The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Congress returns to leadership races, lame-duck drama




Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report and it’s Tuesday! 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.


They’re back.

Lawmakers return today to Washington, where they’ll face new power dynamics and a lame-duck session full of drama and intrigue.

Dozens of newly elected members will begin with basics at orientation and in photo shoots on Capitol Hill.

Those who have been here longer will be angling for leadership spots in the next Congress, which begins in January.

On the Democratic side, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is looking to take the drama out of the fight to be the next Speaker of the House.

The Hill: Pelosi leans on Dems for support.

The New York Times: Meet the new House Democrats. They may not toe the party line.

On the Republican side, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyFive takeaways from the court decision striking down ObamaCare Trump leaves GOP in turmoil with shutdown looming McCarthy calls on incoming Democrats to embrace bipartisanship, not 'food fight' or investigations MORE (R-Calif.) is expected to easily defeat Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by Amgen — For Republicans, fight over fetal tissue research comes back to Planned Parenthood | CDC traces contaminated romaine lettuce to California farm | Dems aim to punt vote on ObamaCare taxes For Republicans, fight over fetal tissue research comes back to Planned Parenthood Meadows looks to make his move MORE (R-Ohio) to become the next House Minority Leader, with Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report – Cohen says Trump knew payments were wrong | GOP in turmoil over Trump shutdown threat | Kyl to resign from Senate at year's end Trump leaves GOP in turmoil with shutdown looming Senate heads toward floor fight on criminal justice bill MORE (R-Wis.) retiring.

Still, the dynamics of the new GOP conference will be interesting to watch.

Eyeing the top spot, McCarthy cozied up to the right flank in the runup to the midterms. He is expected to extend an olive branch to conservatives by giving Jordan or Freedom Caucus chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump names Mulvaney acting chief of staff GOP lawmaker predicts Kushner will be Trump’s next chief of staff Chris Christie declines White House chief of staff role MORE (R-N.C.) the ranking spot on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That position will be key, as Democrats are expected to use that committee to aggressively investigate President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden, Sanders lead field in Iowa poll The Memo: Cohen fans flames around Trump Memo Comey used to brief Trump on dossier released: report MORE and his administration.

Still, how McCarthy handles the often-unruly GOP caucus, works with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump touts ruling against ObamaCare: ‘Mitch and Nancy’ should pass new health-care law Federal judge in Texas strikes down ObamaCare Ocasio-Cortez: By Lindsey Graham's 1999 standard for Clinton, Trump should be impeached MORE (R-Ky.) and interacts with the tempestuous Trump will be a story to watch in January. Republicans will have to cut deals with Democrats to get anything done and the 2018 midterm elections left the GOP with more hard-liners and fewer moderates.

The Hill: House Republicans set to elect similar team despite midterms thumping.

The Hill: Senate GOP readies for leadership shuffle.

From there, it’s on to the business of legislating.

Lawmakers have until the first week in December to reach a new spending agreement. Trump hasn’t ruled out a government shutdown over funding for a border wall. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerRetired Gen. McChrystal: Sending troops to build wall could be seen as ‘misuse of power’ ‘It’s called transparency’ works for Trump on TV, not so much on campaign finance Trump, Pelosi, Schumer: No adult in the room MORE (D-N.Y.) is threatening to attach a provision protecting special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s probe — a move McConnell maintains is unnecessary — to any must-pass appropriations bill.

Can the parties reach a lame-duck deal on criminal justice reform? The New York Times reports that a bipartisan group of senators has reached a deal but the final decision rests with Trump. Will Republicans take a crack at a second round of tax cuts? Will there ever be an infrastructure week? Stay tuned…


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CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: The Arizona Senate race has finally been decided.

In the battle between two female House members, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) has triumphed over Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyArizona governor eyes several possible Kyl replacements The Hill's 12:30 Report – Cohen says Trump knew payments were wrong | GOP in turmoil over Trump shutdown threat | Kyl to resign from Senate at year's end Jon Kyl to resign from Senate on Dec. 31 MORE (R), giving Democrats a huge victory in a swing state. Sinema will replace retiring Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's 12:30 Report – Cohen says Trump knew payments were wrong | GOP in turmoil over Trump shutdown threat | Kyl to resign from Senate at year's end Overnight Defense: Senate bucks Trump with Yemen war vote, resolution calling crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi killing | House briefing on Saudi Arabia fails to move needle | Inhofe casts doubt on Space Force Flake asks Daily Show where he can get a blanket emblazoned with his 'meaningless tweets' MORE (R-Ariz.), a Trump critic.

The Hill: Sinema edges McSally in hard-fought Senate race.

The Memo: Dem hopes for 2020 grow in midterms afterglow.

Meanwhile, the recounts for the Florida Senate and governor’s races are in full swing. Lisa Hagen has the rundown of the legal back and forth (The Hill).

The bottom line:

Senate: Gov. Rick Scott (R) entered the recount with a lead of about 12,500 votes over Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonMcCaskill: 'Too many embarrassing uncles' in the Senate Bill Nelson uses farewell address to remind colleagues ‘no one person is above the law’ Coal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee MORE (D), or about 0.15 percentage points. Scott is heading to Washington for freshman orientation despite the recount.

Governor: Former Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisGillum to speak at gathering of top Dem donors: report GOP opens door to new NC election amid fraud claims Gillum reached out to O’Rourke amid 2020 speculation: report MORE (R) entered the recount leading Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) by more than 33,000 votes, or about 0.25 percentage points.

The machine recount must be concluded by Thursday. If the margin separating the candidates is 0.25 points or less — as it is for the Senate race at the moment — it would trigger a hand recount that would need to be completed by Saturday.

The final results must be certified by Nov. 20.

Trump has muddied the waters here with his demands that the Democrats drop out and with his unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says there are no credible allegations of fraud and is not investigating the matter.

Still, Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes is under fire for allegations her agency mishandled ballots and failed to report vote tallies in accordance with state law.

Snipes, a Democrat, was appointed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) in 2003.



The Miami Herald: Why can’t Florida get elections right?




In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams has filed a new lawsuit to protect some absentee and provisional ballots from being disqualified (The Washington Post).

Republican Brian Kemp leads by about 57,000 votes, giving him 50.26 percent. If his share were to fall below 50 percent, it would trigger a recount.

More on politics and campaigns … Why wait? Democrats openly flirt with 2020 White House bids (The Associated Press) … Progressives flex muscles as Dems return to DC (The Hill).


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features defeated West Virginia congressional candidate Richard Ojeda (D), who explains his interest in running for  president in 2020, an announcement he made in Washington on Monday.


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Vice President Pence arrived in Tokyo on Monday for a bilateral session to discuss North Korea, trade and China’s regional influence before representing Trump at two regional summits in Asia. Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met today to discuss Trump’s goal for a bilateral trade agreement, as well as regional security, including in North Korea. “The pressure campaign will continue, and sanctions will remain in full force, until we achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. The United States, Japan, and the world will accept nothing less,” Pence said (Japan Today News).

North Korea: Pyongyang has 13 secret nuclear development locations, contrary to Kim Jong Un’s rhetoric that North Korea seeks to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, according to U.S. analysts (The Associated Press). U.S. experts have located more than half of an estimated 20 secret sites in North Korea, findings that exert pressure on Trump, who initially embraced Kim’s assurances of  cooperation during their historic June summit in Singapore. Find the report HERE.

Trump and Europe: The president, fresh from a weekend visit to Paris to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, repeated his belief that allies and world governments take advantage of the United States by relying on Washington to buttress their defense capabilities. In a tweet on Monday, the president said he told his global peers that the United States "must be treated fairly" on trade and military funding. Trump repeated his complaints that trade and defense gaps are “ridiculously unfair to the United States” and will not continue (The Hill).

Foreign policy & U.S.: The president’s trip to Paris laid bare the tensions between the United States and its traditional allies. French President Emmanuel Macron warned over the weekend of the spread of nationalism during a thinly veiled swipe at Trump’s brand of “America First” patriotism. Changes abroad and shifting politics in Congress next year mean Trump is likely to face new constraints on his ambitions and strategies abroad (The Hill).

Immigration: Trump and his Republican allies are targets in the wake of the Nov. 6 elections among Democrats who believe an uncompromising stance on immigration is the best path forward. That puts them at odds with some moderates, who see the party's Midwest Senate losses as a sign of the effectiveness of Trump's rhetoric (The Hill).

Department of Justice: San Francisco’s city attorney on Monday questioned the recent appointment of a new acting attorney general, saying in a letter to the Department of Justice that his office may take court action if the department does not provide a legal justification for the designation (Reuters). … Separately, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will meet with Justice Department ethics officials to discuss possible recusal in the Russia probe (The Associated Press).

Commerce Department: Trump is reportedly considering replacing Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossReplacing unpopular steel tariffs with quotas is even worse for US energy Judge refuses to pick sides in Census dispute, schedules trial Ross: I don't know who started 'rumor' about travel warning for China MORE, once a favored adviser and ally, after souring on the controversial billionaire. Democrats have been eager to question Ross during oversight hearings envisioned next year (The Hill). … Meanwhile, the department sent draft recommendations to the White House drawn from its investigation into whether to impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported cars and parts on national security grounds and the recommendations will be discussed today at a regularly scheduled weekly meeting of the administration’s top trade officials (Reuters and Bloomberg).

Homeland Security Department: Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenFormer GOP lawmaker on death of 7-year-old migrant girl: Message should be ‘don't make this journey, it will kill you' Young girl's death draws new scrutiny over US treatment of migrants No reason to assume American relations with Mexico are rocky MORE, who has clashed with Trump over immigration and border security, is on the president’s list of desired Cabinet changes (The Washington Post).

Education Department: Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosDeVos to cancel 0M in student loan debt after court loss A sea change for sexual conduct on campus Job satisfaction down at nearly 60 percent of federal agencies MORE, a frequent target of criticism among progressives, denies suggestions she will leave the Cabinet post she’s held for nearly two years (USA Today).  

Trump and Comcast: The president once again rejected the cautious examples of his Oval Office predecessors and weighed in on a corporate antitrust dispute on Monday by tweeting his support for a call by a cable industry group to investigate alleged anti-competitive actions by Comcast Corp, the world's biggest entertainment company (Reuters).



Trump on oil prices: Trump also took to Twitter on Monday to argue his personal view that global oil prices should be lower (The Hill).

Trump - stock market: The president also reacted to a slumping stock market with an argument that congressional Democrats’ zeal for oversight next year was to blame for the swoon (the actual trigger was lower expectations for the tech sector, which is 21 percent of the overall market, according to market analysts). The new GOP talking point about congressional oversight is that it is “presidential harassment.”



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Give Jim Acosta his press pass back, but with new rules of engagement, by Sharyl Attkisson, opinion contributor, The Hill.

Don’t debate forestry management in the middle of disastrous wildfires, by Michael Brown, opinion contributor, The Hill.

The Dan Crenshaw moment on Saturday Night Live proves there’s a market for grace in politics, by David French, National Review.


The House convenes at 2 p.m.; votes are postponed until 6:30 p.m.

The Senate resumes work at 3 p.m. with consideration of the House version of amendments to the White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Rights Quantification Act of 2010, which is the legislative vehicle for U.S. Coast Guard reauthorization. The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a 2 p.m. hearing about post-financial-crisis bankruptcy of big banks, “10 years after Lehman Brothers.”

The president participates in the Hindu Diwali Ceremonial Lighting of the Days (The Times of India).

Vice President Pence departed Japan today and will attend regional summits in Singapore.

U.S. budget figures for October, the first month of the new fiscal year, are out at 2 p.m. The government ran its largest budget deficit in six years during the fiscal year that ended in September.



> Wildfires: The causes behind the deadly wildfires in California are unclear, but power utility Pacific Gas & Electric is cooperating with investigators and submitted an “incident” report (CNBC). In financial markets, shares of PG&E and Edison International took steep dives on Monday (Bloomberg). Close to 50,000 customers in northern and southern California were without power. … Hundreds of people who had resided in fire-obliterated Paradise, Calif., have yet to be located and an official death toll in the state this morning is 44, with expectations the number of casualties will climb. It’s the deadliest wildfire record in California’s history (The Hill) ...  Trump and California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) are locked in a war of words over the cause of the tragedies as the president issued a major disaster declaration (The Hill) … Fires are still raging today (The New York Times).



> Catholic Church: The Vatican stymied a plan by America’s Catholic leaders to confront sexual abuse, insisting in a surprise directive on Monday that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in Baltimore postpone its efforts to hold bishops more responsible in horrific abuse cases that have continued to come to light. Pope Francis has deferred action until after a worldwide meeting next year (The Washington Post).  

> Media: Meet the woman behind the “Intellectual Dark Web.” Claire Lehmann’s online publication Quillette publishes the “dangerous” ideas that other outlets won’t touch (Politico).


And finally …  Stan Lee, comic book creator of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk, died on Monday at 95. He made Marvel and Hollywood richer and enthralled audiences with superhero characters he invented in the 1960s — personalities who sported flaws and psychological vulnerabilities (The Associated Press). 

“I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers,” Lee once told an interviewer. “And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people's lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you're able to entertain, you're doing a good thing.”