The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Dem path to a Senate majority narrows

 

 

 

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Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, to analyze key midterm races. Donna Brazile, Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry and Minyon Moore promote their new book, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics.” http://thehill.com/hilltv


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Holding on to the House majority increasingly appears to be slipping from the GOP’s grasp, but what will become of Republicans’ 51-49 majority in the Senate?

A raft of new data released this week offered conflicting signals about which way the political landscape tilts in the upper chamber. The debate has been complicated by the fact that leaders from both parties claim to have received an electoral jolt from Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughThe case for reauthorizing VAWA Kamala Harris to keep seat on Judiciary Committee Planned Parenthood president 'deeply concerned' about Kavanaugh presence on Supreme Court MORE’s bitter confirmation battle.

A quick look at key states, however, reveals that everything would have to fall perfectly into place for Democrats to wrest control of the Senate from the GOP. In fact, Republicans say they sense an opportunity to expand on their narrow majority following the Kavanaugh fight:

> Democrats had hoped to spring upsets in Texas and Tennessee, but October polls in both deep-red states show Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDems attracted to O'Rourke because he demonstrates civility, says political analyst Gillum to speak at gathering of top Dem donors: report O'Rourke edges out Biden in MoveOn straw poll MORE (R-Texas) and Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnCorker: Saudi Crown Prince is ‘out of control’ Corker: Trump governs by using ‘anger’ and ‘hate’ Tennessee New Members 2019 MORE (R-Tenn.) maintaining or padding their leads in their respective races with less than a month to go before Election Day.

The Hill: Five takeaways from the final Tennessee debate.

The Dallas Morning News: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) leads Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) by 9 points in new poll.

> The best pickup opportunities for Democrats are in Arizona and Nevada. If they win in both of those swing states – and every Democratic incumbent holds on – the majority in the upper chamber would change hands.

A Wednesday survey by Phoenix-based pollster OH Predictive Insights found Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyMaine’s 2nd District outcome proves value of ranked choice voting Arizona airport says Trump campaign owes K from October rally The 5 most competitive Senate races of 2020 MORE (R) leading Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) in Arizona. Nearly every previous survey of the race found Sinema in the lead.

In Nevada, an NBC News/Marist poll gave Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur Heller How to reform the federal electric vehicle tax credit White House jumps into fight over energy subsidies One last fight for Sen. Orrin Hatch MORE (R) his first lead in months.

Those polls could prove to be outliers, but at the very least, both races appear to be toss-ups. Democrats must win them both to have a shot at the majority.

> Even if Democrats take advantage of those pickup opportunities, they also need to defend seats in all 10 of the states that President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republicans move to block Yemen war-powers votes for rest of Congress Trump says he's considering 10 to 12 contenders for chief of staff Michael Flynn asks judge to spare him from jail time MORE carried in 2016 where Democratic senators are up for reelection.

In half of those states – Michigan, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – Democrats are in good shape.

Here’s the spread in the other half of the states, according to the RealClearPolitics average:

North Dakota: Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampDem senators Heitkamp, Donnelly urge bipartisanship in farewell speeches House passes bipartisan bill aimed at reversing rising maternal mortality rates Schumer walking tightrope with committee assignments MORE (D) trails Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerDem senators Heitkamp, Donnelly urge bipartisanship in farewell speeches North Dakota New Members 2019 Rick Scott appears with GOP senators, ignores voter fraud question as recount continues MORE (R) by 8.7 points.

Missouri: Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMissouri GOP Secretary of State launches investigation into Hawley’s time as AG The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Congress to act soon to avoid shutdown Schumer gets ready to go on the offensive MORE (D) and Republican Josh Hawley are tied.

Florida: Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonCoal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee GOP opens door to new NC election amid fraud claims More than 6,000 mail-in ballots in Florida were not counted: officials MORE (D) leads Gov. Rick Scott (R) by 2.4 points.

Indiana: Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDem senators Heitkamp, Donnelly urge bipartisanship in farewell speeches Schumer gets ready to go on the offensive Schumer walking tightrope with committee assignments MORE (D) leads Republican Mike Braun by 2.5 points, with Libertarian candidate Lucy Brenton getting about 7 percent of the vote.

Montana: Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate confirms Trump's pick to be deputy Treasury secretary O’Rourke is fireball, but not all Dems are sold Schumer gets ready to go on the offensive MORE (D) leads Republican Matt Rosendale by 3 points.

The bottom line: Democrats need Heitkamp to stage a comeback in North Dakota and they need to run the table in six toss-up states if they’re going to win the Senate. There is zero room for error. Democratic leaders point to enthusiasm, turnout, demographics (and opposition to Trump).

> A new Morning Consult poll found that Democratic enthusiasm increased by 10 points to 77 percent after the Kavanaugh fight, while Republican enthusiasm declined by 1 point, to 68 percent.

> If 2018 is set to be the “year of the woman” at the ballot box, then the Kavanaugh saga was ill-timed for Republicans. The same Morning Consult survey found that enthusiasm among Democratic women jumped 10 points to 82 percent, while enthusiasm among Republican women remained unchanged at 67 percent.

GOP leaders do not dispute the party’s challenge among likely female voters.

“I don’t see how [the gender gap] could be much wider than it already was. We’ve always had that…it clearly is wider than it used to be.” – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOval Office clash ups chances of shutdown On The Money: Trump, Dems battle over border wall before cameras | Clash ups odds of shutdown | Senators stunned by Trump's shutdown threat | Pelosi calls wall 'a manhood thing' for Trump Mellman: Enemies of democracy MORE (R-Ky.) in an interview with The Associated Press.

In recent campaign stops, the president has turned his attention to protecting the GOP’s House majority. But last night in Erie, Pa., Trump campaigned for Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaCasey secures third Senate term over Trump-backed Barletta Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump officials move to require drug prices in TV ads | 4,000 more people lose Medicaid in Arkansas | New top official for Medicaid Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight MORE (R), who trails Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyWould-be 2020 Dem candidates head for the exits O’Rourke, Brown shake up volatile Democratic horse race The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Democratic race for Speaker turns nasty MORE Jr. (D) by double-digits.

Trump is being criticized for conducting the political rally as Hurricane Michael battered Florida (The Hill). The president offered “thoughts and prayers” for those in the storm’s path and said he’d travel to Florida “very soon.” Then he blasted Casey for joining the “left-wing mob” by voting against Kavanaugh and lamented that he could no longer use the phrase “the girl that got away.”

“Under the rules of 'Me Too,’ I’m not allowed to use that expression anymore. I can’t do it." – Trump

More on campaigns and politics … Dem hopes for a House majority run through Minnesota (The Hill) … Trump’s Nevada-based patron-in-chief (ProPublica) … Democrats face a thousand-seat deficit to Republicans in state legislatures across the country this year, but the party is optimistic it can make those numbers up (The Hill) … The governor’s seats most likely to flip (The Washington Post) … Division lines are opening up among top Senate Republicans when it comes to a potential 2020 Supreme Court fight (The Hill).

 

 


LEADING THE DAY

*** BREAKING OVERNIGHT *** The most powerful hurricane on record to lash the Florida Panhandle roared with 155 mph winds on Wednesday into Georgia, where its fury abated to a tropical storm. Hurricane Michael left at least two people dead from fallen trees, caused widespread destruction in Panama City and Apalachicola and left 400,000 people without power as its remaining 60 mph winds and heavy rains took aim at the Carolinas today. Michael could go down in the record books as the third-strongest hurricane to hit the continental United States (The Associated Press).

 

 

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CONGRESS: Lame-duck session: House and Senate lawmakers and lobbyists and representatives for various stakeholders are gazing beyond Election Day at legislation that might, maybe, possibly be nudged toward passage in the final weeks of this Congress, after voters have spoken. Without knowing the outcome of the elections, Republican lawmakers predict only that the haggling will be intense.

McConnell says the rush to finish contentious business will be “relatively lively.” The president wants more funding for a border wall, and McConnell says only that his caucus will “try” to deliver. But he’s not ruling out a partial government shutdown if the parties and chambers remain at loggerheads over Trump’s infamous campaign promise.

Bills to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the State Department and assorted other agencies are on the to-do list. McConnell says he would reserve time for a criminal justice reform measure, supported by the White House, if 60 senators want to take it up. And a farm bill is hanging fire (The Hill).

> Talking Wednesday with The Associated Press, McConnell did not dismiss the prospect of a federal shutdown over funding for Trump’s wall. Because Congress and the president enacted sufficient funding for about three-quarters of federal operations for this fiscal year, a shutdown prompted by an impasse over border security would be controversial, but relatively limited, he indicated.

“We’re committed to helping the president try to get the wall funding.” — McConnell

> Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse Republicans move to block Yemen war-powers votes for rest of Congress Stefanik: GOP leaders need to step up their female recruitment efforts McConnell agrees to vote on Trump-backed criminal justice bill MORE (R-Wis.), taking questions from reporters on Monday, said he expects December’s lame duck session to be contentious. "We intend on having a full-fledged discussion about how to complete this mission of securing our border and we will have a big fight about it," Ryan said. "We'll figure out how to do it [in] December" (The Hill).

Short-term funding for various agencies, including DHS, expires on Dec. 7.

> House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOval Office clash ups chances of shutdown Criminal justice reform forgets immigrants Google chief defends company during Capitol Hill grilling MORE (R-Calif.), who aspires to be Speaker if Republicans hold the House next year, is promoting legislation this week that would fully fund Trump’s wall (Western Journal).   

Climate change: Republican lawmakers are largely shrugging off dire climate change warnings spelled out in a major new United Nations report this week. Few GOP lawmakers on Wednesday said they read it (The Hill). The report is HERE. The New York Times unpacked details on Sunday, noting that scientists warn that time is running out to correct conditions that are warming the planet so rapidly, while politics push available solutions further out of reach.

Health Care: On Wednesday, the Senate defeated efforts by Democrats to overturn the Trump administration’s expansion of non-ObamaCare health plans. Democrats anticipated the outcome, but want to use the GOP position as a political weapon among voters who embrace key features of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (The Hill).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

 WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Russia: Trump may meet again with President Vladimir Putin next spring in Helsinki (Reuters). After a bilateral meeting there in July, Trump was criticized for his decidedly warm disposition toward Putin during a joint news conference at the end of their private meeting, which was accompanied only by translators.

Missing Saudi journalist: Trump says he has spoken with Saudi officials, responding again to reporters’ questions about any efforts he’s made on behalf of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an opinion contributor to The Washington Post who disappeared inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

The president said he invited Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, to the White House, but offered no details about his conversations with unnamed officials. “It’s a very serious situation for us," Trump said (The Hill).

Members of the Senate from both parties, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump, Dem leaders fight before cameras over border wall | GOP skeptical of having military build wall | US spars with Russia, Venezuela over bomber deployment Russia, Venezuela lash out after US criticisms of bomber deployment Our deep divide over nuclear disarmament MORE and White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerIvanka and Jared Kushner could profit from developer tax break they advocated: report The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump, Dem leaders spar before cameras at meeting over border wall | Senate to vote on criminal justice bill | Google chief gets grilling Jared Kushner: The White House’s results-driven tactician MORE, and British and Turkish government officials have pressed Saudi Arabia for information about Khashoggi, who was an outspoken critic of the Saudi royal family.

U.S. intelligence agencies knew before his disappearance that Khashoggi was in danger. They “intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture him,” The Washington Post reported.

Interior Department: 1,500 department employees were fired, suspended or reprimanded for sexual harassment or misconduct between 2017 and 2018, according to an internal email obtained by The Hill.

West Wing - Must Read: Trump says White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE has his support and is not on his way out. “When you walk in here, you don’t see chaos. There is no chaos. The media likes to portray chaos. There’s no chaos,” he told Olivia Nuzzi of New York magazine during an impromptu interview in the Oval Office on Tuesday.

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INVESTIGATIONS: More fallout from The New York Times bombshell report that Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinMueller’s real challenge Graham vows to push Trump’s AG pick through Judiciary Committee House GOP set to grill Comey MORE suggested wiretapping Trump in the early days of the administration and discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to have him removed from office…

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that former FBI acting Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeMueller’s real challenge Mueller's findings don't matter Comey reveals new details on Russia probe during House testimony MORE took the remarks seriously and approached an FBI lawyer about how to address the matter.

Rosenstein denies making the comments and there are suggestions that he may have made the remarks sarcastically.

The Washington Post: Rosenstein faces congressional confrontation amid new claim he seriously suggested wiretapping Trump.

Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s probe, was scheduled to be grilled today by conservatives on two House committees, but that has been postponed (The Hill).

 

 

Rosenstein has spoken to Trump about the report and the president seems convinced he’s telling the truth. The president has publicly backed the deputy attorney general in recent days and said they have a good working relationship.

It’s clear that Trump remains frustrated with Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: Mueller closes in on Trump Mueller's findings don't matter The Hill's Morning Report — Trump shakes up staff with eye on 2020, Mueller probe MORE, however.

The Washington Post reports that Trump discussed replacing the AG with Sessions’s chief of staff, Matt Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney. The New York Times reported on Sept. 26 that Whitaker was seen as a leading candidate to replace Rosenstein, if Trump fired him or he resigned (The New York Times). Whitaker, a former college football tight end, also was seen by some in the administration as a possible successor to White House Counsel Don McGahn, the Times noted last month.

The Hill: California man ensnared in Mueller probe sentenced to six months in prison.

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

Saudi Arabia must answer to Khashoggi allegations, by Varsha Koduvayur, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2Eeojrn

Professionalism and politics in disaster management, Christopher Reynolds, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2Nytou0

WHERE AND WHEN

The House is in recess and will reconvene on Nov. 13.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. to consider the nomination of Jeffrey Clark to be an assistant attorney general.

The president signs the “Save Our Seas Act” and the “Orrin G. Hatch-Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteGOP, Comey have tense day — with promise of a second date The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Trump taps William Barr as new AG | Nauert picked to replace Haley at UN | Washington waits for bombshell Mueller filing Meadows says Comey's interview with House Republicans will be 'far reaching' MORE Music Modernization Act” this morning. He has been expected to host Kanye West at the White House for lunch. The Chicago-born musician is expected to meet with Jared Kushner to discuss “manufacturing resurgence in America, prison reform, how to prevent gang violence, and what can be done to reduce violence in Chicago,” according to press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. In the afternoon, Trump will speak to a meeting of the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the White House.   

Vice President Pence, Pompeo and DHS Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenOver 30 cities oppose Trump proposal on immigration benefits Internet gambling addiction is a looming crisis John Kelly to leave White House at year's end MORE, along with Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray and Alfonso Navarrete, secretary of government, collaborate in hosting the second Conference for Prosperity and Security in Central America at 10 a.m., at the Department of State.

Pompeo chairs the president’s annual meeting of the task force to combat trafficking of persons at the White House at 2 p.m.

Sessions delivered a speech in London at the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference at 6:15 a.m. ET.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m. releases the consumer price index report for September. Because of market jitters about rising interest rates, analysts are watching inflation closely for signs of additional angst.

Today’s Open Markets Institute and Village Capital Conference, discussing whether monopolies are crushing entrepreneurship, features Sens. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoHouse passes bipartisan bill aimed at reversing rising maternal mortality rates Dole salute embodies emotion of Bush farewell Hispanic Caucus sets red lines on DHS spending bill MORE (R-W.Va.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Year Ahead: Pressure mounts on election security as 2020 approaches Hillicon Valley — Presented by AT&T — NRCC exposes security flaws 2 years after Russia hacks | Google Plus to shut down early | Scathing House report scolds Equifax for breach | McCarthy knocks Google ahead of CEO's hearing NRCC breach exposes gaps 2 years after Russia hacks MORE (D-Va.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerGillum to speak at gathering of top Dem donors: report Dem: 'Disheartening' that Republicans who 'stepped up' to defend Mueller are leaving McConnell agrees to vote on Trump-backed criminal justice bill MORE (D-N.J.); and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commissioner Robert Jackson. Info HERE.

SPONSORED CONTENT - PhRMA

New analysis shows some hospitals mark up medicine prices 700% or more. This means that if a hospital purchased a medicine for $150, a 700% markup could result in patients being billed $1,050 for that medicine. Even worse, 320 hospitals in the study marked up prices more than 1000%. These hospital markups lead to higher costs for everyone — patients, employers and payers. When hospitals mark up the cost of medicines…Patients pay the price.


ELSEWHERE

> Market drop: Wondering why the Dow Jones Industrial Average sank more than 800 points on Wednesday? Analysts say it is a mix of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, fears of an economic slowdown and an overheated tech sector. Check out analysis from  CNBC or The Wall Street Journal.

“[The Federal Reserve] has gone crazy.” - Trump

“The fundamentals and future of the U.S. economy remain incredibly strong. Unemployment is at a fifty year low, taxes for families and businesses have been cut, regulations and red tape have been slashed, paychecks are getting fatter, consumer and small business confidence are setting records, and farmers, ranchers and manufacturers are empowered by better trade deals. President Trump’s economic policies are the reasons for these historic successes and they have created a solid base for continued growth.”Sanders

Swoon: Today, European stocks slumped to a more than an 18-month low after Wall Street’s worst losses in eight months triggered a surge of global selling that spread into Asia, too. The sell-off erased hundreds of billions of dollars of global wealth (Reuters).

> Immigration: The Supreme Court appeared divided Wednesday over whether the Trump administration can detain immigrants with criminal records who are fighting deportation years after they served time for their offense (The Hill).

> Science: Italy’s Mount Etna, an active volcano, could be collapsing into the sea. (What’s the Sicilian word for disaster?) (Science)

THE CLOSER

And finally …  It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for the Morning Report QUIZ CONTEST! Send your best guesses to jeasley@thehill.com or asimendinger@thehill.com (and please put “Quiz” in your subject line). You’re a winner in Friday’s newsletter if you send us five correct answers.

Forty-three years ago, at 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 11, Saturday Night Live” premiered on NBC as an edgy sketch comedy show.

 

 

Which of these former presidents has been parodied most often on SNL, with more than 100 sketches featuring an impersonator?

1) Ronald Reagan

2) Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonJared Kushner: The White House’s results-driven tactician California dreamin’ in the 2020 presidential race Mueller filings threaten Trump but fall short of case for impeachment MORE

3) George W. Bush

4) Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDemocrats have major policy dilemma with new Congress Booker's potential 2020 bid is generating buzz among Democratic activists, says political reporter Obama: 'No ferns. No memes' in final plea urging people to sign up for ObamaCare MORE

 

Who was the first female head writer in the show’s history?

1) Tina Fey

2) Amy Poehler

3) Melissa McCarthy

4) Jane Curtin

 

The first female host, the first person to host the show for a second time, and the first woman to host SNL five times was?

1) Carly Simon

2) Carrie Fisher

3) Candice Bergen

4) Gilda Radner

 

Which of these original cast members had this to say during a recent interview, speaking about the contemporary (and Emmy-winning) SNL (hint: the interview appeared in The Washington Post): I’m amazed that [SNL creator] Lorne [Michaels] has gone so low. I had to watch a little of it, and I just couldn’t f—— believe it. … That means a whole generation of s—heads laughs at the worst f—— humor in the world. You know what I mean? How could you dare give that generation worse s— than they already have in their lives? It just drives me nuts.”


1) Dan Aykroyd

2) Laraine Newman

3) Bill Murray

4) Chevy Chase

 

SNL has been known for some iconic political impressions of politicians over the years, bolstered by great writing and physical humor. Match the dialogue from SNL sketches with the politicians being spoofed.  

Politicians:

Sarah Palin (Tina Fey)

George H.W. Bush (Dana Carvey)

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRoger Stone challenges Dems to produce WikiLeaks evidence Steve King asks Google CEO for names of employees to see if they're liberals O'Rourke edges out Biden in MoveOn straw poll MORE (Kate McKinnon)

Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersCoal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee Gillum to speak at gathering of top Dem donors: report O'Rourke edges out Biden in MoveOn straw poll MORE (Larry David)

 

Dialogue:

“Wouldn’t be prudent.”

“I own one pair of underwear. That’s it. Some of these billionaires have three, four pairs.”

“I can see Russia from my house.”

“I’ll have whatever beer no one likes, but gets the job done.”