrimination. https://t.co/v4D76QZT6H

— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) September 21, 2020

 

Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar also shared the news on Twitter. "For far too long, Black women have been penalized for simply existing as themselves — that ends today," she said, adding, "This passage is long overdue, but an important step forward to combat racial discrimination."

July 3 has also been declared "National Crown Day."

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