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 TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ MORE’s pick to succeed former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will be introduced by Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanTexas senator introduces bill to produce coin honoring Bushes GOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats Steel lobby's PR blitz can't paper over damaging effects of tariffs 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 FeinsteinFeinstein says she thinks Biden will run after meeting with him Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao seeks to clarify past remarks on date rape Bottom Line 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 McCainMellman: Where are good faith and integrity? GOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech 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 McConnellDems think they're beating Trump in emergency declaration battle Sanders: 'Not crazy' about nixing the Senate filibuster McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump 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 McCarthySteve King asks for Congressional Record correction over white supremacist quote Steve King urges supporters to pray for his committee assignments to be restored: report Congress allows Violence Against Women Act to lapse 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 nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says he was interviewed by Mueller CNN hires former DOJ spokesperson under Sessions as editor on 2020 campaign 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 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race House Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for Fighting AIDS domestically and globally means pushing more evidence-based services MORE (R-N.Y.), who suspended his reelection campaign after being indicted on insider trading charges, and Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan Duane HunterThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race House Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for House Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 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 ManafortTrump has publicly criticized Russia probe more than 1,100 times: NY Times Judge orders Stone to appear in court after he shared photo of her with crosshairs Roger Stone shares, quickly deletes Instagram photo of federal judge on his case 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) TesterHow the border deal came together GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Border talks stall as another shutdown looms MORE (D), whom the president loathes. In October, the president will head to Texas to hold a rally for Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Rourke mulling another Senate run as well as presidential bid Texas senator introduces bill to produce coin honoring Bushes Trump working on labels for 2020 Dems: report 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 PompeoTrump administration combining Palestinian mission, Israeli embassy next month: report The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race The Hill's Morning Report - Trump faces mounting challenges to emergency declaration 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 ScottVirginia congressional delegation says it's 'devastated by’ Richmond Turmoil The Hill's 12:30 Report: AOC unveils Green New Deal measure | Trump hits Virginia Dems | Dems begin hearings to get Trump tax returns Aides say Virginia Democrat knew about sexual assault allegation against lt. governor 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 BustosAssault weapons ban push tests Dem support House Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 Progressives to target Dem reps in 2020 primary fights 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...