The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi faces first test in pursuit of second Speakership

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report and happy Wednesday! Our newsletter 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 Rep. Dan KildeeDaniel (Dan) Timothy KildeeDem lawmaker: Barr acting like 'Michael Cohen's replacement as Donald Trump's mouthpiece' Dem rep says Trump 'slow-walking' request for tax returns Dem rep says Trump, GOP will pay a price for GM layoffs in Michigan MORE (D-Mich.), talking about announced restructuring by General Motors; Kuwaiti Ambassador to the United States Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al-Sabah; and Comedy Central’s Anthony Atamanuik, who chats up his satirical book, “American Tantrum: The Donald J. Trump Presidential Archives.” http://thehill.com/hilltv

****

Democrats will vote behind closed doors on Wednesday on whether to nominate House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Pelosi accuses Barr of 'single-minded effort' to protect Trump against Mueller report Dems attack Barr's credibility after report of White House briefings on Mueller findings MORE (D-Calif.) to be the next Speaker when they come into power in January.

The outcome of Wednesday’s vote is not in doubt – Pelosi is all but certain to receive a majority of the votes, making her the party’s official nominee to lead the House Democratic majority next year.

Less certain is the outcome when the full House votes on Jan. 3, setting the stage for “one of the most unusual and important Speaker races in history,” The Hill’s Mike Lillis, Scott Wong and Melanie Zanona write.

“Pelosi, after ushering Democrats to the majority for the first time in a decade, is facing the toughest threat to her 15-year reign atop the party ... Her allies remain confident she can pull out a victory when the floor vote rolls around at the start of next year … To do so, however, will take plenty of cajoling between now and then. And lawmakers on both sides of the intra-party brawl suggested it’s a debate unlike any they’ve ever seen.”The Hill

In 2007, Pelosi became the first-ever woman to be Speaker, a post she held until 2011.

Her liberal bona fides, fundraising prowess and past leadership successes are unquestioned on the left, but a new generation of Democratic lawmakers are moving into the Capitol and there have been growing calls for the established leaders to clear out.

The math for the final floor vote is murky, so expect a December filled with backroom deals, arm-twisting and declarations of momentum or growing political strength among Pelosi’s allies and the insurgents.

There are 16 signatories to an anti-Pelosi letter, as well as a handful of other lawmakers who did not sign the letter but say they will oppose her. In 2016 Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanO'Rourke says he is willing to appear on Fox News Klobuchar to appear in Fox News town hall in May Tim Ryan: 'I'm concerned' about rise of socialism in Democratic Party MORE (D-Ohio) received 63 votes in his failed bid to be Democratic leader. It seems unlikely that the opposition will reach that mark on Wednesday.

And a challenger to Pelosi has still not emerged. There is no appetite among national Democrats to see an ugly floor fight that they believe will do nothing but delay the inevitable and weaken Pelosi’s eventual Speakership.

The next few weeks will determine whether the fight goes down to the wire or the opposition is crushed by Pelosi’s enduring political strength.

More from the Speaker’s race … Centrist group behind Pelosi holdouts plotted to make her “bogeyman” (The Daily Beast).

****

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) defeated Democrat Mike Espy in the final Senate race of the 2018 midterm cycle on Tuesday, giving the GOP a 53-47 majority in the upper chamber next year (The Hill).

Hyde-Smith, a former state agricultural commissioner who was appointed to the Senate earlier this year after Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranTop 5 races to watch in 2019 Bottom Line Races Dems narrowly lost show party needs to return to Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy MORE (R-Miss.) retired due to health reasons, becomes the first-ever woman elected to the Senate in Mississippi.

It wasn’t easy.

Hyde-Smith stumbled through several racially-charged controversies in the contest against Espy, who was seeking to become the first African-American elected to the Senate in Mississippi since Reconstruction.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel 'inappropriate' press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of 'unprecedented steps' to 'spin' Mueller report MORE swooped into the state to hold two election rallies on Monday to help boost turnout for Hyde-Smith.

Republicans had hoped to pick up more than two Senate seats this cycle, with 10 Democratic senators up for reelection in states Trump carried in 2016. While the GOP picked up seats in North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana and Florida, they lost seats in Nevada and Arizona.

Still, the additional seats will help Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems prep for Mueller report's release McConnell touts Trump support, Supreme Court fights in reelection video Why Ken Cuccinelli should be Trump's choice for DHS MORE (R-Ky.), who has struggled at times with Republican defectors in the GOP’s current 51-49 majority.

 

 

LEADING THE DAY

MUELLER NEWS: Senate Republicans are debating whether to bring up a vote on a bill to protect special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE (The Hill).

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) does not want to spend the final days of the lame-duck session voting on a measure that effectively censures the president, but outgoing Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Flake opens up about threats against him and his family MORE (R-Ariz.) may force his hand.

McConnell wants to commit as much floor time as possible to confirming Trump’s judicial nominees. Flake has said he’ll withhold support for the conservative judges unless there is a vote to protect Mueller.

Republicans have only an 11-10 majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee, so they need Flake’s vote to move the judges to the floor with a favorable recommendation.

Meanwhile, Trump spent the morning bashing Mueller as a “conflicted prosecutor gone rogue” and the special counsel’s office as “his terrible Gang of Angry Democrats.”

But in an evening interview with The Washington Post, Trump said he had “no intention” of shutting down the special counsel.

“The Mueller investigation is what it is. It just goes on and on and on … and, in the meantime, he’s still there. He wouldn’t have to be, but he’s still there, so I have no intention of doing anything.” – Trump

The Associated Press: Developments put Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortFederal judge considers setting ex-Obama counsel's trial for August: reports Juan Williams: The high price of working for Trump Ex-Obama counsel pleads not guilty to charges tied to Ukraine lobbying MORE back in Russia probe spotlight.

The New York Times: Manafort’s lawyer briefed Trump attorneys on what he told Mueller.

 

 

***

CONGRESS: General Motors’s announcement of major layoffs and plant closures in three states and Canada caught members of Congress by surprise this week. Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Budowsky: 2020 Dems should debate on Fox Overnight Health Care: How 2020 Dems want to overhaul health care | Brooklyn parents sue over measles vaccination mandate | Measles outbreak nears record MORE (D-Ohio), who is weighing a presidential run in 2020 and represents a state affected by the downsizing, said if Republicans want a year-end tax bill, it must address layoffs and specifically, the federal corporate tax provisions that help GM pay lower taxes on its profits abroad (Politico). It’s unclear whether the Senate will consider a tax measure this year; House Republicans hope to take up a bill this week. The chances of a new round of tax cuts being signed into law this year are slim and none.

Border security: House Republicans floated a plan for $5 billion over two years for a border wall (The Hill), while Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) set a cap for wall funding at $1.6 billion in the current fiscal year, a number Trump has demanded while eyeing a Dec. 7 deadline to resolve border security issues (The Hill). Trump has said he’s willing to shut down parts of the government to get support from lawmakers for  wall funding, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says that won’t happen (The Hill).

***

House Judiciary Committee oversight: On both sides of the aisle, lawmakers are maneuvering for positions of power next year on a panel that says it will investigate the Trump administration. Freedom Caucus leaders Reps. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanOvernight Health Care: DOJ charges doctors over illegal opioid prescriptions | Cummings accuses GOP of obstructing drug pricing probe | Sanders courts Republican voters with 'Medicare for All' | Dems probe funding of anti-abortion group Cummings accuses Oversight Republicans of obstructing drug price probe Schumer staffer-turned-wrestling coach focus of new documentary MORE (R-Ohio) and Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsWashington in frenzy over release of Mueller report Overnight Health Care: DOJ charges doctors over illegal opioid prescriptions | Cummings accuses GOP of obstructing drug pricing probe | Sanders courts Republican voters with 'Medicare for All' | Dems probe funding of anti-abortion group Cummings accuses Oversight Republicans of obstructing drug price probe MORE (R-N.C.) are competing with one another to hold sway on behalf of the minority on the committee next year (Politico).

> The likely incoming Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) announced ambitions to investigate U.S. hate crimes and whether federal investigators have wrongfully targeted racial and ethnic minorities instead of focusing on white supremacist groups, he said (Reuters).

***

Senate - Saudi Arabia: Senators are expected to force a vote, possibly today, to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's military campaign in Yemen, marking the first test of the U.S.-Saudi relationship in Congress.

Approval of the resolution would be a significant break from Trump, who signaled last week that he is standing by the Saudi government, despite what he concedes could be Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ties to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October.

The crown prince has denied being involved, while senators from both parties say Salman is implicated, based on their knowledge of U.S. and international intelligence (The Hill).

> CIA Director Gina Haspel has not been confirmed as a witness today at the Senate’s briefing about Khashoggi’s killing and Saudi activities (The Hill).

> Meanwhile, the White House says there are no plans for Trump and the Saudi crown prince to meet at a Group of 20 summit scheduled in Argentina later this week (The Hill).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trade - China: Ire about years of alleged theft of U.S. intellectual property by the Chinese will mix with trade talks scheduled between Trump and President Xi Jinping later this week in Buenos Aires, Argentina. U.S. officials have repeatedly cited theft of U.S. trade secrets by Chinese hackers as a catalyst for U.S. tariffs slapped on billions of dollars worth of imports over the past year (The Hill).

> White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said U.S. officials are looking for a trade “breakthrough” after direct talks between Trump and Xi. Independent trade analysts and other administration officials have been less bullish, however (The Hill). World stocks climbed to a one-week high on hopes of a trade reconciliation (Reuters).

The New York Times: Despite tough talk about China, Trump may seek a truce at Group of 20 meeting.

***

Interior Department: The inspector general in the department cleared Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Gillibrand offers bill to ban pesticide from school lunches | Interior secretary met tribal lawyer tied to Zinke casino dispute | Critics say EPA rule could reintroduce asbestos use Interior secretary met with tribal lawyer attached to Zinke casino dispute Zinke joins board of small gold mining company MORE of wrongdoing in a controversy involving national monuments. But Zinke still faces other inquiries, including a referral of possible ethics violations to the Justice Department (The Washington Post).

***

Trump vs. General Motors: In a long tweet on Tuesday, the president threatened to cut federal incentives for GM electric cars after the company announced plant closures and layoffs. Trump, who has invested considerable political capital in what he vowed would be a manufacturing renaissance in the Midwest and Rust Belt, wants the company to reconsider some decisions, which it says are the result of changing consumer demands and emerging trends in electric and automated cars.

 

 

 

 

 

> GM executives said the restructuring reflects preparations for the future and changing North American auto markets as manufacturers continue to shift away from cars and toward SUVs and trucks. GM is shedding cars models largely because it doesn’t make money on them, Citi analyst Itay Michaeli wrote in a note to investors (The Associated Press).

 

 

> GM’s decisions offer another look at the growing gap in the United States between capital and labor, a gap that is undermining Americans’ confidence in the capitalist system (The Washington Post). In politics, this trend is feeding fury on the political left and angst on the right.

> Tech and other experts say the new and fast-moving economic revolution is clear: automation and robots, artificial intelligence (including in cars and transportation) and the mobile internet (The Wall Street Journal).

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

GM layoffs show Congress played Americans with corporate tax cuts, by Chris Macke, Solutionomics, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2RjqcFo

Congress must deliver on welfare reform to put people back to work, by Vijay Menon, The Heritage Foundation, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2r8Kxlp

WHERE AND WHEN

The House convenes at noon for legislative business. Democrats will meet at 10 a.m. to nominate a candidate for Speaker. Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFEC filing: No individuals donated to indicted GOP rep this cycle The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday Paul Ryan joins University of Notre Dame faculty MORE (R-Wis.) holds a press conference at 10 a.m. following a closed-door caucus meeting.

The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Karen Dunn Kelley to be deputy secretary of Commerce.

The president and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpOvernight Health Care: CEO of largest private health insurer slams 'Medicare for All' plans | Dem bill targets youth tobacco use | CVS fined over fake painkiller prescriptions | Trump, first lady to discuss opioid crisis at summit Melania Trump, Karen Pence say they're ready to serve four more years in White House Trump, first lady to discuss opioid crisis at Atlanta conference MORE participate in the annual lighting ceremony for the National Christmas Tree in Washington (Reminder: Evening traffic will be horrendous near the White House).

Vice President Pence this morning participates in a portrait unveiling for Texas Republican Rep. Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingEx-GOP congressman heads to investment bank The next two years of federal housing policy could be positive under Mark Calabria Why Ocasio-Cortez should make flood insurance reform a priority MORE, chairman until January of the House Financial Services Committee, in the Longworth House Office Building. Back at the White House this afternoon, Pence holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Juha Petri Sipilä of Finland at 2 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., he hosts a reception at his Naval Observatory residence for incoming Republican House members.

Former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina launches a new podcast today called “By Example.” Among the guests: former Secretary of State Colin Powell; former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

ELSEWHERE

> U.S. military casualties in Afghanistan: Three U.S. service members were killed and three wounded on Tuesday near the central Afghan city of Ghazni. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the deaths. In 2018, at least 11 U.S. service members have died in Afghanistan. The United States has 14,000 troops there (Reuters). … Zalmay Khalilzad, Trump's envoy to Afghanistan, is reaching out to top Taliban figures to try to launch peace negotiations to end the war, fearing an impatient Trump might simply order all U.S. troops to withdraw (NBC News).

 

 

> Russia: Tensions between Russia and Ukraine mounted as Moscow announced today it will deploy advanced surface-to-air missile systems to Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014 (Reuters). … Trump on Tuesday said, “I don’t like that aggression” towards Ukraine, and said in an interview he might cancel a planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin (The Washington Post).

> Migrant teenagers, from shelter to detention camp: The Trump administration expanded a temporary shelter for migrant children in an isolated corner of the Texas desert, creating a detention camp filled this week with tents for 2,324 largely Central American boys and girls between the ages of 13 and 17. More than 1,300 teens have arrived there since the end of October (The Associated Press). … Meanwhile, a study by the Pew Research Center released Tuesday examining 2016 data about undocumented immigrants paints a different portrait of who lives in the United States illegally, and why the numbers of undocumented entering the United States fell after 2007 (The New York Times).

> Brexit: The European Union’s highest court on Tuesday began considering whether Britain can change its mind about leaving the EU. The Brexit session opened by the European Court of Justice will assess the issue under an accelerated procedure because Britain faces a March 29 deadline to leave the bloc (The Associated Press).

> Facebook is in trouble with lawmakers in the United Kingdom over lack of transparency, adding to the company’s considerable political and public relations travails in the United States (Reuters). 

THE CLOSER

And finally … A forgotten 1965 novel gains new life …  “A president who rages in private about conspiracies against him by the press and his political opponents. A controversial alliance with a ruthless Russian leader. A key Supreme Court justice named Cavanaugh…”

Political thriller “Night of Camp David,” written by the late journalist Fletcher Knebel, depicts a president in crisis over suspected mental instability. Long out of print, the novel with notable parallels to current events is being re-released (USA Today).