The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns




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Turn on the television in the final weeks before Election Day and you can expect to see an advertisement with a politician talking about health care.

Democrats have seized on the issue and believe they have Republicans off-balance. Liberals are thrilled that Democratic candidates appear to have settled on a kitchen table issue, rather than running on impeachment or the controversy of the day in Washington.

The Associated Press: Democrats go all-in on health care.   

The New Republic: Democrats finally have a midterms message in health care.

Following the bitter Supreme Court confirmation battle for Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMellman: The triumph of partisanship Pavlich: Where is Brett Kavanaugh’s apology? Trump tweets about Diwali, draws criticism for not mentioning Hindus in initial posts MORE, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSunday shows preview: Trump taps acting attorney general to lead Justice Department Pro-Israel organizations should finally seek payback against Iran deal Dems Pelosi: Acting attorney general 'should not be there' MORE (N.Y.) sought to turn the page quickly, and Democrats were able to force a vote on eliminating short-term health-care plans that don’t cover pre-existing conditions.

The Senate was split 50-50. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDems vow swift action on gun reform next year Collins reiterates call for legislation to protect Mueller investigation GOP nerves on edge after Sinema takes lead over McSally MORE (R-Maine) voted with Democrats but was the only GOP member to cross party lines.

Now, The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports that across the country, Democratic candidates are running ads focused on a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel (R), which argues that the Affordable Care Act was rendered unconstitutional by the GOP’s tax overhaul.

Federal court judges in Fort Worth weighed opening arguments on the matter last month. Democrats are using the lawsuit as a cudgel against Republican candidates from the top of the ballot on down.

There’s suddenly been a noticeable shift among Republicans on the most popular provision in ObamaCare, underscored by Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzIncoming Dem lawmaker from Texas says Nielsen should be replaced as DHS chief Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February Poll: Biden and Sanders lead 2020 Dem field, followed by Beto O'Rourke MORE’s (R-Texas) pledge to protect people with pre-existing conditions during a heated debate on Tuesday night against Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas).

The Hill: Cruz softens ObamaCare attacks highlighting GOP shift.

The issue carries weight with voters. President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeath toll in Northern California wildfire rises to 48: authorities Graham backs bill to protect Mueller Denham loses GOP seat in California MORE for weeks has been trying to help GOP candidates as they defend the core tenet of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits insurers from turning down coverage for clients who have pre-existing medical conditions.

    “We totally support people with pre-existing conditions. We have a tremendous level of talent, and we’re doing a lot of work on pre-existing conditions." – Trump

The New York Times reports:

“For months, Democratic candidates have been running hard on health care, while Republicans have said little about it. In a sign of the issue’s potency, Republicans are now playing defense, releasing a wave of ads promising they will preserve protections for Americans with pre-existing health conditions.”

However, on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham backs bill to protect Mueller Grassley defends acting AG against calls for recusal Former staffers push Congress for action on sexual harassment measure MORE (R-Ky.) said during an interview with Reuters that Republicans might try to repeal ObamaCare again next year if they keep the majority.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said those remarks reveal the GOP is being dishonest about where it stands on pre-existing conditions:

“Republican Senate candidates have been lying on the campaign trail about their promise to protect pre-existing conditions – and Mitch McConnell just blew their cover.”

Is it a winning issue for Democrats?

It might depend on the state, as premium costs in the federal and state exchanges and among employer-provided plans vary widely.

USA Today: Health care is a key national issue but the real action may happen at the state level.

But a new survey of a key voting demographic for any midterm cycle might be a warning sign for Republicans:

Morning Consult: In departure from past elections, seniors lean toward Democrats.

Health care – and every issue that falls under that broad umbrella –  may not appear explicitly on ballots next month, but it’s definitely on voters’ minds. The Wesleyan Media Project reported this breakdown of nationwide political ads from September, and health care dominated.




CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: Trump is heading west to protect, and possibly help expand, the GOP majority in the Senate.

The president’s next four campaign stops are in Montana, Arizona, Nevada and Texas.

A quick run through those states…

> Montana: Tonight, Trump will campaign for Republican Matt Rosendale, who trails Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterMellman: The triumph of partisanship VA under pressure to deliver Trump reforms Feehery: With 2020 looming, Republicans must learn lessons from midterms MORE (D) by only 3 points, according to the RealClearPolitics average. There haven’t been any polls of the race since the Kavanaugh confirmation fight, which boosted GOP Senate candidates in other red states.

Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpMueller targets Stone in final push Robert De Niro says goodbye to ‘Jeff Sessions’ on ‘Saturday Night Live’ Election Countdown: Recount prospects grow in Florida | Abrams team to sue over absentee ballots | Dem wins pivotal Georgia House seat | A look at the uncalled races | Corporations spend big to beat ballot measures MORE and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News host, will swing through for Rosendale next week as part of a two-day bus tour.

Tester got a boost last night from actor Jeff Bridges, aka “The Dude,” who urged young voters at Montana State University to turn out for the Democrat.

“A flattop-ed, seven-fingered dirt farmer. A champion for vets, public lands, education, health. Come on — that's true grit, man. I'm talking about Jon Tester. Vote by Nov. 6.” Bridges

> Arizona: Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — First lady's office pushes for ouster of national security aide | Trump taps retired general as ambassador to Saudis | Mattis to visit border troops | Record number of female veterans to serve in Congress Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February Former NY Times book critic: I take back my positive review of Jeff Flake's book MORE (R) is hoping that momentum has swung her way against Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) in the race to replace outgoing Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGrassley defends acting AG against calls for recusal Former NY Times book critic: I take back my positive review of Jeff Flake's book Majority say Trump should face primary challenge, poll finds MORE (R-Ariz.). The polls are tight, but McSally’s campaign has been highlighting a video of Sinema calling Arizona the “meth lab of democracy.” This is one of two states where Democrats have a pickup opportunity. It’s a must-win if they hope to have a shot at the majority in the Senate.

> Nevada: The other state where Democrats are on offense. Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerElection Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February Sinema invokes McCain in Senate acceptance speech Sinema defeats McSally in Arizona Senate race MORE (R) is trying to hang on against Rep. Jacky Rosen (D). Recent polls show Heller leading by a razor-thin margin.

Former President Obama and former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenCastro takes steps toward likely 2020 bid Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February What midterm exit polls tell us about 2020 MORE will swing through for Rosen and other Nevada Democrats this weekend.

> Texas: Cruz will get the full Trump rally treatment at an 8,000-seat stadium in Houston on Monday. The Texas Republican is hoping it will help him dispense with the spirited challenge from O’Rourke once and for all.

More from the campaign trail … The odds are your next governor will be a Democrat (FiveThirtyEight) … Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampMellman: The triumph of partisanship GOP nerves on edge after Sinema takes lead over McSally Pro-Israel organizations should finally seek payback against Iran deal Dems MORE (D-N.D.) fires staffer responsible for a campaign ad that named sexual abuse victims without their permission (The Associated Press) … Republicans are worried that Trump’s personal attacks against women will hurt their chances with female voters in the suburbs (The Hill)… Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDemocrats in murky legal water with Whitaker lawsuits Pavlich: Where is Brett Kavanaugh’s apology? Feinstein requests Senate hearings with Whitaker, Sessions MORE (D-Calif.), during a Wednesday debate in her state, and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham backs bill to protect Mueller Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle Election Countdown: Florida braces for volatile recount | Counties race to finish machine recount | Trump ramps up attacks | Abrams files new lawsuit in Georgia | 2020 to be new headache for Schumer | Why California counts its ballots so slowly MORE (R-S.C.), during a television appearance, each said if their respective parties control the Senate in 2019, they would revisit the Kavanaugh investigation from opposing corners.

***FIRST LOOK***  We the Action, a nonpartisan group chaired by Marc Elias, the general counsel to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — First lady's office pushes for ouster of national security aide | Trump taps retired general as ambassador to Saudis | Mattis to visit border troops | Record number of female veterans to serve in Congress Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February What midterm exit polls tell us about 2020 MORE’s 2016 campaign, has launched a new campaign to recruit lawyers in a voter protection and election integrity effort. The group has in the past connected lawyers with nonprofit groups on issues like immigration and women’s rights. Watch the ad for the new campaign here. http://bit.ly/2RT2dNQ




INVESTIGATIONS: Following the midterm elections, special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE will report to Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinDemocrats in murky legal water with Whitaker lawsuits Maryland asks court to replace Whitaker with Rosenstein as acting AG Feinstein requests Senate hearings with Whitaker, Sessions MORE findings on two questions: Whether Russia conspired or colluded with Trump’s campaign to influence the 2016 campaign, and whether the president or other officials acted with intent to try to obstruct justice (Bloomberg). Bloomberg’s sources offered no indications about the details of Mueller’s conclusions.

> Rosenstein granted a rare interview to The Wall Street Journal’s Sadie Gurman, which you can read HERE. He said he doesn’t know Mueller’s timetable.

> Mueller’s witnesses: The special counsel’s ability to turn Trump associates into willing cooperators has been key to his investigation, lending both credibility and strength to a probe that is now a year and a half old, legal analysts tell The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant.

> A Treasury Department official has been criminally charged with leaking confidential information to a news media outlet, related to the Mueller probe, officials said on Wednesday (The Hill).




SAUDI ARABIA & KHASHOGGI: Turkish news media described on Wednesday how Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was interrogated and tortured on Oct. 2, as his fingers were severed, his head cut off and his corpse dismembered. How long did his murder take? Minutes. Implicated as a witness: Saudi Arabia’s consul in Istanbul, Mohammad al-Otaibi (The New York Times).

The Associated Press: Police searched the Saudi consul’s residence for evidence.

Khashoggi has not officially been declared dead by any authority.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump: NY Times report on North Korean missile bases inaccurate Pompeo accuses Newsweek of 'helping' Iran 'spread lies' Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump's Armistice Day trip marked by controversy | US ends aerial refueling to Saudi coalition in Yemen | Analysts identify undeclared North Korean missile bases MORE capped off meetings with the Saudi royal family in Riyadh and with officials in Turkey and told reporters the Trump administration awaited a “thorough, complete and transparent” investigation by the Saudi government and a report on its findings. Pompeo declined to discuss any potential U.S. response, should evidence establish that Saudi nationals tortured and killed Khashoggi, who had been living in exile in the United States.

The Hill: Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanEarmarks look to be making a comeback Former staffers push Congress for action on sexual harassment measure House Republicans need history lesson in battle over next leader MORE (R-Wis.) on Wednesday expressed openness to U.S. sanctions against Saudi Arabia but GOP leaders are largely hesitant to challenge the president here. Trump has repeatedly expressed his opposition to blocking arms sales or rendering other economic punishment, noting that Khashoggi is not a U.S. citizen and the administration places a premium on the value to U.S. defense contractors of contracts with Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi government initially claimed Khashoggi entered and then left the consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Their official statement at the time was that Khashoggi, a frequent critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the pages of The Washington Post departed at will.

The Hill: Five things to know about the 33-year-old crown prince.

The New York Times: U.S. intelligence agencies believe bin Salman is culpable in Khashoggi’s death.

“This could not have happened without his approval.” – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSenate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle Juan Williams: Trump's hostile takeover of the GOP Divided Congress to clash over Space Force, nuclear arsenal MORE (R-Tenn.), speaking of the prince, known as MBS

Trump said on Wednesday the administration wants to hear any audio and see any video evidence Turkey may have obtained – evidence reported to establish in grisly detail what happened to the journalist when he was detained in the consulate (The Hill).

A challenge for the administration during the controversy: The United States has no confirmed ambassadors to either Saudi Arabia or Turkey (The Hill).

The global backlash about Khashoggi’s fate is fueled in part by news outlets’ coverage of  the deadly outcome for many investigative journalists who report in countries where powerful figures see their work and a free press as threatening.

The Poynter Institute on Wednesday cited Transparency International’s report about more than 360 journalists murdered between 2012 and 2017, including many who were working at the time of their deaths in countries widely viewed as corrupt. On the list: Daphne Caruana Galizia of Malta; Viktoria Marinova of Bulgaria; Ján Kuciak of Slovakia and Mario Gomez Sanchez, slain in Mexico.

The Associated Press analysis: In Trump’s administration, where do human rights rank? Economy (and relationships) over morality?

The Washington Post: Recap of Trump’s long business interests with Saudi Arabia.

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!


Republicans should prepare for Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiGraham backs bill to protect Mueller Clyburn says some critics are using race to oppose his leadership bid Congress can unite on global affairs MORE to be the next Speaker, by Lloyd Green, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2AfTa2X

Is it time to punish false accusers? by Wendy McElroy, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2OugC5g

Trump has given every despot on the planet a license to kill, by Max Boot, The Washington Post


The House and Senate are out of Washington until after Election Day.

The president meets with Pompeo at the White House, and meets at 2 p.m. with the South Carolina GOP congressional delegation in the Roosevelt Room. Trump departs Washington for an evening rally in Missoula, Mont., and spends the night in Phoenix, Ariz.

Vice President Pence departs Washington this morning for Denver, where he attends a political lunch at noon, then departs Colorado for Tulsa, Okla. In the afternoon in Tulsa, he attends a political event to support Republican Kevin Stitt for governor (against Democrat Drew Edmondson), and headlines a roundtable with the Republican Governors’ Association. In the evening in Oklahoma, he speaks at a GOP rally at the Mabee Center, then flies to Wichita, Kan. The vice president will attend another roundtable event organized with the Republican Governors’ Association in Kansas, and then campaign for Kris Kobach (R), who is running in a tight race for governor against Democrat Laura Kelly.

Treasury Department Fiscal Assistant Secretary David Lebryk speaks at 9:30 a.m. at an anti-fraud event featuring chief financial officers, sponsored by the Partnership for Public Service in Washington.

“Take on America,” a new OZY primetime series of town hall discussions launches tonight on PBS, OZY and YouTube. The series examines national issues through the lens of race, bringing in political newsmakers and celebrity guests. Episodes are “Black Men in Baltimore,” “White Women in Nashville,” “Latino Families in New York,” and “Asian Millennials in San Francisco.”

CNN hosts a televised town hall with Democrat O’Rourke tonight in McAllen, Texas. Cruz pulled out of the event after initially accepting the invitation (KVEO.com).


Keep Medicare Part D working for seniors by preserving the tools that give them choice and control, keeping drug prices and premiums affordable. Learn more.


> Tech: Facebook has tentatively concluded spammers seeking to make money, not a nation state, were behind the company’s largest-ever theft of data (The Wall Street Journal).

> Education: ACT scores show a drop in college readiness for students, particularly in math (The Wall Street Journal).

> Disaster recovery: In Florida’s Panhandle, reports of armed looters, seriously challenged law enforcement, slowly reawakened cellular service and sweltering heat (The Associated Press).

> Cryptocurrency: Surveying the boom and bust of cryptocurrencies in the ongoing argument over whether bitcoin, ethereum and blockchain technologies will really change the world (The New Yorker).

> Guns: `I forgot I had my gun with me,’ is an explanation travelers are using more often as their bags get flagged at D.C. area airports, according to the Transportation Security Administration (WTOP). Twenty firearms have been discovered with air travelers trying to board at BWI International Airport this year, and 13 so far at Reagan National.

> Immigration: The number of migrant families crossing the U.S. border hit a new record in the three months after the Trump administration ended its separation of families at the U.S. border (The Washington Post). … Meanwhile, the Honduran migrant caravan moving through Central America toward the United States grew to 4,000 people (NBC News).

> Halloween: 10 places for adults to find a costume in the Washington area (DCist).




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 all the correct answers.

Because the president is hopscotching through the West and Southwest in the next few days to mobilize voters to support GOP candidates, we’re gazing in that direction for this week’s puzzle. So, westward ho!

Among the 45 U.S. presidents, very few were born in states considered part of the mainland West and Southwest. Pick the three among these options who were exceptions.

  1. Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and Grover Cleveland.
  2. Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson.
  3. Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman and William McKinley.
  4. Woodrow Wilson, George W. Bush, Franklin Roosevelt.

The first woman to ever hold federal office in the United States came from which western state?

  1. California
  2. Montana
  3. Idaho
  4. New Mexico

In June 2016, former President Obama and his family visited Yosemite National Park in California. How many sitting presidents before him had also visited Yosemite?

  1. None
  2. Two
  3. Three
  4. Four

Trump’s grandfather, Friedrich Trump, migrated from Germany to America at age 16. Friedrich arrived in Manhattan, but continued his journey west. In what U.S. city did he build a lodging business before gold rush fever drew him to the Yukon to find his fortune?

  1. San Francisco, Calif.
  2. Seattle, Wash.
  3. Las Vegas, Nev.
  4. Portland, Ore.

These states occupy a lot of land, but each gets only three Electoral College votes. Which of these states currently has the smallest population?

  1. Montana
  2. Wyoming
  3. South Dakota
  4. North Dakota