HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: White House Too Close; Senate Flip Slim

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President Donald Trump falsely declared early this morning he had won re-election against Joe Biden and said he would ask the Supreme Court to intervene, even as several battleground states continue to count votes.

“This is a fraud on the American public,” Trump said, complaining about ongoing vote-counting after noting that he holds leads in several states that have not been called in his favor, including Pennsylvania and Michigan.

“Frankly we did win this election,” he said. “So we’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop.”

It wasn’t immediately clear what Trump meant, as states including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia and others are counting legally cast votes. It is routine for states to continue counting votes after Election Day.

Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, said in a statement that Trump’s remarks were “outrageous, unprecedented and incorrect” and “a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens.”

“The counting will not stop,” she said. “It will continue until every duly cast vote is counted.”

Overall, Biden’s performance highlights the “blue wave” that Democrats hoped would also give them control of both chambers of Congress may fall short. Republicans are positioned to retain control of the Senate, and Democrats look unlikely to expand their House majority. Jordan Fabian and Josh Wingrove have the latest.

As results continue to come, follow the outcomes here:

Both Have Paths to Electoral College Win: The presidential battlefield is narrowing to a smaller number of states, with both Trump and Biden still having paths to victory. Biden now has 238 electoral votes to Trump’s 213.

Biden’s victory in Arizona, a state Trump won in 2016, gives him more breathing room as the “Blue Wall” states remain uncounted. Even without Pennsylvania, Biden could now reach exactly 270 electoral votes — the minimum necessary to win — if he can win Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as Nevada, where he was leading early this morning. Gregory Korte and Josh Wingrove have more on the path to victory.

Control of Congress

Democrats’ Chances for Senate Majority Diminish: Democratic chances of taking control of the Senate were greatly diminished after several vulnerable Republican incumbents including Joni Ernst in Iowa and Steve Daines in Montana fended off well-financed Democratic challengers. While there were six Senate races still to be settled, Democrats would need an extraordinary surge to win three of them, which would give them the minimum 50 seats they’d need to control the Senate — and only then if Biden prevails over Trump at the top of the ballot.

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) defeated incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner (R) in the Colorado Senate race, Fox and NBC projected. Retired astronaut Mark Kelly won his race against Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona.

In races yet to be called, GOP Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Thom Tillis of North Carolina were holding on to leads in early vote counts.

The final outcome of the battle for the Senate might not be known for days while votes are tallied — or even months if control of the chamber hinges on the Georgia runoff. Georgia Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by the governor, will face off against Democrat Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, in the runoff. In the other Georgia contest, Republican incumbent David Perdue was leading Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, who narrowly lost an Atlanta-area House special election in 2017. Read more from Billy House, Laura Litvan and Steven T. Dennis.

Democrats Holding House Majority, But Lose Several Incumbents: Democrats are projected to keep control of the U.S. House in yesterday’s elections, but with at least six incumbents losing their seats the party is falling far short of pre-election expectations of an expanded majority.

Among the Democrats defeated were several first elected in the 2018 “blue wave” that swept them into majority, as well as with House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, who has represented his Minnesota district since 1991. While Republicans aren’t threatening to take back control of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will have less room to maneuver.

House Democrats might have to shelve their most ambitious plans for health care, fighting climate change and responding to the coronavirus epidemic. Independent analysts forecast heading into Tuesday’s vote that Democrats would gain 10-15 seats. Instead they may face a net loss. Read more from Billy House.

  • Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, won his 18th term in Congress, defeating Democrat Jon Hoadley, the Associated Press projected., Maria Monteros reports. Democrats had sought to flip the 6th Congressional District in the state’s southwest after Upton, easily re-elected for most of his House career, saw his victory margin narrow to less than five percentage points in 2018.

Future of House Democrats’ Leadership Starts in Caucus Elections: Electionnight didn’t go as House Democrats hoped. But they’re projected to retain the majority, and elections playing out later this month inside the Capitol will help illuminate the future of the most static leadership team in Congress.

Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (S.C.) are all expected to remain in House Democrats’ top three positions, where they’ve been for more than a decade. But all three are in their early 80s, and there is pent up ambition in droves in the expanded caucus.

When Democrats elect their leaders on Nov. 18 and 19, there are two contested races for slots further down the ladder — for assistant speaker and Democratic Caucus vice-chair, the fourth- and sixth-ranked positions — that will help identify a couple of potential successors. Another race to represent members who’ve served for five terms or less is also up for grabs. Read more from Emily Wilkins.

117th Congressional Committees Outlook: Stay tuned to BGOV later today for our complete coverage of every committee’s priorities for the 117th Congress.

Meet the Freshman: For a look at all the members of the 117th Congress, including the incoming freshman, see BGOV’s lawmaker directory.

  • One of those incoming freshman will be former White House physician Ronny Jackson, who won Texas’s 13th Congressional District yesterday night. Jackson has said that he wants to bring pharmaceutical manufacturing back to the U.S. from foreign countries like China, and has said he’d oppose the “socialist healthcare plans of the left.” Jackson also served as the White House physician under George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
  • Another new freshman is Maria Elvira Salazar (R), who upset former HHS secretary and first-term Rep. Donna Shalala (D) in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. Shalala served on the Education and Labor panel’s health subcommittee.

Democrats have reason to be disappointed with last night’s results, even if they manage to win the Senate and White House. Key lawmakers had discussed passing major legislation on the coronavirus recovery without Republican support, a feat that would be difficult with slim majorities in both chambers and impossible if they lose the Senate.

Pelosi told reporters Monday Democrats would use the budget reconciliation process to pass legislation through the Senate with a simple majority, rather than 60 votes, if Democrats win both chambers. “We most certainly will be passing a reconciliation bill,” Pelosi said. “Not only for the Affordable Care Act but for what we may want to do further on the pandemic and some other issues that relate to the well-being of the American people.”

But control of the Senate is still up for grabs, and Democrats’ struggles to increase their House majority could work against them.

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), who is vying to serve as the ranking member of the Budget Committee, warned in an Oct. 30 interview that Democrats’ plans to use reconciliation could fall apart on Election Day. “It is a tool, but it’s got to be a tool used effectively, and they are counting their chickens before they hatch,” Johnson said.

BGOV’s Rapid-Response Webinar: Join Bloomberg Government’s Greg Giroux, Kyle Trygstad, and Emily Wilkins on Thursday at 2 p.m. for an examination of the biggest surprises and most momentous outcomes of the 2020 elections. They’ll assess how the election results could rewrite the landscape in Washington and will share insights from the latest available election data. Register Now.

Ballot Initiatives

Cannabis Legal in Much of U.S. as Five States Approve New Plans: Legal marijuana is becoming the American norm as ballot measures passed in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota, adding to the 44 states that already allow it for medical or recreational purposes. Adult-use pot will be legal in 15 states.

The measures were among a handful of proposals voters across the country considered to legalize pot and decriminalize drugs such as psilocybin, or “magic mushrooms.” The ballot initiatives in solidly red states like Mississippi and South Dakota indicate a slow shift towards public acceptance of recreational drug use even though employers and health professionals worry about the impact. Read more from Brenna Goth.

  • New Jersey will become the fourth most-populous state and the biggest on the East Coast to legalize marijuana sales for recreational use as residents approved ending a prohibition of the drug. Voters passed the initiative after Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and other state lawmakers failed to legalize adult marijuana use through the legislature. Read more from Michelle Kaske.

Colorado Voters Say No to Banning Most Later-Term Abortions: Colorado voters rejected a measure that would have prohibited abortions after 22 weeks gestational age unless immediately required to save the life of a pregnant woman. Voters shot down the citizens’ initiative (Proposition 115) by a vote of 59.1% to 40.9%, with 85% of the vote reported. Read more from Tripp Baltz and Jennifer Kay.

More Ballot Initiatives:California Gig Worker, Massachusetts Car Repair Measures Win

The Coronavirus Pandemic

Contact Tracers Plan Strategy to Tackle Surge: As a resurgent coronavirus sweeps across Europe and the U.S., some top health experts are calling for a “cluster-busting” approach to contact tracing like the one Japan and other countries in Asia have used with success. Rather than simply tracking down the contacts of an infected person and isolating them, proponents advocate finding out where the individual caught Covid-19 in the first place. That extra step, known as backward tracing, exploits a weak spot of the virus—the tendency for infections to occur in clusters, often at super-spreading events.

The approach has implications for policy makers, who are again imposing costly lockdowns across much of Europe and parts of the U.S. after containment strategies that relied upon existing testing and tracing largely failed. Read more from Tim Loh.

  • Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is seeking a company that can create a new centralized reporting platform for Covid-19 testing results. The agency issued a request for information yesterday to see if such a platform, which would allow laboratory data to be submitted to state and local health departments, could be created. The goal would be to ensure more complete and efficiently reported data, according to the request. Shira Stein has more.

Governors Judged by Covid Response: Eleven states held gubernatorial contests yesterday with candidates in every race skirmishing over mask mandates, business shutdowns, and the balance between protecting public health and trying to jump-start lagging economies during the pandemic. Voters generally have had favorable opinions of how their state leaders have handled the virus, polls show, and the governing style of the incumbents has been on display in regular Covid-19 briefings. Read more from Tripp Baltz.

More Headlines:

What Else to Know

Lawmakers Back FDA in Abortion Pill Appeal: A federal court wrongfully blocked the Food and Drug Administration from enforcing a guideline requiring women prescribed a drug to induce abortions to pick the pill up in person, 102 lawmakers representing 34 states told the Fourth Circuit in a brief supporting the agency’s request to undo the ruling. The agency acted well within its boundaries when it determined that safety issues require in-person dispensing for mifepristone, members of the Senate and House said in a friend of the court brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Read more from Mary Anne Pazanowski.

More Headlines:

With assistance from Jack Fitzpatrick

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bgov.com; Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com

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