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

 

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report and happy Thursday! 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., will have an interview with NASA Administrator Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineDoug Loverro's job is to restore American spaceflight to the ISS and the moon Why Voyager 2's discoveries from interstellar space have scientists excited NASA planned expedition to orbit Pluto won't settle whether it's a planet MORE, ahead of the space agency’s big announcement of its next moon mission. Former Trump campaign advisers Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiGeorgia ready for unpredictable Senate race Trump on Harris dropping out of race: 'We will miss you Kamala!' Key takeaways from first public impeachment hearing 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

***

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 PelosiVulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Photographer leaves Judiciary hearing after being accused of taking photos of member notes Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices | Senate confirms Trump FDA pick | Trump officials approve Medicaid work requirements in South Carolina 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 MoultonOvernight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won't be 'raping, burning and pillaging' after Trump pardons Pentagon leaders: Trump clemencies won't affect military order and discipline Deval Patrick beefs up campaign staff MORE (D-Mass.) and Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceButtigieg picks up third congressional endorsement from New York lawmaker Democratic lawmaker introduces bill to tackle online terrorist activity NY attorney general to investigate alleged Long Island housing discrimination MORE (D-N.Y.), remain adamantly opposed (The Hill). Rep. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindCongressional authority in a time of Trump executive overreach Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny Alcohol industry races to save tax break by year-end deadline 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 JeffriesJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - An unusual day: Impeachment plus a trade deal MORE (D-N.Y.) was elected Democratic Caucus chairman on Wednesday, angering progressives, who advocated for Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeBooker unveils legislation for federal bill to ban discrimination against natural hair Adam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings Lawmakers visit African migrants at US-Mexico border 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 McConnellSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump McConnell says he'll be in 'total coordination' with White House on impeachment trial strategy MORE (R-Ky.), who has only a narrow 51-49 majority as he seeks to confirm as many of President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Vulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Trump appears to set personal record for tweets in a day 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 GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Horowitz did not find evidence Obama asked for probe of Trump Live coverage: DOJ inspector general testifies on Capitol Hill 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 FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing 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 MuellerJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment Trump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts MORE (The Hill).

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

> Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenators zero in on shadowy court at center of IG report Graham: People should be fired over surveillance report findings GOP, Trump campaign rip CNN for coverage of Horowitz hearing 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 ManafortDOJ backs ex-Trump campaign aide Richard Gates's probation request Former FBI general counsel wants apology from Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - Democrats to release articles of impeachment today 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.”

***

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 MattisOvernight Defense: Watchdog to audit company's border wall contract | Pentagon to step up vetting of foreign students after Pensacola | Report finds former defense official sexually harassed staffers Threatening foreign states with sanctions can backfire Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Conservative group hits White House with billboard ads: 'What is Trump hiding?' Pompeo: 'No mistake' Trump warned Russian diplomat about election tampering 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.

***

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).

***

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).

***

STEM lessons: White House senior adviser Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpTrump appears to set personal record for tweets in a day Trump hosts pastor who says 'Jews are going to hell' at White House Hanukkah party CEO group pushes Trump, Congress on paid family, medical leave 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 KavanaughOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Progressives hope to avoid drug-pricing showdown with Pelosi | 'Medicare for All' backers get high-profile hearing | Dems take victory lap after eliminating drug protections in trade deal Justices grapple with multibillion-dollar ObamaCare case Potential Dem defectors face pressure on impeachment 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 Higgins'Medicare for All' backers notch win with high-profile hearing Here 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 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 TrumpTrump tweet mocking Greta Thunberg sparks backlash Biden slams Trump for criticizing Greta Thunberg: 'What kind of president bullies a teenager?' Melania Trump's 'Be Best' hashtag trends after president goes after Greta Thunberg 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 RosensteinRosenstein, Sessions discussed firing Comey in late 2016 or early 2017: FBI notes Justice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe Judge rules former WH counsel McGahn must testify under subpoena 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 RyanJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment House Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea 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 AcostaThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by National Association of Manufacturers — Whistleblower complaint roils Washington On The Money: Senate confirms Scalia as Labor chief | Bill with B in wall funding advanced over Democrats' objections | Lawyers reach deal to delay enforcement of NY tax return subpoena Sanders calls Eugene Scalia's Labor Dept. confirmation 'obscene' 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.