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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Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features an interview with retired Army Major General Gary Harrell, talking about the 17th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, and magician Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller).  


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 KavanaughThe Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World Merriam-Webster tweets out definition of 'suborn' after BuzzFeed report on Michael Cohen Abortion foes march into divided Washington MORE, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerProtecting our judiciary must be a priority in the 116th Congress Baldwin's Trump plays 'Deal or No Deal' with shutdown on 'Saturday Night Live' Sunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal 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 CollinsTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World Overnight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal 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 CruzGroup aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video Howard Dean looking for a 'younger, newer' Democratic nominee in 2020 Congress can stop the war on science 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 TrumpDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Lady Gaga blasts Pence as ‘worst representation of what it means to be Christian’ We have a long history of disrespecting Native Americans and denying their humanity 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 McConnellDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Former House Republican: Trump will lose the presidency if he backs away from border security Pence quotes MLK in pitch for Trump's immigration proposal 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) TesterCentrist efforts to convince Trump to end shutdown falter Dems offer measure to raise minimum wage to per hour Some Senate Dems see Ocasio-Cortez as weak spokeswoman for party 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 TrumpConservatives pound BuzzFeed, media over Cohen report BuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president Special counsel issues rare statement disputing explosive Cohen report 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 McSallyMark Kelly considering Senate bid as Arizona Dems circle McSally Schumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat On The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions 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 FlakeSchumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat The Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days Poll: Sanders most popular senator, Flake least 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 HellerTrump’s shifting Cabinet to introduce new faces Trump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 Progressive strategist says changing demographics will help Dems 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 Biden2020 Democrats barnstorm the country for MLK weekend BuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president Kamala Harris picks Baltimore as headquarters for potential 2020 campaign: report 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 HeitkampOn 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 Gary Cohn criticizes the shutdown: 'Completely wrong' EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks 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 FeinsteinBuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president The Hill's Morning Report — Shutdown fallout — economic distress Feinstein grappling with vote on AG nominee Barr MORE (D-Calif.), during a Wednesday debate in her state, and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamExperts warn of persistent ISIS threat after suicide bombing Graham: Trump should meet Pakistan's leader to reset relations State of American politics is all power games and partisanship 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 ClintonIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination O'Rourke’s strategy: Show Americans the real Beto Conservatives pound BuzzFeed, media over Cohen report 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.




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 Rosenstein5 myths about William Barr William Barr's only 'flaw' is that he was nominated by Trump The Hill's Morning Report — Shutdown fallout — economic distress 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 PompeoPompeo: US 'absolutely not' getting out of the Middle East Pompeo taking meeting about running for Kansas Senate seat: report Ex-US envoy in ISIS fight: 'There's no plan for what's coming' after US troop withdrawal in Syria 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 RyanAEI names Robert Doar as new president GOP can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King 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 CorkerThe Memo: Romney moves stir worries in Trump World Senate GOP names first female members to Judiciary panel Former US special envoy to anti-ISIS coalition joins Stanford University as lecturer 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.

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Republicans should prepare for Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Fox’s Wallace to Pence: Is government shutdown all about ‘leverage?' Former House Republican: Trump will lose the presidency if he backs away from border security MORE to be the next Speaker, by Lloyd Green, opinion contributor, The Hill.

Is it time to punish false accusers? by Wendy McElroy, opinion contributor, The Hill.

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 (


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 or (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