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COVID confounds DC

President Donald Trump in the Cabinet Room of

President Donald Trump in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Aug. 3, 2020. Credit: AP

Daily Point

COVID's grasp on Washington

Rep. Peter King didn’t want to bother President Donald Trump Friday morning, so he texted Ivanka to wish her father well.

But the news that both the president and first lady Melania Trump were diagnosed with the coronavirus was the main subject of conversation on Capitol Hill Friday, where people suddenly seemed more conscious of wearing masks and keeping their distance.

"We’re in the world of the unknown right now," King told The Point.

Read on to find out what effect King thinks the president's diagnosis will have on the election and how COVID-19 remains one of the top issues among voters.

—Randi F. Marshall and Mark Chiusano @RandiMarshall and @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Is another relief bill coming soon?

Rep. Pete King said he was told to be on "24-hour call" mid-to-late next week for a potential vote on a COVID-19 relief bill. King told The Point he’s hoping for a deal to be made over the weekend, noting that it’ll then take a couple of days to get it written up and ready for a vote, which could lead to a vote by Wednesday or Thursday.

King noted that on Friday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer spoke in positive terms about Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin from the House floor.

"The fact that Hoyer went out of his way to say good things about Mnuchin indicates to me that he thinks it’s getting close and he didn’t want to screw it up," King said.

King’s optimism is confirmed by other sources who say that Speaker Nancy Pelsoi feels that she is getting closer to a good deal, one she knows will give the White House a win but also let her more vulnerable members tell their constituents that more help is on the way and that will give governors of the hardest-hit states the relief they need. However, the final agreement all depends on the critical details and the formula for how the trillions are allotted.

For Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is close to Trump and his inner circle, the first question was how recently he’d spent time with Trump and others who might be infected. Zeldin told The Point he had dinner with Trump 16 days ago, and the last time he was tested was just before that dinner. Zeldin also saw White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who has thus far tested negative, nine days ago, and has not spent time recently with Melania Trump, Hope Hicks or Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.

Zeldin also said he’s on alert to head back to D.C., because while in theory Pelosi sent the House home until after the election, she also made it clear a return to vote on stimulus might be imminent. But Zeldin also has a more political take on the state of play, arguing that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s $1.5 trillion offer is close enough to the $2.2 trillion plan Pelosi pushed through Thursday night to make it clear a deal is there if Pelosi wants one.

"There are moderates in the Democratic caucus who want to go home with that deal," Zeldin said, "and they are pushing Pelosi. But she seems like, strategically, she’d rather campaign on failing to get a deal and blaming Trump and the GOP."

But the moderates Zeldin is referring to, including Problem Solvers Caucus vice-chair Rep. Tom Suozzi, disagreed with his assessment, at least publicly.

"I voted for the deal the speaker put on the floor [Thursday] night, and I believe she does want a deal," Suozzi told The Point, "as did Problem Solvers Democratic co-chair Josh Gottheimer."

But the Republican co-chair, Rep. Tom Reed, and all other Republicans in the House voted against it, making who does and does not want a deal a matter of opinion and spin.

Pelosi has told her members she does want a deal but sticking points remain, with the GOP offers too low on unemployment insurance, funding for schools, states and localities, earned income tax credits for child care, testing and tracing, and an assortment of other appropriations.

—Randi F. Marshall, Rita Ciolli and Lane Filler

Pencil Point

Trump's diagnosis

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Final Point

Are all bets off?

With the news that President Donald Trump and wife Melania have tested positive for COVID-19, some betting markets have been seriously shaken up, but the wagers on Trump’s election chances are not the ones most affected.

PredictIt, a site where people can buy shares of propositions for fractions of a dollar and get paid $1 if they’re right, has seen the biggest changes in the odds on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation since the infections were announced Friday, with the timing being the hottest play. Thursday, the prices implied that Barrett’s chance of being confirmed before the Nov. 3 election was 77%. Friday afternoon that had plummeted to 55%.

And the issue isn’t simply timing and the potential inability of the Senate to hold hearings now. The odds of Barrett failing to be confirmed by Jan. 19, before Trump leaves office, also skyrocketed, with the price of a wager on her not being seated doubling from 9% to 18%.

In the actual presidential race wagering, though, the changes were more a continuation of a trend than a new direction. The price of a wager on Democratic nominee Joe Biden winning was 59 cents before the presidential debate, but has been steadily creeping up since, and now sits at 66 cents.

And there is one more possibility that has jumped in likelihood if you believe the bettors, but still has a very slim chance.

The price of a wager on Vice President Mike Pence being elected president tripled Friday, from 1 cent to 3 cents.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

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