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

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report and happy Thursday! 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 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 KavanaughBudowsky: Roberts Court faces its own state of emergency The 10 Dems most likely to win the 2020 presidential nomination Five things to watch as Barr takes the reins of Justice, Mueller probe 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 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-Texas) and Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTrump’s new Syria timetable raises concern among key anti-ISIS allies Dem lawmaker invites Parkland survivor to attend State of the Union Bipartisan senators press Trump for strategy to protect Syrian Kurds 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 McSallyArmy calls base housing hazards 'unconscionable,' details steps to protect families Poll shows McSally, Kelly tied in Arizona Senate race Mark Kelly's campaign raises over M in days after launching Senate bid 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 HellerTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds 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 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 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 HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (D) trails Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerSenators highlight threat from invasive species Overnight Defense: Top general wasn't consulted on Syria withdrawal | Senate passes bill breaking with Trump on Syria | What to watch for in State of the Union | US, South Korea reach deal on troop costs GOP senators think Trump would win vote on emergency declaration MORE (R) by 8.7 points.

Missouri: Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMcCaskill: Lindsey Graham 'has lost his mind' Trey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump AG pick Barr grilled at hearing | Judge rules against census citizenship question | McConnell blocks second House bill to reopen government MORE (D) and Republican Josh Hawley are tied.

Florida: Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William Nelson2020 party politics in Puerto Rico There is no winning without Latinos as part of your coalition Dem 2020 candidates court Puerto Rico as long nomination contest looms MORE (D) leads Gov. Rick Scott (R) by 2.4 points.

Indiana: Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks 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) TesterHow the border deal came together GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Border talks stall as another shutdown looms 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 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.) 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 BarlettaTrump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 GOP trading fancy offices, nice views for life in minority Casey secures third Senate term over Trump-backed Barletta MORE (R), who trails Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyGOP wants to pit Ocasio-Cortez against Democrats in the Senate Biden speaking to Dems on Capitol Hill as 2020 speculation mounts: report GOP senators: Trump should not declare border emergency during State of the Union 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 RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump Unscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden 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 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.), 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 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 and White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerDems open new front against Trump Dems launch investigation into Trump administration's dealings with Saudi Arabia The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? 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 RosensteinTrump 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 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 McCabeTrump 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 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 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, 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 GoodlatteIt’s time for Congress to pass an anti-cruelty statute DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling House GOP probe into FBI, DOJ comes to an end 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 NielsenThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump faces mounting challenges to emergency declaration 2,000 asylum seekers return home, decide to stay in Mexico: report Trump taps FEMA official to lead agency 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 CapitoDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants GOP senator: Border deal is 'a very good compromise' Push to include contractor back pay in funding deal hits GOP roadblock MORE (R-W.Va.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHarris on election security: 'Russia can't hack a piece of paper' Schiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears MORE (D-Va.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSanders campaign reports raising M in less than a day Gillibrand uses Trump Jr. tweet to fundraise Trump: Bernie Sanders 'missed his time' for White House 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 ClintonTrump says he never told McCabe his wife was 'a loser' Harris off to best start among Dems in race, say strategists, donors For 2020, Democrats are lookin’ for somebody to love MORE

3) George W. Bush

4) Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Memo: Bernie Sanders’s WH launch sharpens ‘socialist’ question Obama spends Presidents Day at Ayesha Curry's San Francisco restaurant Government's misguided holiday to celebrate itself 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 ClintonSanders campaign reports raising M in less than a day The Memo: Bernie Sanders’s WH launch sharpens ‘socialist’ question Roger Stone invokes gag order in new fundraiser MORE (Kate McKinnon)

Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSanders campaign reports raising M in less than a day The Memo: Bernie Sanders’s WH launch sharpens ‘socialist’ question Gillibrand uses Trump Jr. tweet to fundraise 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.”