The Hill’s Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — The political currents that will drive the shutdown showdown
Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) talking about House GOP investigations and ambitions when Republicans are in the House minority next year. Rep.-elect Jim Baird (R-Ind.) introduces himself as a newcomer to Congress in a few weeks. And Log Cabin Republicans executive director Jerri Ann Henry looks ahead. http://thehill.com/hilltv
Congress approved a two-week government funding bill on Thursday, kicking a fight over the border wall to Dec. 21.
President Trump has threatened to veto any spending measure that doesn’t allocate $5 billion for the wall, raising the possibility of a partial government shutdown over Christmas.
A Senate bill has allocated $1.6 billion for border security, and Democrats say the president won’t see another dime.
The politics of the funding fight are complicated by the fact that the physical border wall has become symbolic for both sides, either as an expression of opposition or support for a polarizing president. The factions have two weeks now to hash out differences and avoid a shutdown over the holidays.
Here’s a look at the political crosscurrents that complicate a deal:
> House Democrats: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said Trump must accept the $1.6 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or settle for a continuing resolution that funds DHS through Sept. 30, effectively delaying the border wall showdown until Democrats are in control of the House (The Hill). Pelosi will be under pressure not to give an inch, as she faces a vote to be the next Speaker on Jan. 3 and has been working to quell an uprising from within her own caucus.
> House Republicans: GOP members of the House include some of Trump’s most loyal supporters and there is enormous pressure on them to get as much money for the border wall as possible before the end of the year, as Democrats take over in January. It’s unlikely they’ll obtain the full $5 billion, but one offer out there would allocate $2.5 billion for barriers and border security for 2019 and 2020. Will that be enough to satisfy Trump?
> Senate Democrats: Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is free to be more aggressive now that he doesn’t have to worry about 10 of his members running for reelection in Trump states, as was the case this year. Schumer says he’s open to accepting either the $1.6 billion in funding for DHS that passed the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this year, or a continuing resolution for DHS that expires in September. But he opposes the $1.6 billion going toward a border “wall.”
“It can only be used for fencing, using technology currently deployed at the border and only where the experts say fencing is appropriate and makes sense as a security feature … If President Trump wants to throw a temper tantrum and shuts down the government over Christmas over the wall, that’s his decision. But there are two sensible options on the table to avoid one.” – Schumer
> Senate Republicans: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may be amused to find that Schumer believes he has increased political capital. McConnell’s majority adds two senators in January. On Thursday, four members of the Senate GOP conference introduced The WALL Act, which would fully fund the border wall at a cost of $25 billion (The Hill).
> The White House perspective: One way or another, Trump is committed to getting a barrier built that stretches nearly the entirety of the U.S.-Mexico border. The president is entering a reelection cycle and needs to be able to tell his supporters that he’s on his way to accomplishing his premier campaign promise.
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LEADING THE DAY
INVESTIGATIONS: Expect a big day of news around special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election…
Prosecutors will file a memo Friday describing how they say Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort violated his plea deal by lying to the special counsel (The Hill).
Manafort has been found guilty on a range of charges pertaining to his personal business and foreign lobbying work. He had reached a plea deal with Mueller’s team, but federal prosecutors said last week they intended to offer a “detailed” account of how Manafort had committed new crimes by lying to investigators.
Trump has not ruled out a pardon for Manafort.
The memo could also provide details about the special counsel’s broader investigation, as was the case with Wednesday’s sentencing memo for Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
A separate filing on former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s cooperation with the special counsel is also expected Friday.
The Associated Press: Court deadlines set stage for more Russia probe details.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the House Judiciary Committee will grill former FBI Director James Comey behind closed doors. Republicans are still probing allegations of bias at the Justice Department and FBI that they say provoked investigations into Trump’s campaign.
Comey agreed to testify if Republicans make his testimony public within 24 hours. It may be the last time Republicans are able to drag a major witness in to testify, as Democrats gain control of the House next month (The Hill).
NPR/PBS NewsHour Marist Poll: Americans want Mueller report to be released publicly.
WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: China trade: As if the U.S.-China relationship were not enough of a rollercoaster, the arrest and detention in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, a top executive with Chinese tech company Huawei and the daughter of the company’s billionaire founder, scrambled calculations about how much cooperation on trade the Trump administration can expect from Beijing in the near term.
> Reuters: Volatile market trading early on Thursday followed news of Meng’s arrest, which fanned fears of new U.S.-China tensions over trade.
The tech executive was detained in Canada at the request of the U.S. Justice Department. White House national security adviser John Bolton said Thursday he had advance knowledge of Meng’s arrest this week, but he said he was uncertain Trump knew about it while negotiating with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday. Xi was apparently not told of the impending action during the dinner discussion (The New York Times). China on Thursday called for her release.
CNN: Is Meng a bargaining chip?
> The Associated Press: Record imports pushed the U.S. trade gap to $55.5 billion in October.
North American Free Trade Agreement: Republicans in Congress are warning Trump not to withdraw from NAFTA as he attempts to secure ratification of a 2018 version of the 1994 agreement with Canada and Mexico. The president says he’ll pull the United States out of NAFTA in short order, but lawmakers question the administration’s authority to act without legislative buy-in (The Hill).
Punish Saudi Arabia?: Trump is opposed to any punitive action by Congress aimed at the Saudi royal family. Yet, some GOP senators remain determined to take a stand against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, accused of complicity in the killing of Saudi journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi. Senators are primed for a clash with the White House next week, including over war powers and the ongoing U.S.-backed Saudi conflict in Yemen (The Hill).
Coal: The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it plans to reverse a rule that would have forced new U.S. coal plants to install technology to capture their carbon dioxide emissions. Acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said an Obama-era rule rendered infeasible the costs of the technology for new coal plants (The Washington Post).
Attorney general: Veteran establishment GOP lawyer William Barr is the leading candidate in Trump’s private discussions to be nominated to succeed Jeff Sessions and acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. “Those familiar with the discussions said Barr, having already been attorney general, doesn’t feel a particular ambition for the position, but does feel a sense of duty to take it, if offered” (The Washington Post). (Barr’s name has appeared on such lists for months.)
Department of Energy: The Senate on Thursday confirmed Bernard McNamee to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He’s seen as a controversial pick (The Hill).
U.N. Ambassador: Trump is expected to name Heather Nauert, a former “Fox & Friends” anchor who has been State Department spokeswoman since April 2017, to succeed outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who announced in October that she would resign at the end of the year. The nomination requires Senate confirmation (NBC News).
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Kathy Kraninger, narrowly confirmed by the Senate on Thursday to lead the watchdog agency, is expected to work closely with the president and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney to ease federal regulation of the financial industry. Congress created the CFPB in 2010 as an independent advocate and regulator to benefit consumers. Since then, it has been near the top of the financial industry’s target list for eradication (The Hill).
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IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: The latest on the unfolding political disaster for Republicans in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District…
Democrat Dan McCready has withdrawn his concession to Republican Mark Harris amid an investigation into allegations of election fraud (The Hill).
Harris defeated McCready by 905 votes on Nov. 6, but the state’s Board of Elections has refused to certify the results after two people claimed they were paid by a Republican operative to collect absentee ballots from voters.
The Washington Post is reporting that Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.), who lost to Harris in the primary, warned the North Carolina Republican Party about potential malfeasance ahead of time.
The state GOP is calling for a full investigation (The Hill).
Democrats are demanding a new general election and have mused about refusing to seat Harris until the investigation is resolved (The News & Observer).
Pelosi said Thursday that Democrats would only call for a new election if the race is deadlocked (The Hill).
More Pelosi news: The House minority leader said she’s open to term-limiting committee chairmanships, a concession to Democrats who favor an overhaul of House rules (The Hill).
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, blasted the idea, saying it would be a setback to the party’s minority leaders who had clawed their way to the top and were finally in positions to lead.
“For all these chairmen who went out there traveling the country and busting their behinds to get Democrats elected … why every time something’s established and we start doing well in the system, they want to change the rules?” – Richmond
More campaigns and politics … The Boston Globe editorial board says Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) “missed her moment” to run for president (Boston Globe) … Warrens’s supporters are worried the DNA test fiasco will hurt her presidential chances (The New York Times) … Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is staffing up for a presidential run (The Associated Press) … California GOP Rep. David Valadao conceded his House race on Thursday (The New York Times) … Michigan Republicans to follow Wisconsin’s lead in curbing Democrats’ power (Reuters).
Mueller is not on a fishing expedition and he’s not nearing the end, by Andrew Napolitano, Fox News. https://fxn.ws/2RFXD4X
Mueller’s probe is out of control, by Victor Davis Hanson, The National Review. http://bit.ly/2REs1wN
WHERE AND WHEN
The Senate convenes Monday at 4 p.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Justin Muzinich to be deputy secretary of the Treasury.
The House meets at noon on Monday.
The president today flies to Kansas City, Mo., to give a speech to the 2018 Project Safe Neighborhoods National Conference. Returning this evening, he and first lady Melania Trump host a holiday dinner in the East Room for White House senior staff. On Saturday, Trump will be at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia when the Army Black Knights take on the Navy Midshipmen to close out the college football regular season. He will be the 10th sitting president to attend the historic rivalry between the two service academies, a tradition started by Theodore Roosevelt in 1901 (Military Times).
Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, discusses the need for a U.S. cyber doctrine to protect against cyberattacks, at 10:30 a.m. during an event hosted by The Center for a New American Security in Washington.
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> Tension in Europe: The Eiffel Tower will close on Saturday as French authorities prepare for another day of protests over taxes and France’s economy (CBS News) … Meanwhile, Germany’s Christian Democratic Party are voting today on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor (The New York Times).
> Tax overhaul fallout: The removal of an alimony deduction from the GOP’s tax overhaul could create a year-end rush on divorce deals (USA Today).
> Kushner family business: A Kushner family beachfront strip in New Jersey is eligible for government tax perks intended for poor areas. Opportunity zones in the 2017 tax law are supposed to attract investment to low-income communities, but some of the qualifying neighborhoods are more posh than poverty-stricken (Bloomberg Businessweek investigation).
> Exiting Congress: R Street published an illuminating trove of interviews and analysis from current and former lawmakers about their decisions to leave Congress, which saw a surge of exits this session. The findings and recommendations co-authored by the nonpartisan public policy organization and Issue One are HERE.
And finally … Kudos to the winners of this week’s Morning Report Quiz!
The following news consumers and good guessers correctly answered questions about George Herbert Walker Bush, plus a few other U.S. political leaders whose lives changed during World War II: Timothy Aiken, William Chittam, Jaye Ellis, Robert Falb, Dan Flegel, Cheryl Gibson, Rich Gruber, Andrew Hamilton, Peter Holland, Virginia Hotchkiss, Randall Howes, Kay Katz, Jerry Kovar, Lorraine Lindberg (she paid her respects in College Station yesterday), Thomas McCarty, John McIsaac, Regina Morgan, Milt Mungo, Dave Nelson, George O’Neal, Norm Roberts, Douglas Schimmel, Glen Smith, Ann Exline Starr, Greg Stetson, Sandy Sycafoose, Rona Seidel, Angie Tang and CM Weston (emailing us from Poland!).
They knew that Bush at 18, “just about to turn nineteen on the twelfth of June, … was likely the youngest flying officer in the navy” when he earned his wings to become a bomber pilot (The Washington Post + Jon Meacham’s “Destiny and Power” biography).
Former Sen. Robert Dole, 95, was the decorated World War II veteran who saluted the casket of the 41st president in the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday after rising with assistance from his wheelchair (CNN).
Former President Jimmy Carter, 94, who was in the U.S. Navy as World War II came to an end, joined former presidents and their spouses at the National Cathedral on Wednesday as they paid their respects to Bush (U.S. Navy history).
After parachuting from his burning plane into the Pacific Ocean in 1944, Bush was rescued by a U.S. submarine, which rose to the surface near his tiny raft. A crewman greeted Bush, saying, “Welcome aboard, sir.” He was 20 years old (The Washington Post). (A short video of Bush’s rescue is HERE.)
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