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 BridenstineApollo 11: How millennials can grasp the greatest event ever — for now Hillicon Valley: Doctors press tech to crack down on anti-vax content | Facebook, Instagram suffer widespread outages | Spotify hits Apple with antitrust complaint | FCC rejects calls to delay 5G auction NASA: Plan to send US back to the moon may be delayed without private rockets MORE, ahead of the space agency’s big announcement of its next moon mission. Former Trump campaign advisers Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiCNN's Chris Cuomo knocks 'state TV' Fox News T-Mobile says it increased Trump hotel spending after Sprint merger announcement The 81 names targeted in Democrats' expansive Trump probe 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings Democrats face dilemma after Mueller probe ends Raskin embraces role as constitutional scholar 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 Wilbur MoultonJared Kushner's brother made last-minute donation to Beto O'Rourke Senate campaign The Hill's Morning Report - Boeing crisis a test for Trump administration We could have less than 5 years to save the North Atlantic right whale MORE (D-Mass.) and Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceBooker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements New York Rep. Maloney endorses Gillibrand for president Hispanic Dems ask for multi-agency meeting on family separations MORE (D-N.Y.), remain adamantly opposed (The Hill). Rep. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindThe fear of colorectal cancer as a springboard for change The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Democrats, Trump battle over 75 'pivot' counties in Midwest 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 JeffriesTop Dem: 'Certainly a possibility' that Congress will call Barr, Mueller to testify publicly Omar controversies shadow Dems at AIPAC Pelosi rejects any classified briefings on Mueller report MORE (D-N.Y.) was elected Democratic Caucus chairman on Wednesday, angering progressives, who advocated for Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeDem support grows for allowing public funds to pay for abortions Booker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Harris receives endorsement from 6 home-state mayors 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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings Senate GOP eyes probes into 2016 issues 'swept under the rug' Senate gears up for Green New Deal vote MORE (R-Ky.), who has only a narrow 51-49 majority as he seeks to confirm as many of President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos claims he was pressured to sign plea deal Tlaib asking colleagues to support impeachment investigation resolution Trump rips 'Mainstream Media': 'They truly are the Enemy of the People' 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 GrassleySenate GOP eyes probes into 2016 issues 'swept under the rug' Treasury expands penalty relief to more taxpayers Overnight Health Care: Senators seek CBO input on preventing surprise medical bills | Oversight panel seeks OxyContin documents | Pharmacy middlemen to testify on prices | Watchdog warns air ambulances can put patients at 'financial risk' 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 FlakeTrump's attacks on McCain exacerbate tensions with Senate GOP Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar Trump keeps tight grip on GOP 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 Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE (The Hill).

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

> Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings Senate GOP eyes probes into 2016 issues 'swept under the rug' Top Senate Judiciary Dem asks Barr to hand over full Mueller report by April 1 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 ManafortPress: Should the media apologize to Donald Trump? Trump: 'Haven't thought about' pardons for Mueller targets Trump: Mueller acted honorably 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 Mattis16 times Trump said ISIS was defeated, or soon would be Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief under investigation over Boeing ties | Trump uses visual aids to tout progress against ISIS | Pentagon, Amnesty International spar over civilian drone deaths Pentagon watchdog probing whether acting chief boosted Boeing MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings Ilhan Omar tells Muslim group to 'raise hell' over discrimination Seven questions AIPAC attendees should ask of Democratic presidential wannabes 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 TrumpFive things we know about Dems' sprawling Trump probe Kushner to cooperate with Judiciary document requests Hillicon Valley: Kushner accused of using WhatsApp, personal email for official work | White House rejects request for Trump-Putin communications | Facebook left 'hundreds of millions' of passwords unsecured | Tech pressured to root out extremism 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 KavanaughSupreme Court wades back into partisan gerrymandering Senate GOP eyes probes into 2016 issues 'swept under the rug' Sexual assault prevention group names Christine Blasey Ford person of the year 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 HigginsKoch-backed group pushes for new limits on Trump's tariff authority Dems offer smaller step toward ‘Medicare for all' Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Powerful House committee turns to drug pricing | Utah governor defies voters on Medicaid expansion | Dems want answers on controversial new opioid 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 TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game Schwarzenegger tells Trump to 'listen to the first lady' before attacking McCain The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump steps up attacks on McCain 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 Jay RosensteinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Dems look for traction following Barr-Mueller findings Democrats face dilemma after Mueller probe ends Senate GOP eyes probes into 2016 issues 'swept under the rug' 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 RyanFormer Dem candidate says he faced cultural barriers on the campaign trail because he is working-class Former House candidate and ex-ironworker says there is 'buyer's remorse' for Trump in Midwest Head of top hedge fund association to step down 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 AcostaRene (Alex) Alexander AcostaUS Attorney's Office in Miami recuses itself from Epstein case Trump should fire Labor Secretary Acosta for cowardice in child sex abuse case Dems call on Trump to fire Acosta 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.