The political stakes are huge for the upcoming elections tomorrow. At the moment, former Vice President Joe Biden appears to be maintaining his lead in the popular vote and in the crucial swing states that will be necessary to garner a majority of the electoral votes. The margin of victory for either candidate is sure to be close and could be subject to protracted review or legal challenges.
President Donald Trump’s unpopularity will likely influence the outcome of highly competitive Senate races, with Democrats favored to flip the Senate by a narrow margin. Democrats need a net gain of at least four seats to win a Senate majority, or a Biden presidency and three net wins. They appear very close to obtaining this goal with likely wins in Colorado and Arizona along with competitive races in Maine, North Carolina, Montana, South Carolina and Iowa. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats are very likely to maintain and expand their comfortable margin.
While a record-breaking 94 million people have already voted, the timing of the final election results is unclear. Key battleground states to watch are Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, and Michigan. While Biden has increased his lead in the critical state of Pennsylvania (4.8 percent), this state is still close enough that it could provide a narrow path for a Trump reelection.
The gap between Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Michigan has actually grown in the waning days of the election. And no state has emerged out of the pack of Arizona, North Carolina, Florida and Georgia to be Biden’s clear Plan B (Biden is forecasted to win each state by between 1 and 3 points). Arizona is probably Biden’s best bet in this group, but winning it would also require him to win either Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District or Maine’s 2nd Congressional District to break a 269-269 Electoral College tie; he’s favored in both districts but they aren’t sure things.
As for the COVID-19 relief negotiations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to reach a deal before Election Day. Whether both parties will have an appetite to work together after the election during the lame duck session remains to be seen. According to Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Mnuchin, major points of disagreement include funding for COVID-19 testing and vaccines, funding for states and localities, aid for schools and child care providers, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, unemployment insurance, and worker protections. The expiration of the continuing resolution, December 11, is the likely new deadline for congressional action on both COVID-19 relief as well as fiscal year 2021 government funding.
In the meantime, the bulk of the policymaking is expected to happen through rulemaking. Last week, the Trump administration released an array of highly anticipated regulations, including – the fourth COVID-19 interim final rule, Transparency in Coverage final rule, interim final rule extending compliance dates for information blocking and the ONC Health IT Certification Program, and the Medicare Advantage and Part D Advance Notice Part II. We expect the administration to soon issue the calendar year 2021 Medicare payment final rules, such as the Physician Fee Schedule, which may include finalized telehealth policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We may also soon see the final end-stage renal disease (ESRD) payment rule, which cleared the Office of Management and Budget last week.