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The Hill's Morning Report: Koch Network re-evaluating midterm strategy amid frustrations with GOP

 

 



Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and happy Tuesday! This daily email, a successor to The Hill’s Tipsheet, is reported by Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger to get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch.  (CLICK HERE to subscribe!)

I would put it at a 60-65 percent chance the House flips.

-- Charlie Cook, Cook Political Report editor and publisher, WTOP radio interview.

The network of groups affiliated with billionaire conservative donors Charles and David Koch are taking a new look at which Republican candidates to support this year.

The groups still plan to spend up to $400 million on politics and policies this election cycle, but they’re deeply frustrated by what they view as the GOP’s refusal to take up major legislation ahead of the midterm election.

Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips, a senior Koch network political strategist, tells us they’ve made their misgivings known to the White House and GOP leaders in Congress, including Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats MORE (R-Wis.).

“We’ve been disappointed so far this year and it’s going to cause us to closely evaluate the involvement we may or may not have in individual races,” Phillips says.

The Koch network isn’t only exasperated with Republicans for passing the $1.3 trillion spending package or frustrated by President TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE’s threatened tariffs.

They also want to see Congress act on:

  •     Protection for so-called Dreamers in exchange for border security.
  •     Criminal justice reform.
  •     Rolling back Dodd-Frank banking rules.
  •     Providing access to experimental drugs for terminally ill patients.
  •     A rescission package to claw back omnibus spending.
  •     A vote to make individual tax rate cuts permanent.

“The best opportunity they have to hold the House for their majority is to accomplish big things on policies that will improve the lives of Americans,” Phillips adds.

Some of the network’s donors privately tell us that the House majority looks like a lost cause, potentially accelerating the movement of money toward protecting the Senate majority.

Republicans up for reelection in this difficult midterm election cycle know how beneficial support from the Koch Network can be, both for media ad buys and in activating their network of door-knockers and phone-bankers.

The network spent millions to help elect former Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Senate makes SCOTUS nominee Barrett a proxy for divisive 2020 Senate Republicans scramble to put Trump at arm's length GOP anxiety grows over Trump political roller coaster MORE (R-N.H.) in 2010. They pulled their support from her in 2016, and she lost by about 1,000 votes. Also that year, the network actively campaigned against former Rep. Renee EllmersRenee EllmersClay Aiken podcast looks for political balance North Carolina ruling could cost GOP House seats Renee Ellmers announces bid for North Carolina lieutenant governor MORE (R-N.C.), who lost in a primary to Rep. George HoldingGeorge Edward Bell HoldingGOP lawmaker says US-UK negotiators working 'fast and furious' on trade deal Hispanic Caucus campaign arm endorses slate of non-Hispanic candidates Whiskey, workers and friends caught in the trade dispute crossfire MORE (R-N.C).

There are no plans at this point for the Koch Network to target Republicans in primaries or support Democrats in general elections. But GOP incumbents are on notice to get things done if they want Koch support.

“It’s late April,” Phillips says. “Time is ticking.”

LEADING THE DAY

TRUMP AND PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON,
following tree planting and grace notes about centuries of admiration between America and France, get down to global business today (with some pomp tonight).

But chasms exist between Trump and Macron, The Hill’s Jordan Fabian reports. The French president wants to nudge Trump on:

  • The Paris climate accord;
  • Iran nuclear deal;
  • Syria’s future;
  • Trade disputes.

Reuters: U.S. faces “severe consequences” if it withdraws from 2015 nuclear deal, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani warns.

The New York Times: Trump throws out tradition for first state dinner.

AP: Two presidents bond before business at Mount Vernon.

CNN: Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Pelosi, Mnuchin push stimulus talks forward, McConnell applies brakes Melania Trump cancels campaign appearance over 'lingering cough' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by the Walton Family Foundation — DOJ to file antitrust suit against Google | Trump calls for Hunter Biden probe before Nov. 3 | Trump, Biden mics will have muting feature at Thursday debate | Pa. ballots to be counted MORE looks to history for inspired state dinner with Macrons. See what’s on tonight’s menu here.

 

INVESTIGATIVE UPDATE:

The Hill: White House won’t rule out a presidential pardon for Michael Cohen.
The Hill: GOP House committee chairmen strike a deal with Justice Department re: documents for investigation into FBI in 2016.
The Hill: “We have no intention of firing the special counsel,” the White House said Monday.

POMPEO NEARS CONFIRMATION TO LEAD STATE DEPARTMENT:

CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Brazil's OECD candidacy is best chance for reform Watch live: Pompeo news conference MORE, Trump’s nominee to be the administration’s top diplomat, narrowly cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday when Kentucky Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Top Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate MORE (R-Ky.) changed his mind and supported the former Kansas congressman.

The Hill: Pompeo is expected be confirmed by the full Senate later this week with help from red-state Democrats, and he could be sworn in by Vice President Pence almost immediately.

The president’s reaction when asked about Paul’s flip: “I said he’d never let us down. He’s a good man.”

  • WHITE HOUSE PERSONNEL: AP: Vice President Pence to name retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who served former Trump adviser H.R. McMaster in the West Wing, as national security adviser on the vice president’s staff.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Barrett punts on climate, oil industry recusals | Ex-EPA official claims retaliation in lawsuit | Dems seek to uphold ruling ousting Pendley Ex-EPA official who spoke about Pruitt scandals claims retaliation in new lawsuit Crystal clean water? Not if Trump can help it MORE, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, hits choppier waters. Is his support waning at the White House?

Must-watch TV Pruitt to testify Thursday about his agency’s budget (and juggle lots of other questions) before the House Subcommittee on the Environment.

The president’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, Rear Adm. Dr. Ronny Jackson, in trouble, too.

The Senate abruptly postponed Jackson’s confirmation hearing last night — it had been scheduled for Thursday — as lawmakers said they need to better understand unconfirmed complaints of workplace misconduct against Jackson (Washington Post).

Grousing is now intense about the lack of process to replace fired VA Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinVA inspector general says former top official steered M contract to friend Schumer demands answers in use of unproven coronavirus drug on veterans Former Trump VA secretary says staffer found plans to replace him in department copier MORE: Trump conducted no interviews, there was no vetting and no customary consultations with Capitol Hill before announcing Jackson, who has scant federal management experience.

Meanwhile, Gina Haspel, nominated to be CIA director, continues to contend with forceful critics as well as bipartisan supporters in advance of a May 9 confirmation hearing (The Hill).

Politics — Special election alert

Voters head to the polls in Arizona today for the special election to replace Rep. Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksArizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems Freedom Caucus members see openings in leadership MORE (R-Ariz.) (The Hill).

It’s the latest test for Republicans ahead of a midterm election that has prognosticators forecasting big gains for Democrats in the House. Trump won Arizona’s 8th District by more than 20 points in 2016 but Tuesday’s election between Republican Debbie Lasko and Democrat Hiral Tipirneni figures to be much closer.

The most recent Emerson College survey found Lasko with a 6 point lead. The same poll from two weeks ago had Tipirneni up by 1. Republicans expect to win, but the margins here will be important in determining their level of panic going forward.

Wall Street Journal: Arizona Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallySenate is leaning to the Democrats, big time, with a wave Cunningham, Tillis locked in tight race in North Carolina: poll Senate Republicans offer constitutional amendment to block Supreme Court packing MORE (R), who is running for Senate, accuses high school coach of sexual abuse.

Also in politics, the Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear oral arguments in a case about redrawing congressional districts in Texas. The plaintiffs say Hispanics are underrepresented in the current maps (The Hill).

The Hill: Colorado Supreme Court rules GOP lawmaker should be kept off ballot.

Politico: Watchdog organization sues Speaker Ryan-aligned dark money group.

Congressional leadership fight, Democratic edition

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo On The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Overnight Health Care: CDC expands definition of 'close contact' after COVID-19 report | GOP coronavirus bill blocked in Senate | OxyContin maker agrees to B settlement with Trump administration MORE (D-Calif.) has steered Democrats since 2003 and gives no indication she intends to step aside. But if Pelosi aspires to be the next Speaker of the House, she might need to see an overwhelming rout among Democrats in November. Democrats need to pick up at least 23 seats to tip the partisan balance.

The Hill: Pelosi’s future a question of math.

Pelosi could be challenged from within her ranks, and a growing number of Democrats running for election have promised not to support her — a byproduct of GOP efforts to tie Democratic candidates to their liberal House leader. That means Pelosi might need Democrats to pick up 30 or more seats to give her the cushion she needs to make her case to regain the gavel she wielded at the outset of former President Obama’s first term.

    “She has to probably get to 34 seats to guarantee she can still be Speaker,” a Democratic lawmaker, who wants Pelosi replaced, told The Hill’s Mike Lillis. “It’d be great — we’d love to have that. But it’s a big number.”

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, K Street is bracing for the uncertainty that comes with aligning with a lame-duck Speaker, which is what Ryan has become in the view of many Republicans after he announced his retirement.

The Hill: Lobbyists fret about lame-duck Speaker.

Congress was not expected to do much this year ahead of the midterm elections even before Ryan announced his exit. Now lobbyists are complaining that Ryan’s departure will make passing legislation that much more difficult.

OPINION

Macron meets his moment of truth, By Sylvie Kauffmann, editorial director of Le Monde, writing in The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2Hn2LG1

Democrats have great female presidential candidates. They need to avoid the victim trap, by Jonathan Chait, commentary, New York magazine. https://nym.ag/2HnLWiw

WHERE AND WHEN

Senate convenes at 10 a.m.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueFederal judge strikes down Trump's cuts on food stamps for unemployed EU's 'farm to fork' demands could mean indigestion for US food exporters Baldwin calls for Senate hearing on CDC response to meatpacking plant coronavirus outbreak MORE discusses the state of rural America with the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

House meets at 2 p.m. for legislative business. Votes are postponed until 6:30 p.m. Minority Leader Pelosi takes questions this morning during a student town hall event organized by Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump officially welcome French President Emmanuel Macron and Brigitte Macron to the White House. The presidents have back-to-back bilateral meetings on the schedule before a joint press conference at 11:45 a.m. Trump and Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisNearly 300 more former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter John Kelly called Trump 'the most flawed person' he's ever met: report Biden courts veterans amid fallout from Trump military controversies MORE will meet over lunch. Later, Trump and the first lady host the administration’s first state dinner, honoring France and its president.

ELSEWHERE

> Money pours into Wisconsin for Senate race. Both parties see seat as winnable, by Stephanie Saul (New York Times)

> People voted for Trump because they were anxious, not poor, according to a deep-dive of 2012 and 2016 elections, by Olga Khazan (The Atlantic)

> Theories abound about how Democrats could win the White House in 2020, by Amy Walter (Cook Political Report)

> Gavin Newsom, California lieutenant governor and a leading candidate for governor, revises past statements to say he never formally entered rehab for alcohol abuse, by Angela Hart (Sacramento Bee)

THE CLOSER
 

 

And finally … 'Ghost Nets' and Ocean Trash: Two scientific studies find threats to marine life worse than researchers thought, as cleanup efforts attempt to tackle a serious global problem (National Geographic). Photo by Pierre Lesieur of sharks drowned in a mammoth tangle of floating ghost nets off Grand Cayman Island.