The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Inside the final legislative push before the midterms




Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report, and happy September! Our daily email gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch, co-created by Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger. (CLICK HERE to subscribe!) On Twitter, find us at @joneasley and @asimendinger.

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features Puerto Rico Del. Jenniffer González-Colón (R), talking about the island’s revised death toll estimates resulting from Hurricane Maria.


Lawmakers return to Washington on Monday to begin an intensive fall session that might mark the final days of Republican control in Washington.

The GOP has steered the House, Senate and White House for almost two years, but it appears increasingly likely that Democrats will flip the 23 seats they need to take over the House after Nov. 6.

There are 62 days until the midterm elections but only 11 work days in the House in September. There is little chance lawmakers will be around for October, assuming a spending deal is reached by Sept. 30 to avoid a government shutdown.

Here’s how Republicans intend to spend what could be their final days in charge of the House:

> The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin holding hearings this morning on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE’s pick to succeed former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will be introduced by Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanWhy Republicans are afraid to call a key witness in the impeachment inquiry Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump GOP lawmakers fear Trump becoming too consumed by impeachment fight MORE (R-Ohio) and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among others. The 53-year-old appellate court judge faces days of scrutiny on Capitol Hill.

The Hill: 5 topics that will come up at the Kavanaugh hearings.

The Hill: A look at Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Democrats introduce Violence Against Women Act after bipartisan talks break down Harris shares video addressing staffers the night Trump was elected: 'This is some s---' Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda MORE (D-Calif.), working among Democrats to oppose Trump’s nominee.

The Associated Press: What to watch for as senators consider Kavanaugh.

It appears that Republicans, who have a 50-49 majority in the Senate until the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary Defending their honor as we hear their testimony MORE’s replacement is announced by Arizona’s governor, will stick together and potentially be joined by some red-state Democrats in voting for Kavanaugh.

Still, the timing is important. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families On The Money: Trump appeals to Supreme Court to keep tax returns from NY prosecutors | Pelosi says deal on new NAFTA 'imminent' | Mnuchin downplays shutdown threat | Trump hits Fed after Walmart boasts strong earnings MORE (R-Ky.) hopes to have Kavanaugh seated by the time the new Supreme Court session begins on Oct. 1.

That is possible, if the past can be predictive when it comes to a high-stakes lifetime appointment. Hearings for Trump’s first Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, began on March 20, 2017. The Senate confirmed him 17 days later.

The Washington Post: Issues for Kavanaugh.

The New York Times: White House withholds 100,000 pages of Kavanaugh’s records.

> Executives from Twitter and Facebook will face a Capitol Hill grilling on Wednesday.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg will appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Republicans are expected to press them on allegations that conservative speech is being suppressed on their platforms.

The issue has exploded in recent months among the conservative grass roots and the president has taken up the mantle, accusing Google of rigging its search results to bury favorable news coverage of his administration.

Trump has floated the idea of taking action against the tech giants, although it’s unclear what he could do to influence proprietary technology belonging to publicly traded companies.

The Hill: Trump attacks rattle tech.

The Hill: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyMcCarthy says views on impeachment won't change even if Taylor's testimony is confirmed House Republicans call impeachment hearing 'boring,' dismiss Taylor testimony as hearsay The Hill's Morning Report - Diplomats kick off public evidence about Trump, Ukraine MORE (R-Calif.) leads GOP charge against Silicon Valley.

> Striking a deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a priority for the White House, although Congress will have to sign off on any deal that the administration reaches.

Talks skidded between the U.S. and Canada last week, provoking the president to announce a bilateral deal with Mexico instead (The Hill).

But despite the president’s threats to exclude Canada entirely, discussions will continue this week.

The New York Times: White House gives Canada more time to rework NAFTA.

Bloomberg: U.S.-Canada battle over NAFTA faces new hurdles.

> Lawmakers have until the end of the month to clear spending legislation and avoid a government shutdown.

The Senate has passed 9 of its 12 appropriations bills, but the piecemeal spending packages face tricky politics in the House.

The Hill: Congress faces September scramble on spending.

> In addition to these fights, the farm bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate this week over a debate about proposed work requirements for food stamps. Plus, Republicans in the House will be talking about a second tax cuts bill, although that seems unlikely, given the condensed calendar heading into the midterms.

The Hill: GOP challengers hit vulnerable Dems over tax law votes.

> And Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) is expected to move quickly to name a successor to fill the vacancy created with McCain’s death (The Arizona Republic).




INVESTIGATIONS: Trump interrupted Labor Day to vent his continued displeasure with Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsWhat are Republicans going to do after Donald Trump leaves office? Sessions vows to 'work for' Trump endorsement Sanford: 'It carries real weight' to speak against Trump 'while in office' MORE, suggesting the nation’s top law enforcement officer further jeopardized GOP chances to hold the House majority when the Justice Department recently indicted two House Republicans (The Associated Press).

“Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff,” the president tweeted, apparently referring to Rep. Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsOn The Money: Economy adds 136K jobs in September | Jobless rate at 50-year low | Treasury IG to probe handling of Trump tax returns request | House presses Zuckerberg to testify on digital currency Two Collins associates plead guilty in insider trading case On The Money: Trump blames Fed as manufacturing falters | US to join Trump lawsuit over NY subpoena for tax returns | Ex-Rep. Chris Collins pleads guilty in insider trading case MORE (R-N.Y.), who suspended his reelection campaign after being indicted on insider trading charges, and Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan Duane HunterIndicted lawmaker Duncan Hunter fails to land endorsement from local GOP Duncan Hunter challenger raises over 0,000 in third quarter Trump says White House reviewing case of Green Beret charged with Afghan murder MORE (R-Calif.), who denies campaign finance violations.




Trump said last week during an interview with Bloomberg News that Sessions, who angered the president last year by recusing himself from the Russia probe, was safe from getting the heave-ho, at least until after Election Day. The attorney general has made clear he has no intention of leaving his post voluntarily.

> Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE and his team continue to probe U.S. ties to Russia and vice versa. Between 2014 and 2016, the FBI and the Justice Department unsuccessfully tried to turn Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska — an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — into a U.S. government informant. The feds thought he might make a good source, The New York Times reported.

> Former Trump campaign chief Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortManafort sought to hurt Clinton 2016 campaign efforts in key states: NYT Ex-Trump campaign official testifies Stone gave updates on WikiLeaks email dumps Paul Manafort's former son-in-law sentenced to 9 years in prison for scamming Dustin Hoffman, others MORE, who was convicted last month in Virginia on eight felony counts tied to fraudulent financial dealings unrelated to the president or the Trump campaign, faces a second trial on Sept. 24 stemming from his international lobbying activities. Sam Patten, a Manafort associate, last week was charged with lobbying violations and is a cooperating witness (Bloomberg).

> It remains unclear whether Mueller will insist on interviewing Trump — with a subpoena if necessary. If the special counsel goes that route in coming months, the president and his legal team are not without risk if they refuse (The Hill).

> Despite speculation from Trump’s legal team that the special counsel will heed Justice Department guidelines and avoid taking steps that might be perceived as influencing an election this fall, observers debate whether Mueller will do anything differently in the next two months as part of an investigation that remains largely hidden from public view (Politico).

Randall D. Eliason: Don’t be so sure Mueller will back off before the midterms.


POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: He’s back. Former President Obama will make his long-awaited return to the campaign trail this week, beginning with a Friday speech at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

From there, the former president has campaign stops planned in California, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Obama won’t be welcome everywhere, however. The former president remains popular, but some Senate Democrats running in states Trump carried in 2016 — there are 10 of them this cycle — want him to stay away.

The Hill: Obama readies fall campaign push, but some Dems say no thanks.

The Washington Post: Democrats regain clear midterms advantage, new poll finds.

"So much of our politics, public life, public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast, and insult, and phony controversies, and manufactured outrage. It's the politics that pretends to be brave and tough but in fact is born of fear. John [McCain] called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that." – Obama speaking at McCain’s funeral on Saturday

The current president will also be keeping an aggressive campaign schedule.

The Hill: Trump’s future hinges on midterms.

Trump on Thursday will visit Billings, Mont., where Republican Matt Rosendale is seeking to oust Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterTester: Our forefathers would not have tolerated Trump asking Ukraine to investigate Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Fallout from day one of Trump impeachment hearing Veterans face growing threat from online disinformation MORE (D), whom the president loathes. In October, the president will head to Texas to hold a rally for Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families What are Republicans going to do after Donald Trump leaves office? Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators at White House MORE (R), who is scrambling to beat back a surprisingly strong challenge from Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D).

Dan Balz: Will there be a blue wave or not?

The Wall Street Journal: See the 12 Democratic and 90 Republican House seats in play.

More from the campaign trail … Lisa Hagen reports from Tennessee on how a former Democratic governor is trying to win a Senate seat in a deep-red state (The Hill) … FBI investigation looms over Democratic nominee for Florida governor (CNN) … Corporations and interest groups spending a fortune on ballot measures (The Hill).


ADMINISTRATION & WHITE HOUSE: West Wing turnstile: After Trump announced last week that White House counsel Don McGahn will depart this fall, speculation focused on who might succeed him. The Washington Post reports that Washington litigator Pat Cipollone is being considered. He was advising the president’s personal legal team over the summer.

Trump and U.S. Postal Service: The Treasury Department is promising to publicly release by the end of the year a report on reforming the U.S. Postal Service, although the president was briefed on recommendations in August. Trump in April created a group to propose an overhaul for the Postal Service, after accusing Amazon of fleecing the government by using it as its “delivery boy.” Numerous fact-checkers have refuted those Trump assertions, arguing that Amazon’s package deliveries are a moneymaker for the financially struggling Postal Service (The Hill).

Department of Homeland Security - DACA: A Texas judge last week declined to block the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children (The Hill).

DHS – reunifications update: In more than 500 cases, migrant children held in the United States remain separated from their parents, including 22 children under age 5, because of the effects of the administration’s “zero tolerance” enforcement policy at the southern border. The children’s fate rests largely with nonprofit groups that are working to find and reunite families the government is unable to track or unwilling to reconnect. More than 300 cases involve children who were separated in the United States while their parents were deported without them, primarily to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (The New York Times).

EPA – West Virginia pollution: The Environmental Protection Agency concludes that the Trump administration’s deregulatory efforts to roll back pollution rules are expected to lead to a greater number of premature deaths among West Virginians and health problems than elsewhere in the country, when compared to projections tied to policies pursued by the Obama administration (The Associated Press).


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Americans won’t vote for socialism once they know what it is, by Paul Gregory.

This is politics in 3D: Candidates’ “uncharacteristic boldness and unconventional positioning against the establishment,” by Jamal Simmons, host with Hill.TV.


The House convenes at 2 p.m.

The Senate returns to work at 3:00 p.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Elad L. Roisman to be a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Senate Judiciary Committee begins at 9:30 a.m. with introductory witnesses for Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh, followed by the judge’s testimony.

The president will have lunch with Vice President Pence, and then meet with United States Travel Association CEOs.

Pence this afternoon meets with David Beasley, the executive director of the United Nations World Food Program.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoJudge rules American-born woman who joined ISIS not a US citizen Human rights: Help or hindrance to toppling dictators? The Hill's Morning Report - Fallout from day one of Trump impeachment hearing MORE meets with one of his predecessors, Dr. Rice, at 10 a.m., and then officiates at the swearing-in ceremony for Kiron Skinner to be the department’s director of policy planning. Later, the secretary departs for New Delhi, India.

Invitation from The Hill: Sept. 12, newsmakers discuss “A Healthy Start: Infant and Early Childhood Nutrition,” featuring Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottEducation Department finalizes new regulations to relax college-accreditation requirements Trump admin gave over million in aid to students at unaccredited for-profit colleges CBO: Pelosi bill to lower drug prices saves Medicare 5 billion MORE (D-Va.), and Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Brandon Lipps from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Hill’s Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack kicks off a conversation about maternal, infant and early childhood nutrition, and progress toward the goal of healthier eating. RSVP HERE.


> Politics and economy: The Trump presidency is the biggest legacy of the financial crisis, by Joshua Green (Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine) ...  The Hill’s Sylvan Lane takes a look back at the decade since the Great Recession (The Hill) … Growth has lifted wealthier counties that voted for Trump, while long-distressed regions await better times (The New York Times).

> Brain weaponry: Scientists and doctors are exploring whether unexplained phenomenon in Cuba and China that sickened more than three dozen American diplomats and family members resulted from intentional microwave attacks (The New York Times).

> How the democratic government of Myanmar punished two journalists for uncovering an atrocity: Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo this weekend were sentenced after 265 days of detention to seven years in prison after a sham trial stemming from their revelations about a massacre that implicated security forces in the government (Reuters).

> Democratic candidates: “Build the Bench,” a brainchild of Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi accuses Trump of 'bribery' in Ukraine dealings DCCC adds senior staffers after summer departures DCCC raises more than M in October MORE (D-Ill.), trains women, people of color and young adults to run and win as Democrats for local offices, by Jennifer Bendery (HuffPost).

> Adventure survival: Former safari guide Paul Templer recounts his near-fatal and life-altering encounter with a hippo on Zimbabwe’s Zambezi River, in “Belly of the Beast,” a riveting Snap Judgment audio episode HERE.

> Runs in the family: Don’t miss this intriguing story about Kansas City Chiefs running backs coach Deland McCullough, who searched for his biological parents and found them where he never expected, by Sarah Spain (


And finally … There are much weightier issues afoot this week. But let’s pause as summer concludes to ponder Twitter’s take on cultural white lines. We think this video captured the end of summer with grace. But don’t miss a few others, laced with politics...