Evan Vucci) / AP

Two top congressional Republicans are warning Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price that a memo to HHS employees restricting their communications with Congress is "potentially illegal and unconstitutional" and could have a chilling effect on whistleblowers.

Why they spoke up: In a letter to Price, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz noted that "federal employees have a constitutional right to communicate directly with Congress."

What the memo said: The memo from HHS chief of staff Lance Leggitt said agency employees shouldn't communicate with members of Congress or their staff without consulting the Assistant Secretary for Legislation. Grassley and Chaffetz said it should have noted that there are federal whistleblower protections.

Why it matters: Don't underestimate the significance of two Republican committee chairmen issuing such a strong warning to a Republican administration. An HHS spokesperson said there's "nothing new" about this kind of memo, which was meant to remind employees how policy responses are coordinated, and doesn't ban direct communications with Congress in all cases.

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Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 32,471,119 — Total deaths: 987,593 — Total recoveries: 22,374,557Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 7,032,524 — Total deaths: 203,657 — Total recoveries: 2,727,335 — Total tests: 99,483,712Map.
  3. States: "We’re not closing anything going forward": Florida fully lifts COVID restaurant restrictions — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam tests positive for coronavirus.
  4. Health: Young people accounted for 20% of cases this summer.
  5. Business: Coronavirus has made airports happier places The expiration of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance looms.
  6. Education: Where bringing students back to school is most risky.
Mike Allen, author of AM
13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden pushes unity message in new TV wave

A fresh Joe Biden ad, "New Start," signals an effort by his campaign to make unity a central theme, underscoring a new passage in his stump speech that says he won't be a president just for Democrats but for all Americans.

What he's saying: The ad — which began Friday night, and is a follow-up to "Fresh Start" — draws from a Biden speech earlier in the week in Manitowoc, Wisconsin:

Trump prepares to announce Amy Coney Barrett as Supreme Court replacement

Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Photo: Matt Cashore/Notre Dame University via Reuters

President Trump is preparing to nominate federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana, a favorite of both the social conservative base and Republican elected officials, to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republican sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Barrett would push the already conservative court further and harder to the right, for decades to come, on the most important issues in American politics — from abortion to the limits of presidential power. If confirmed, she would give conservatives a 6-3 majority on the high court.