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. http://thehill.com/hilltv


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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 TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE’s pick to succeed former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will be introduced by Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGraham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment 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 FeinsteinGillibrand calls for Kavanaugh nomination to be withdrawn Feinstein calls for hold on Kavanaugh consideration Grassley releases letter detailing Kavanaugh sexual assault allegation 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 McCainTrump hits McCain on ObamaCare vote GOP, White House start playing midterm blame game Arizona race becomes Senate GOP’s ‘firewall’ 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 McConnellGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Kavanaugh accuser set to testify Thursday McConnell told Trump criticism of Kavanaugh accuser isn't helpful: report 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 McCarthyOn The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Midterms to shake up top posts on House finance panel The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil 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).

 

 


LEADING THE DAY

INVESTIGATIONS: Trump interrupted Labor Day to vent his continued displeasure with Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump distances himself from Rosenstein by saying Sessions hired him Gowdy: Declassified documents unlikely to change anyone's mind on Russia investigation Pompeo on Rosenstein bombshell: Maybe you just ought to find something else to do if you can't be on the team 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 CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify Indicted lawmaker angers GOP with decision to run for reelection Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls MORE (R-N.Y.), who suspended his reelection campaign after being indicted on insider trading charges, and Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan Duane HunterIndicted lawmaker angers GOP with decision to run for reelection Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency Indicted GOP lawmaker to stay on ballot in New York this fall: report 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 Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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 ManafortDem warns Trump: 'Obstruction of justice' to fire Rosenstein Ex-White House official revises statement to Mueller after Flynn guilty plea: report Former White House lawyer sought to pay Manafort, Gates legal fees: report 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.

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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) TesterNelson campaign to donate K from Al Franken group to charity Montana lawmakers cheer recommendation to ban mining north of Yellowstone Cook Political Report moves Texas Senate race to ‘toss-up’ MORE (D), whom the president loathes. In October, the president will head to Texas to hold a rally for Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzViral video shows O’Rourke air-drumming to the Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ after Cruz debate Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate NY Times, McCabe give Trump perfect cover to fire Rosenstein, Sessions 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).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

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).

 

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley jeasley@thehill.com & Alexis Simendinger asimendinger@thehill.com. Suggestions? Tips? We want to hear from you! Share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!

OPINION

Americans won’t vote for socialism once they know what it is, by Paul Gregory. https://bit.ly/2Cn65Dk

This is politics in 3D: Candidates’ “uncharacteristic boldness and unconventional positioning against the establishment,” by Jamal Simmons, host with Hill.TV. https://bit.ly/2PA8BaS

WHERE AND WHEN

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 PompeoRosenstein report gives GOP new ammo against DOJ Pompeo rejects ‘good cop, bad cop’ characterization of Russia strategy Pompeo: 'Enormous mistake' for Iran to blame US, allies for attack on military parade 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 ScottHealthy business vs healthy people — how will this administration address the two? Washington turns focus to child nutrition The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — McConnell warns of GOP `knife fight’ to keep Senate control 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.

ELSEWHERE

> 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 BustosDems see Kavanaugh saga as playing to their advantage Blue wave poses governing risks for Dems Dems' confidence swells with midterms fast approaching 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 (ESPN.com)

THE CLOSER

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...