The Hill's Morning Report — Intraparty skirmishes light up lame-duck session

 

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Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., will have an interview with NASA Administrator Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineSanders NASA plan is definitely Earth first When you fail to soft-land on the moon, try, try again Is the Senate ready to protect American interests in space? MORE, ahead of the space agency’s big announcement of its next moon mission. Former Trump campaign advisers Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump's new controversy Cruz endorses GOP candidate for Senate in New Hampshire Democrats press Nadler to hold Lewandowski in contempt MORE and David Bossie will discuss their new book. And Ukraine ambassador to the U.S. Valeriy Chaly will discuss her country’s conflicts with Russia. http://thehill.com/hilltv

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Republicans are going after Republicans and Democrats are attacking Democrats, as tensions boil over in what is turning into a chaotic lame-duck session on Capitol Hill.

Here’s a rundown of the intraparty skirmishes that will shape the next month before the new Congress takes over:

Democrats

> Democrats on Wednesday nominated House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTimeline: The Trump whistleblower complaint DC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Ukraine could badly damage both Donald Trump and the Democrats MORE (D-Calif.) to be the next Speaker, but resistance to her leadership is not going away and the outcome of the vote when the full House convenes in January remains in question (The Hill).

Thirty-two Democrats voted against Pelosi on Wednesday, compared to 63 who opposed her in 2016.

The bottom line: Wednesday was a great day for Pelosi.

Pelosi cut a deal with about nine Democrats on the Problem Solvers Caucus, moving her closer to the Speakership, but a vocal minority, led by Reps. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonMarkey fundraises ahead of Kennedy primary challenge The Hill's Campaign Report: De Blasio drops out | Warren gains support from black voters | Sanders retools campaign team | Warning signs for Tillis in NC Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight MORE (D-Mass.) and Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceMarijuana industry donations to lawmakers surge in 2019: analysis Pelosi backers feel vindicated after tumultuous stretch Democrat offers measure to prevent lawmakers from sleeping in their offices MORE (D-N.Y.), remain adamantly opposed (The Hill). Rep. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindHere are the Democrats who aren't co-sponsoring an assault weapons ban Trump: 'Great to see' Pelosi plan to lower drug prices Pelosi woos progressives on prescription drug pricing plan MORE (D-Wis.), who voted against Pelosi’s leadership bid on the floor two years ago, joined their ranks on Wednesday (The Hill).

> In a close battle between members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesBadrun Khan to challenge Ocasio-Cortez in Democratic primary Lewandowski, Democrats tangle at testy hearing Words matter, except to Democrats, when it involves impeaching Trump MORE (D-N.Y.) was elected Democratic Caucus chairman on Wednesday, angering progressives, who advocated for Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeMarijuana industry donations to lawmakers surge in 2019: analysis Lawmakers urge DNC to name Asian American debate moderator Overnight Health Care: Planned Parenthood to leave federal family planning program absent court action | Democrats demand Trump withdraw rule on transgender health | Cummings, Sanders investigate three drug companies for 'obstructing' probe MORE (D-Calif.).

 

Jeffries, 48, is a rising star in the Democratic Party and could become the first African-American Speaker of the House (The New York Times).

Republicans

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Overnight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts MORE (R-Ky.), who has only a narrow 51-49 majority as he seeks to confirm as many of President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE’s judicial nominees as time allows over the next month, is facing a mini-rebellion among senators who are using their judicial votes as leverage on various matters.

> Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Trump: 'Great to see' Pelosi plan to lower drug prices Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices MORE (R-Iowa) on Wednesday canceled votes on nearly two dozen of Trump’s  judicial nominees that were expected to come up in the Judiciary Committee this week. The committee is in a standoff with Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake donates to Democratic sheriff being challenged by Arpaio in Arizona The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says US-China trade talks to resume, hails potential trade with Japan, UK Joe Arpaio to run for Maricopa County sheriff in 2020  MORE (R-Ariz.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, who has said he’ll vote “no” on judges until there is a vote on a bill to protect special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation MORE (The Hill).

That legislation was blocked for a second time this month on Wednesday (The Hill).

> Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate Judiciary Committee requests consultation with admin on refugee admissions Trump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick Trump judicial picks face rare GOP opposition MORE (R-S.C.), a Trump ally, is making a similar threat, saying he’ll withhold support on any “key vote” until the CIA briefs the Senate on its assessment of whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi (The Hill).

 


LEADING THE DAY

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trade: Over many months, Trump has been saying China might not be “ready” to make trade concessions with the United States to avoid the punishing tariffs the United States imposed on Beijing.

Now Trump is under pressure himself, headed to a high-stakes meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this weekend in Argentina. The outcome could signal how much anxiety Trump feels about the trajectory of the U.S. economy, and the impact on his presidency (The Hill).

> Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are pressuring Trump to abandon his trade war with China (The Hill). … Separately in the Taiwan Straits, the U.S. Navy has increased the frequency of transits through the strategic waterway despite opposition from China. A U.S. destroyer and support vessel passed through on Wednesday (Reuters).

> Reuters: At the Group of 20 summit Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the president also arranged to hold meetings with the leaders of Russia, Argentina, Germany, South Korea, Turkey, Japan and India. His meeting with Xi is set for the end of the summit.

 

 

The Hill’s Niall Stanage reports that the president’s furious reaction to General Motors’s decision to shutter some plants betrays his sensitivity to criticism that his policies are not an antidote to all that ails the manufacturing sector (The Hill).

The president, reacting to the headline-grabbing GM layoffs, floated the idea of new auto tariffs on imports. In a series of tweets, Trump argued that a longstanding 25 percent tariff on light trucks has boosted U.S. auto manufacturers and that the same approach could work for cars (The Hill).

> Pardon watch: Trump told the New York Post in an Oval Office interview that he hadn’t discussed a pardon for his former campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortUkraine could badly damage both Donald Trump and the Democrats Lewandowski refuses to say whether Trump has offered him a pardon Democrats return to a battered Trump MORE but that “it’s not off the table.” Meanwhile, Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, told HuffPost that he and Trump had a “quick meeting” about pardons but “we both agreed that it made sense not to pardon anybody during the pendency of the investigation.”

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Saudi Arabia: Trump and members of his Cabinet tried in vain Wednesday to discourage senators from pursuing a resolution that would end U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia’s assault in Yemen.

 

The Senate’s rebuke to the Saudis over journalist Khashoggi’s killing in October is also a rebuke to Trump, who refuses to punish the Saudi royal family or crown prince (The Hill). Bin Salman  is to attend the G20 summit Friday and Saturday.

 

Secretary of Defense James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico Trump needs a national security adviser who 'speaks softly' US could deploy 150 troops to Syria: report MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBolton replacement inherits tough challenges — including Trump Saudi Arabia says it will take 'appropriate' action if Iran's role in attacks confirmed Clarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump MORE urged senators to back off the Yemen and Saudi controversies (The Hill).

 

"There is no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. That's all I can say," Pompeo said on Wednesday.

 

Senators wanted to hear from CIA Director Gina Haspel, who has reportedly listened to the audio of Khashoggi's murder. But she was not present in the briefing. One way or the other, lawmakers are sure to talk to Haspel on her agency's reported conclusion that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi's death.

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Veterans: The Veterans Affairs Department told Capitol Hill aides on Wednesday the department will not repay underpaid GI Bill benefits to recipients, reneging on a promise made to a House committee in early November. The VA decided it would not make retroactive payments because it would have to audit all education claims prior to Dec. 2019, or 2 million claims. Under Secretary for Benefits Paul Lawrence is scheduled to testify this morning before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (NBC News).

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Climate change heat: Trump administration officials are aggressively attacking the science behind a government report released last week that projects that climate change will harm the U.S. economy by the end of the century (The Hill).

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STEM lessons: White House senior adviser Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpTrump awards Yankees legend Mariano Rivera the Medal of Freedom The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico 2020 is not a family affair, for a change MORE, traveling in Idaho to promote science, technology and math education along with Apple CEO Tim Cook, restricted news media access to their message, resulting in a community debate about whether an elementary school visit amounted to a carefully choreographed photo op for the president’s daughter (The Idaho Statesman).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

***NEW FROM LAST NIGHT*** Former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy talked in a new interview about his successor, Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughTrump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' Trump decries whistleblower story as 'another media disaster' The Hill's Morning Report — Trump's new controversy MORE, on “The David Rubenstein Show.” “The public will soon see that the system worked,” Kennedy said of the wrenching confirmation process. The former justice also discusses his majority opinion upholding Citizens United. Watch the full interview here: https://bloom.bg/2KEspsf

CONGRESS: Three weeks after the midterm elections, the final numbers for the next Congress have come into focus:

Senate: 53 Republicans, 47 Democrats (Republicans picked up two Senate seats)

House: 235 Democrats, 200 Republicans (Democrats picked up 40 seats)

> House Republicans are pushing to secure Trump's request for $5 billion to build a wall along the southern border. Congress faces the possibility of a government shutdown in early December if a spending agreement isn't reached with Democrats (The Hill).

> Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) won the runoff election in Mississippi this week despite several bad, racially-charged stumbles. Hyde-Smith’s victory showcases the tough road ahead for Democrats looking to make inroads in the Deep South in races in 2019 and 2020, when they’ll be defending seats in Alabama and Louisiana (The Hill).

> A Senate panel has postponed a vote on Trump’s pick to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Ronald Vitiello. The committee is taking additional time to investigate Vitiello’s past criticism of the president (The Washington Post).

> Momentum is building among House Democrats for Medicare buy-in legislation. The effort is being led by Rep. Brian HigginsBrian HigginsHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment On The Money: Sanders unveils plan to wipe .6T in student debt | How Sanders plan plays in rivalry with Warren | Treasury watchdog to probe delay of Harriet Tubman bills | Trump says Fed 'blew it' on rate decision Democrats give Trump trade chief high marks MORE (D-N.Y.), who was promised the lead role in exchange for his support of Pelosi for Speaker (The Hill).

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

Ok, we have a climate problem. Now what? by Richard Moss, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2TOxoel

Holiday shopping contradicts gloomy media accounts of Trump economy, by Liz Peek, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2KIezFe

WHERE AND WHEN
 

The House convenes at 10 a.m. with at least seven measures on the docket for floor votes this evening.

The Senate begins work at 10 a.m. with consideration of the nomination of Thomas Alvin Farr to be United States district judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

The president and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump pushes back over whistleblower controversy White House releases menu for Australian state dinner MORE depart for Argentina in the morning to attend the Group of 20 summit, arriving in Buenos Aires late tonight. Secretary Pompeo will also participate in the summit.

Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Nadler's House committee holds a faux hearing in search of a false crime House Democrats seeking Sessions's testimony in impeachment probe MORE will deliver keynote remarks at 12:45 p.m. at a symposium titled “Cybercrime 2020: Revisiting the Future of Online Crime and Investigations,” at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington. 

Outgoing House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas MORE (R-Wis.) will be interviewed this morning from 9 - 10 a.m. by The Washington Post’s correspondent and columnist Paul Kane for one of Ryan’s final interviews as Speaker. Location: The Washington Post. Information HERE.

Government economic reports to watch today: U.S. jobless claims at 8:30 a.m.; personal income and consumer spending for October at 8:30 a.m.; personal consumption expenditure price index, excluding food and energy, for October at 8:30 a.m.; U.S. pending home sales at 10 a.m.; Federal Reserve minutes at 2 p.m. summarizing its last policy meeting.

ELSEWHERE

> Economy: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday forecast steady economic growth, low unemployment and only modest inflation in the near term. Powell also seemed to soften his past remarks about interest rate hikes. Stocks jumped amid optimism that the Fed wouldn’t be as aggressive in tightening rates as was once believed. Analysts are debating whether Powell might have rescued stocks from a bear market (Bloomberg). … Still, the Fed warned that “trade tensions” between the U.S. and its allies could lead to a “particularly large” drop in the markets (The Hill). … Powell’s remarks about interest rates, however, were greeted like bubbles in champagne by markets, erasing November’s losses for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (The Washington Post).

 

 

> Cabinet: How Trump’s Labor Secretary Alexander AcostaAlex Alexander AcostaDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Trump officially nominates Eugene Scalia as Labor secretary pick Our farmers need a better labor program MORE helped hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein, 65, get a sweetheart plea deal as police tried to put Epstein away for allegedly forcing dozens of underage girls to become prostitutes for him and for influential friends (Miami Herald). Epstein pleaded guilty to two felony prostitution charges in state court, even though the feds identified 36 underage girls who accused Epstein of sexually abusing them in his Palm Beach mansion between 2001 and 2005 (New York Post).

> Ford: The Michigan auto manufacturer is reshuffling some workers among its U.S. plants in an effort to follow market trends to decrease emphasis on some sedans and other models to increase production of SUVs and trucks (Reuters).

> Picture home: California Sunday Magazine created a photo essay this week in which 19 photographers fanned across Western states — from Utah and Oregon to Washington and Southern California —  to ask people where they feel at home, and illustrated their poignant answers.

THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by NASA’s InSight lander achievement this week, we’re eager for some smart guesses about Mars.

Mars is home to the tallest known planetary mountain in the solar system, called:

  1. Denali
  2. Euboea Montes
  3. Olympus Mons
  4. Limb Mountain

How many Earth days are in a Martian year?

  1. 412
  2. 533
  3. 687
  4. 726

Which describes the mission of NASA’s InSight lander, now at work on Mars?

  1. Hunts for intelligent life forms
  2. Probes the planet’s core and measures seismic activity  
  3. Searches for signs of water
  4. Maps geography at its landing location

The shape of Mars’s orbit around the sun causes which phenomenon on the planet?

  1. Fierce dust storms that can last for months
  2. Eruptions from the planet’s volcanoes
  3. Months of darkness on one side of the planet
  4. The planet’s reddish-orange color

Which one of these statements describing Mars is factual and used by NASA?

  1. “Long ago, Mars stopped changing, while Earth continued to evolve.”
  2. “Mars and Saturn are molded out of very similar stuff.”
  3. “Mars is twice as large as Earth.”
  4. “Mars never had a magnetic field.”

Email your responses to jeasley@thehill.com or asimendinger@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit five correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.