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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to a whip vote for the prison and sentencing reform bill after midterms, his spokesperson confirmed to Axios. Sen. McConnell made the commitment in a meeting with Jared Kushner and Sens. Chuck Grassley, John Cornyn and Mike Lee.

What to watch: Although Sen. McConnell’s spokesperson said a commitment to a vote had not been made, a source familiar told Axios the Majority Leader came just shy of promising a vote. Sen. Lee’s spokesperson Conn Carroll told Axios that Sen. McConnell had committed to a vote if the whip count reached more than 60.

While President Trump said earlier today he will not endorse the bill before the midterms, he has privately expressed openness to the compromise currently being negotiated, according to a senior administration official and Sen. Lee. The bill includes reductions of sentences for certain low-level crimes.

  • Trump's support will be key to uniting Republicans and getting the bill passed, although it will likely face tough opposition from Sen. Tom Cotton and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who oppose any efforts to reduce sentences.

However, Sen. Lee told Axios he's confident the bill will have enough support to merit a vote, and that it could easily pass. Although he wishes the vote would happen sooner, "today’s events are a victory because we now have a high degree of confidence that we’ll have vote between now and the end of the year," he said.

What they're saying: The White House explained in a statement "the President remains committed to meaningful prison reform and will continue working with the Senate on their proposed additions to the bill."

  • A spokesperson for Sen. McConnell told Axios there will be no vote before the upcoming elections, and no commitments have been made for a vote after midterms, "but proponents of the legislation will continue to discuss the issue with their colleagues, followed by a whip count after the October session to accurately assess the Conference’s view on the issue."
  • Grassley released a statement, saying "I’m very encouraged by the leadership shown today by President Trump to make prison and sentencing reform a priority soon after the election and Leader McConnell’s openness to bring it up this year. And I’m confident with the President’s continued backing, we’ll have more than enough votes to pass a bill overwhelmingly."

Go deeper

Financial fallout from the Texas deep freeze

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Texas has thawed out after an Arctic freeze last month threw the state into a power crisis. But the financial turmoil from power grid shock is just starting to take shape.

Why it matters: In total, electricity companies are billions of dollars short on the post-storm payments they now owe to the state's grid operator. There's no clear path for how they will pay — something being watched closely across the country as extreme weather events become more common.

U.S. Chamber decides against political ban for Capitol insurrection

A pedestrian passes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters as it undergoes renovation. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce revealed Friday it won't withhold political donations from lawmakers who simply voted against certifying the presidential election results and instead decide on a case-by-case basis.

Why it matters: The Chamber is the marquee entity representing businesses and their interests in Washington. Its memo, obtained exclusively by Axios, could set the tone for businesses debating how to handle their candidate and PAC spending following the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

CDC lets child migrant shelters fill to 100% despite COVID concern

Intensive care tents at overflow shelter in Carrizo Springs, Texas. Photo: Sergio Flores/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control is allowing shelters handling child migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border to expand to full capacity, abandoning a requirement that they stay near 50% to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The fact that the country's premier health advisory agency is permitting a change in COVID-19 protocols indicates the scale of the immigration crisis. A draft memo obtained by Axios conceded "facilities should plan for and expect to have COVID-19 cases."

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