As the presidential race enters its final week — the stakes of which have been magnified by a Supreme Court vacancy — Republicans in the Senate are poised on Monday to bring to a quick close their hastened confirmation of President Trump’s nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
The vote comes a day after Democrats in the chamber unsuccessfully tried to filibuster the nomination to protest a decision they say should be left to the winner of the presidential election.
The addition of Judge Barrett to the court will give conservatives six of the court’s nine seats, which Democrats have made a focus of the campaign this fall after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They say it threatens women’s reproductive rights and protections for millions of Americans under the Affordable Care Act.
It also immediately calls into question whether Judge Barrett would recuse herself from ruling on lawsuits over the election, a scenario that has seemingly become more likely each time Mr. Trump has tried to cast aspersions about the integrity of voting.
“We’ve made an important contribution to the future of this country,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said in a speech just after the filibuster vote on Sunday. “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”
In 2016, Mr. McConnell led Republicans in blocking former President Barack Obama from filling a Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia almost nine months before the election, arguing that a new justice should not be confirmed in an election year.
The implications of Judge Barrett’s confirmation reach far and wide, from potentially swaying voters in key Senate contests in Maine, North Carolina and other states to efforts by Democrats to expand the court, a scenario known as court packing.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., providing his clearest answer in weeks about his position on expanding the size of the Supreme Court, said on the news program “60 Minutes” on Sunday that he would establish a bipartisan commission of scholars to study a possible overhaul of the court system.
“I will ask them to, over 180 days, come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it’s getting out of whack,” Mr. Biden told Norah O’Donnell of CBS News.
The Senate’s vote on Judge Barrett’s nomination is expected to play out almost entirely along party lines, with some notable exceptions.
Senator Susan Collins, who is facing a tough re-election challenge in Maine, is expected to break ranks with Republicans on Judge Barrett’s confirmation. On Sunday, she and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska sided with Democrats in the failed filibuster effort. Republicans were expected to win back Ms. Murkowski’s vote on Monday.
Nine days before Election Day, President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. offered sharply divergent visions for the country — including the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and foreign policy — in wide-ranging interviews on “60 Minutes.”
In both substance and demeanor, the two presidential candidates cut strikingly different figures on Sunday during one of their last big opportunities to reach a national television audience during the campaign.
Mr. Trump was combative and testy during his prerecorded interview with the “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl, insisting, as he has done repeatedly in recent days despite surging coronavirus cases, that the country was “rounding the corner” on the pandemic.
“We’ve done a very, very good job,” he said at one point, falsely arguing that the increase in cases was because “we’re doing so much testing.”
Speaking at a time when family, business and government finances have been battered by the pandemic, the president also painted a rosy picture of the nation’s economy, which he said was “already roaring back.” Pressed to specify his biggest domestic priority, Mr. Trump responded that it was to “get back to normal” and “have the economy rage and be great with jobs and everybody be happy.”
But perhaps the biggest headline to emerge from his interview was his behavior. As he became increasingly irritated with the questioning, he cut off his interview with Ms. Stahl, which was taped at the White House on Tuesday, then taunted her on Twitter and posted a 38-minute clip of the interview on Facebook.
“Look at the bias, hatred and rudeness on behalf of 60 Minutes and CBS,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Thursday with a link to the clip.
Mr. Biden, for his part, was more measured in his interview with Norah O’Donnell of CBS News.
But Mr. Biden was direct in his criticism of Mr. Trump. Asked what the biggest domestic issue facing the country was, he responded “Covid.”
“The way he’s handling Covid is just absolutely, totally irresponsible,” he said about Mr. Trump.
As he has done before, he also rejected the suggestion from Mr. Trump and Republicans that he was a “Trojan horse” for the Democratic Party’s left wing.
“Mr. President, you’re running against Joe Biden. Joe Biden has a deep, steep and successful record over a long, long time,” he said.
Mr. Biden’s newsiest answer was about the Supreme Court. Asked whether he would expand the number of justices on the nation’s highest court if he were elected — a question that he has repeatedly faced since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month — Mr. Biden gave his clearest answer in weeks, saying he would establish a bipartisan commission of scholars to study a possible overhaul of the court system.
“I will ask them to, over 180 days, come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it’s getting out of whack,” Mr. Biden said.
“Covid, Covid. Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid,” President Trump groused at a rally in North Carolina on Saturday, expressing dismay that the deadly coronavirus pandemic had come to dominate the final days of his struggling re-election campaign. He made up a scenario: “A plane goes down, 500 people dead, they don’t talk about it. ‘Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid.’”
But just seven hours later, the White House made its own Covid headlines when officials acknowledged that another coronavirus outbreak had struck the White House, infecting Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff and four other top aides — and raising new questions about the Trump administration’s cavalier approach to the worst health crisis in a century.
“We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday morning, essentially offering a verbal shrug in response to any effort to prevent an outbreak in the top echelon of the nation’s leaders. “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigations, because it is a contagious virus — just like the flu.”
Mr. Trump made no reference to the new cases during campaign rallies in New Hampshire and Maine on Sunday. But for voters, the new wave of infections at the White House just over a week before Election Day was a visceral reminder of the president’s dismissive and erratic handling of the virus, even in one of the most secure spaces in the country. And it comes just as the United States suffers its third surge in infections across the nation, with a record number of daily new cases on Friday and a death toll that has risen to more than 225,000.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, said Sunday that the statement by Mr. Meadows was “an acknowledgment of what President Trump’s strategy has clearly been from the beginning of this crisis: to wave the white flag of defeat and hope that by ignoring it, the virus would simply go away. It hasn’t, and it won’t.
“It’s sadly no surprise then that this virus continues to rage unchecked across the country and even in the White House itself,” said Mr. Biden, who has sought to make the administration’s handling of the coronavirus the centerpiece of his campaign.
Massachusetts officials have ordered increased security around drop boxes used to collect mail-in ballots after what they said was an arson attack on one of the receptacles in Boston.
The city’s mayor and the state’s top elections official called the act of vandalism a “disgrace to democracy” and asked the F.B.I. to help find the arsonist, who was visible on security camera images that were released by the Boston Police Department.
The episode happened around 4:11 a.m. on Sunday near Copley Square, according to the police, who said officers saw smoke coming from the drop box.
The drop box is in one of the busiest parts of the city, outside the Boston Public Library’s Central Branch. It held 122 ballots at the time of the fire, 35 of which were damaged, elections officials said. The drop box was filled with water as firefighters extinguished the blaze.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the secretary of state, William F. Galvin, condemned the arson attack in a joint statement on Sunday.
“What happened in the early hours of this morning to the ballot drop box in Copley Square is a disgrace to democracy, a disrespect to the voters fulfilling their civic duty, and a crime,” they said. “Our first and foremost priority is maintaining the integrity of our elections process and ensuring transparency and trust with voters, and any effort to undermine or tamper with that process must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Mr. Galvin’s office referred the matter to the F.B.I., which said on Sunday night that it had opened an investigation.
“Voters in Massachusetts can feel confident in the success of the information sharing protocols that we have established with our local, state and federal election security partners in advance of the 2020 election,” the F.B.I. special agent in charge in Boston, Joseph R. Bonavolonta, said in a joint statement with the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, Andrew E. Lelling.
Elections officials advised that anyone who used the drop box after 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, when ballots were last collected, should check the status of their ballot. The city will mail new ballots to all of those voters whose ballots were identified in the drop box and will hand-count those ballots that were still legible if new ones are not recast.
With tens of millions of Americans expected to vote by mail this year, in part because of the coronavirus pandemic, many states have set up drop boxes for voters to hand deliver them. The ballot box in Copley Square was not destroyed and is back in use.
The president of Fox News and several of the network’s top anchors have been advised to quarantine after being exposed to someone on a private flight who later tested positive for the coronavirus, two people with direct knowledge of the situation said on Sunday.
The infected person was on a charter flight to New York from Nashville with a group of network executives, personalities and other staff members who attended the presidential debate on Thursday, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal network matters.
Everyone on board the plane has been told to get tested and quarantine. It was unclear whether more than one person had tested positive.
Those who were exposed include Jay Wallace, the president of Fox News Media; Bret Baier, the chief political anchor; Martha MacCallum, the anchor of Fox’s 7 p.m. show, “The Story”; and Dana Perino and Juan Williams, two hosts of “The Five.”
A network representative would not confirm any details of the exposure, citing the need to keep private health information confidential.
Fox has been faster than other cable news and broadcast networks to resume in-studio programming. And it has had one of the largest in-person footprints of the news organizations that covered the presidential and vice-presidential debates. Several Fox shows are now regularly broadcast from its Midtown Manhattan headquarters, while others are done remotely, as is more common among competitors like CNN and MSNBC.
The anchors who were affected are expected to host their shows from home for the time being.
Network personnel have been serious about taking precautionary measures like wearing masks and avoiding proximity to one another, both in the studios and on the road for major events like the debates, network employees said. And Fox staff members on the ground in Nashville were regularly tested by the network and the Commission on Presidential Debates.
But on the air, Fox has not always treated the coronavirus like the serious and potentially fatal illness that it is.
In February and March, as the virus took hold in the United States, anchors and commentators like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham repeatedly echoed President Trump’s claims that the mainstream news media and Democrats were exaggerating the issue to harm him politically.