The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — McConnell warns of GOP `knife fight’ to keep Senate control




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Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features a discussion about Hurricane Florence with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Centers for Environmental Prediction Director William M. Lapenta; and Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL and private contractor, talks about his efforts to persuade the administration to privatize U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.

*** Hurricane UPDATES: Find the latest all day HERE (The Associated Press) ***

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTop GOP super PAC spent money on NC Democrat Everytown plans ad blitz on anniversary of House background check bill Kentucky state official says foreign adversaries 'routinely' scan election systems MORE (R-Ky.) is warning Republicans that their majority in the upper chamber is at risk with eight weeks to go before the election.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, McConnell described the electoral landscape as “very challenging” and warned of the “storm” Republicans face in the first midterm election since President TrumpDonald John TrumpComey responds to Trump with Mariah Carey gif: 'Why are you so obsessed with me?' Congress to get election security briefing next month amid Intel drama New York man accused of making death threats against Schumer, Schiff MORE took office.

           "Almost every election two years into any new administration the party of the presidency loses seats. They don't always lose the body, but almost always loses seats. And so we know that this is going to be a very challenging election on the Senate side.” - McConnell

The Hill: McConnell linked group targets Democrats in five red states.

Election handicappers are forecasting a Democratic takeover of the House. But until recently, the Senate seemed out of reach, with so many Democrats up for reelection in states Trump carried in 2016.

Polling in those states, however, shows candidates in toss-up races that could go either way, providing a clear path for Democrats to overcome the GOP’s 51-49 majority.

McConnell pointed to “dead even” races in Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia and Florida. Democrats are defending six of those seats compared to one for Republicans. There are open Senate seats in Arizona and Tennessee, where GOP Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcSally ties Democratic rival Kelly to Sanders in new ad McSally launches 2020 campaign Sinema will vote to convict Trump MORE (Ariz.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerMcConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight MORE (Tenn.) will retire.

"All of them too close to call and every one of them like a knife fight in an alley, just a brawl, in every one of those places … I hope when the smoke clears we'll still have a majority in the Senate.” – McConnell

Democrats will need a lot of things to break their way in the final weeks if they’re going to take the Senate. They’re defending 26 seats in total, with many of those playing out on GOP turf. Indeed, seven of The Hill’s 10 Senate seats identified as most likely to flip belong to Democrats at the moment.

The Hill: Senate rankings.

But the idea that the Senate might be up for grabs wasn’t even being debated a few weeks ago. It appears that the data points indicating broad Democratic gains in the House – Trump’s approval rating; a Democratic advantage in enthusiasm; a double-digit lead for Democrats in the generic ballot; and historical trends – suddenly have GOP leaders on edge in the Senate.

The Hill: Trump slump fuels GOP fears.

The Hill: Women wield sizable power in “Me Too” midterms.

The Washington Post: Republicans divert resources to Texas to assist Cruz.

In addition, Republicans never expected to be dealing with competitive races in Tennessee or Texas. National Republicans find Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzPompeo to speak to influential conservative group in Iowa Top National Security Council aide moved to Energy Department role Ted Cruz takes aim at Alabama vasectomy bill: 'Yikes' MORE’s (R-Texas) inability to pull away from Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) particularly troubling.

"I think Ted's got a competitive race by all indications. We certainly expect to win Texas, but I think he does have a competitive race." – McConnell

The Hill: GOP warns crime, immigration will spike if Democrats win.

The Hill: GOP uses Sanders’s Medicare plan in attacks on Democrats.

More from the campaign trail … In New Hampshire on Tuesday, Democratic primary voters chose Molly Kelly, a former state senator, over Steve Marchand, a former mayor of Portsmouth, to face off against Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in November. And in the state’s toss-up 1st Congressional District, openly gay Democrat Chris Pappas will compete this fall against African-American Republican Eddie Edwards, a Navy veteran backed by the Trump administration (The New York Times; CNN and The Associated Press).

And more politics … Voters favor Democratic House candidates over Republicans 52-38 percent, according to a new Quinnipiac University national survey released on Wednesday ... The Hill’s Judy Kurtz talked with comedian Kathy Griffin, who says she wants to be an asset to Democrats in 2020 (The Hill)





Hurricane Florence poses a serious weather risk to mid-Atlantic coastal states and a hazard of another kind when it comes to House Republicans’ carefully crafted September schedule. The desire among lawmakers to be home in their districts if they represent constituents affected by a natural disaster complicates efforts to finalize a series of spending measures required to prevent a partial government shutdown when funding runs out on Sept. 30.

The House was already scheduled to be out next week for Yom Kippur, and there are just seven legislative days remaining on the House calendar this month (The Hill). Will the House remain in session for roll call votes this week? Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyBarr to attend Senate GOP lunch on Tuesday California delivers swift suit after Trump orders water diversion Twitter experimenting with new tool to label lies and misinformation MORE (R-Calif.) said that was the plan as of Tuesday.

To prepare for Florence, Trump conferred with state and local officials, federal responders including the team at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and lawmakers on Monday and Tuesday and expressed confidence that emergency assets had been deployed and necessary supplies staged at key locations along the Atlantic coast.

“We are absolutely and totally prepared,” the president said.

Asked about emergency appropriations likely to be requested after Hurricane Florence’s impact is assessed, Trump told reporters, “Congress will be generous because we have no choice.”

The president praised the federal response in 2017 following Hurricane Maria, which crippled Puerto Rico, saying electrical utility problems pre-existed the storm’s ravages, complicating the task of restoring power.

“The job that FEMA and law enforcement and everybody did, working along with the governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous. I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success.” – Trump

The death toll on the island as a result of Maria and her aftermath one year ago was officially revised in late August from 64 fatalities to nearly 3,000 (The Hill).

The Associated Press: Federal simulation of a Category 4 hurricane projected massive East Coast devastation in an exercise imagining a fictional, but Florence-like scenario this spring.

> House - tax cuts: House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a promised pre-November push for legislation to make permanent some provisions of last year’s tax reductions that would otherwise expire. The bill would also include provisions aimed at boosting retirement savings and small business innovation (The Hill). Here is a list of the House Republicans who voted against the first tax cuts bill (CNN).

The measure may buoy conservatives campaigning to keep their seats this fall, but hurdles remain. First, the Senate won’t take up the measure, and the price tag is estimated at $2 trillion over 10 years. Among fiscal hawks who wring their hands about rising deficits and debt, another round of tax cuts at a time of robust economic growth is a tough sell.

The Hill: Federal deficit soars 32 percent to $895 billion.

> Freedom sought: A bipartisan group of 11 senators urged Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dem anxiety grows ahead of Super Tuesday Pompeo expects US-Taliban agreement to be signed on Feb. 29 The Hill's Morning Report — Sanders, Dems zero in on Super Tuesday MORE and the administration this week to “use all tools at your disposal,” including imposing more economic sanctions, to ensure “the immediate, unconditional” release of two U.S. journalists with Reuters who are imprisoned in Myanmar. Vice President Pence has urged their release (Reuters).


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The Hill’s Jordan Fabian has an exclusive — big business groups warn the Trump administration against making reforms to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) that would inflame tensions with online retailers, especially Amazon (The Hill).

> Trump is preparing to sign an executive order that will place sanctions on people or entities determined by U.S. intelligence agencies to have interfered in U.S. elections. The executive order could be signed as early as Wednesday (Reuters).

> The White House is blaming Iran for recent attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Iraq. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sent a warning shot at Iran on Tuesday, saying the U.S. would “hold the regime in Tehran accountable for any attack that results in injury to our personnel or damage to United States government facilities.” (The Hill)

"America will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of American lives." – Sanders.

> White House allies are stepping up their attacks on Bob Woodward, whose book “Fear: Trump in the White House,” detailing chaos and incompetence in the administration, is a big seller after hitting stores on Tuesday (The Hill). Woodward will be interviewed today on Fox News with Dana Perino and on CNN with Anderson Cooper. He spoke with The Daily podcast on Tuesday (The New York Times).

> Trump’s planned first trip to Ireland as president is off the schedule, at least for now (The Hill). Trump had been expected to visit Dublin and a golf course he owns in Doonberg, on Ireland's west coast, in November. The White House did not give a reason for the cancellation and left open the possibility the trip could still take place. Trump was expected to face protests on his swing through the country. He is still scheduled to visit Paris over Veterans Day weekend.


TECH & CYBER: Apple Inc. is expected to unveil its newest iPhones today. Here’s what to expect, and how to save some bucks on a new phone (The New York Times).

Google is under investigation in Arizona. Android device owners allege the company records location data even when they believe they have opted out of such tracking. GOP Attorney General Mark Brnovich could potentially levy a hefty fine against the search giant (The Washington Post).

Guccifer to be extradited: A Romanian court ruled this week that the notorious hacker known as Guccifer will be extradited to the United States to serve a four-year and four-month jail sentence after he finishes his seven-year sentence in his home country. Guccifer, whose real name is Marcel Lazar Lehel, broke into the email accounts of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and of at least one member of the Bush family, among others. He pleaded guilty in 2016 (Newsweek).

Amazon: Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is using the massive and ubiquitous online retailer as a political foil to discuss economic inequality ahead of a possible second run for the White House in 2020 (The Hill).

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


A hard look at America after 9/11, by Jane Harman, president of the Wilson Center.

Opposition to the president is not treason, by Andrew C. McCarthy, former federal prosecutor.


The House convenes at noon.

The Senate begins work at 3 p.m. and resumes debate on the nomination of Charles Rettig to be commissioner of the IRS.

The president is scheduled to have lunch with Secretary of State Pompeo. In the evening, Trump will speak at a White House reception for the Congressional Medal of Honor. Later, the president headlines a political roundtable and speaks to supporters at a Republican National Committee dinner in Washington.

The vice president is scheduled to travel to Grand Rapids, Mich., to tour Mill Steel Company and tout the effects of GOP tax policies.

The U.S. Census Bureau this morning releases the government’s initial estimate of median U.S. household income for 2017, expected to show growth for a third straight year.  Median household income is a window into the conditions in which most Americans live.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg discusses "diversity in the legal profession,” sponsored by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and George Washington University Law School at 5 p.m. The association will livestream Ginsburg’s remarks via Facebook, and the event will be covered by C-SPAN.

The Global Climate Action Summit convenes today in San Francisco (through Friday), with hosts Jerry Brown, governor of California, and Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor. The gathering will include governors, mayors, business executives and community leaders who are responding to a United Nations request to renew efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.


The Hill event at 8:30 a.m.: “A Healthy Start: Infant and Early Childhood Nutrition” featuring Reps. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottOvernight Health Care: House panel advances legislation on surprise medical bills | Planned Parenthood, ACLU sue over Trump abortion coverage rule | CDC identifies 13th US patient with coronavirus House panel advances bipartisan surprise billing legislation despite divisions Ex-HHS chief threatens to vote 'no' on surprise medical billing measure 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.


> Iran: Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s nuclear chief, says during an interview that he hopes the Iran nuclear deal survives Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States. Salehi dismissed the idea of caving to American demands to renegotiate the accord (The Associated Press).

> Sexual abuse: Pope Francis will meet Thursday with the head of the U.S. bishops conference and other top U.S. church officials over the sex abuse and cover-up scandal roiling the Catholic Church, according to the Vatican (The Associated Press).

> California: On the campaign trail with the Latino-Arab-American challenger trying to oust Republican Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan HunterDesperate in Southern California: Darrell Issa's 'back to the future' primary campaign misfires Democrats running to replace Duncan Hunter, Chris Collins vow to support ethics package California governor won't call special election for Duncan Hunter's seat MORE. Meet Ammar Campa-Najjar, by Robin Abcarian (The Los Angeles Times).

> Cities: Struggling Dayton, Ohio, points up the economic and social differences among cities – gaps now as dramatic as those found between urban and rural areas. “A select group of hyper-prosperous cities put ever-greater distance between themselves and their counterparts,” by Alec MacGillis (ProPublica/Frontline documentary).

> Rescue to royal: Meghan Markle’s dog, Guy the Beagle, has a book out in November with Simon & Schuster. Reviewers and rescue-dog enthusiasts are a-wag.




And finally … As the Washington metropolitan region braces for water and wind ahead of Hurricane Florence, the nation’s capital on Tuesday declared a state of emergency, following the lead of Maryland and Virginia (The Washington Post).

If you’re anywhere along the mid-Atlantic coast, don’t wait too long to prepare for the worst or to relocate out of the storm’s path. Think smart and safe. Useful tips and reminders are HERE.