The Hill's Morning Report — Where the shutdown fight stands

 

 

 

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Washington faces a partial government shutdown in eight days and lawmakers don’t appear any closer to resolving the spending fight over how much money to give President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls for Republicans to be 'united' on abortion Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution Facebook temporarily suspended conservative commentator Candace Owens MORE for a border wall.

The pressure is very much on Republican leaders to solve this puzzle, after Trump declared in an Oval Office meeting with top Democrats that he’d be happy to take credit for a government shutdown unless Congress allocates $5 billion for a border wall. Democrats are capping their offer at $1.6 billion.

With the Dec. 21 deadline looming, lawmakers are increasingly pessimistic that a deal can be reached.

“I think we’re going to have a shutdown for two reasons. No. 1, President Trump does not look to me like he was bluffing or is bluffing, and No. 2, I don’t think [Rep. Nancy] Pelosi is going to agree to anything because she’s worried about her Speakership.” – Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.).

"I don't think it's inevitable. It's probably more than possible right now. It'll shut down unless we resolve some things." – Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyCongressional leaders to launch budget talks with White House Democrats agree to humanitarian aid for border as part of disaster package On The Money: New financial disclosures provide glimpse of Trump's wealth | Walmart, Macy's say tariffs will mean price hikes | Consumer agency says Education Department blocking student loan oversight MORE (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Memo: Allies worry as Trump’s woes mount.

Here’s where things stand…

The House

Trump has left Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDebate with Donald Trump? Just say no Ex-Trump adviser says GOP needs a better health-care message for 2020 Liz Cheney faces a big decision on her future MORE (R-Wis.) with a tight knot to untie before he leaves office at the end of the month.

The president boasted that House Republicans could easily pass a bill allocating $5 billion to the wall. GOP leaders are unsure and haven’t settled on a vehicle for it yet. Democrats would be happy to pass a stopgap measure that prolongs the fight into the new year, when they’ll be in the majority.

One major GOP hurdle for the wall? Republicans were conducting “bed checks” on Wednesday to figure out how many of them were in Washington.

The House is only scheduled to work four days between now and Dec. 21, and 17 Republicans missed Wednesday’s farm bill vote. Many of them are not returning to the House next year and remember that Trump mocked a handful of House Republicans who lost their races. Don’t count on their votes.

The Hill: GOP struggles to win votes for Trump’s $5 billion wall demand.

The Senate

Trump shocked Senate Republicans when he said he’d take responsibility for any shutdown over the holidays.

The Hill’s Alexander Bolton has this crushing anecdote: Senate Republicans were putting the final touches on talking points blaming the shutdown on Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGetting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act 'SleepyCreepy Joe' and 'Crazy Bernie': Trump seeks to define 2020 Dems with insults MORE (D-N.Y.), as any bill that gets out of the Senate will need Democratic support to reach 60 votes. That’s out the window now. It’s a “Trump shutdown” if it happens.

One possibility? The House passes a stopgap measure known as a continuing resolution with $5 billion for the wall. If Republicans can get that through the House, it would likely come back from the Senate with the $5 billion whittled to $1.6 billion.

Would Trump accept that? Or will he follow through on his shutdown threat?

 

 

LEADING THE DAY

INVESTIGATIONS: Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, 52, was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday. He’s been ordered to surrender to authorities in early March (The Hill).

Cohen had pleaded guilty to nine federal charges, most of them relating to his personal businesses and finances.

But it’s the campaign finance charge that will drive endless discussion in the coming months, as it implicates the president.

In 2016, Cohen arranged payments to bury stories from adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom claimed to have had extramarital affairs with the president more than a decade ago.

Cohen has testified that Trump told him to make the payments. Prosecutors in New York argued that the payments were made to help Trump get elected president, and therefore constitute felony campaign finance violations.

Cohen chose not to fight the charge. Trump will fight it vigorously, if prosecutors continue down that path. The president has said the payments were a private matter and unrelated to the election.

The Associated Press: Trump’s payment explanations shift as legal threats grow.

In court on Tuesday, Cohen wept next to his daughter and expressed remorse for being Trump’s “fixer.”

"Recently the president tweeted a statement calling me weak, and it was correct but for a much different reason than he was implying. It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds." — Cohen

He has been cooperating with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s probe and says he’s willing to talk to Congress or investigators in an effort to expose the president’s secrets.

There was more bad news for the president and his legal team on Tuesday. The National Enquirer, which sold the rights to McDougal’s story to Cohen, has struck a deal with federal prosecutors looking into the campaign finance allegations (Reuters).

 

 


IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CONGRESS: Pelosi locked up sufficient support among mavericks to become House Speaker in January following a deal she cut for term limits for Democratic leaders (The Hill).

House - Meadows: Trump continues to cast about for candidates to become his third chief of staff, but one decision emerged on Wednesday: John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE’s successor will not be North Carolina GOP Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - After GOP infighting, Trump Jr. agrees to testify again On The Money: House chairman issues subpoenas for Trump's tax returns | Trump touts trade talks as China, US fail to reach deal | Five things to know about Trump's trade war with China | GOP offers support for Trump on tariffs GOP offers support for Trump on China tariffs MORE, who had expressed interest in the position. The president said he needed his conservative ally to remain in Congress to defend the administration (The Hill).

House – farm bill: After passing an $867 billion farm bill on Wednesday, the House sent the behemoth to Trump for his signature (The Hill).

Yemen resolution: Heeding opposition in the White House and State Department, Republicans in the House blocked lawmakers from forcing votes for the rest of the year dealing with Yemen and war powers (The Hill). The blockade in the House dilutes some of the potency of a Senate resolution that would end U.S. support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, now moving toward a vote (The Hill).

Congress – sexual harassment: Lawmakers from the House and Senate reached a compromise on how to handle sexual harassment cases in the legislative branch. The Senate expects to take a measure up this week and send it to the House if it passes (The Hill).

House – health care: Taxes included in the Affordable Care Act are the focus of some health care companies that would like to delay them, using a year-end spending bill as the means to push the taxes into the future. The companies are seeking quick action on Capitol Hill, anticipating the landscape will shift dramatically when Democrats control the House in a few weeks (The Hill).

House – office life: Lawmakers could decide to support a ban on overnighting in their congressional offices, a practice of rent-free accommodations that is not new, and remains controversial. Among complaints House Democrats face as they prepare to take control in 2019: questionable sanitation while using offices as sleeping quarters, and awkward encounters between slumbering lawmakers and office cleaning crews of the opposite gender — an issue that carries additional significance in the "Me Too" era (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

Mania at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., by Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelIsrael needs bipartisan support For now, Democrats need to investigate but not impeach Why Dems need to go on Fox News MORE, opinion contributor to The Hill. http://bit.ly/2Ef3nPr

Is the Senate still the nation’s conscience? by Jeremi Suri, University of Texas at Austin, opinion contributor to The Hill. http://bit.ly/2rAWfp3

WHERE AND WHEN

The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. and resumes consideration of a joint resolution to direct the removal of U.S. military from hostilities in Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.

The House gets to work at 10:30 a.m., with any votes expected before noon.

The president meets with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS warns airlines about flying over Persian Gulf amid Iran tensions Trump: Anonymous news sources are 'bulls---' Iranian official: Trump 'holding a gun' while pursuing talks MORE at 11:45 a.m. Trump meets with a group of governors-elect at 2 p.m., joined by Vice President Pence. The president and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition — Trump: GOP has `clear contrast' with Dems on immigration The Hill's 12:30 Report: Alabama abortion bill revives national debate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - After GOP infighting, Trump Jr. agrees to testify again MORE host two evening Christmas receptions at the White House.

Treasury Department Under Secretary Sigal Mandelker speaks at noon about “Coping with U.S. Export Controls and Sanctions” at the Practicing Law Institute Conference held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington.

White House national security adviser John Bolton speaks at 9:30 a.m. at the Heritage Foundation about “The Trump Administration’s New Africa Strategy.” The event will be livestreamed and Bolton will take questions.

The Congressional Budget Office releases a report on “Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2019 to 2028.” 

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features former federal prosecutor Joseph Moreno, commenting on the Cohen sentencing on Wednesday, and FBI former assistant director of intelligence Kevin Brock, discussing the Mueller probe.  http://thehill.com/hilltv

ELSEWHERE

> United Kingdom: A politically weakened Prime Minister Theresa May is set to ask European leaders for help today after a mutiny by more than a third of her Conservative Party colleagues failed to unseat her but left parliament heading for deadlock over Brexit. May survived an attempt to oust her with a no-confidence vote Wednesday night. However, EU leaders have been united in saying they have no intention of changing the divorce agreement now in limbo in Great Britain with a looming deadline of March 29 (Reuters).

> Opioids and mortality: The synthetic opioid fentanyl is the deadliest drug in America, according to a study based on death certificates (CNN).

> Boy Scouts and bankruptcy: The Boy Scouts of America is considering filing for bankruptcy protection as it faces dwindling membership and escalating legal costs related to sexual abuse lawsuits (The Wall Street Journal).

> Tech: Apple will build a wave of new sites across the country, including a $1 billion campus in Austin, Texas. The tech giant will also open new offices in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, Calif. (The Wall Street Journal).

> First lady: Melania Trump entered White House history books on Wednesday by flying in a V-22 Osprey aircraft and onto the deck of an aircraft carrier. She visited service members in Virginia (The Washington Post).

THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by outgoing Trump adviser John Kelly, we’re eager for some smart guesses about White House chiefs of staff.

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

Who was the youngest person to ever become White House chief of staff?

  1. Dick Cheney
  2. Rahm Emanuel
  3. Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusMueller didn't want Comey memos released out of fear Trump, others would change stories Forget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Dems plot aggressive post-Mueller moves, beginning with McGahn MORE
  4. John Podesta

Which former president had the most chiefs of staff?

  1. Ronald Reagan
  2. Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson Clinton Democratic leaders' impeachment tightrope Several factors have hindered 'next up' presidential candidates in recent years Criminal justice includes food security — we can't ban the social safety net MORE
  3. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden calls for unity, jabs at Trump in campaign launch Several factors have hindered 'next up' presidential candidates in recent years Lewandowski: Why Joe Biden won't make it to the White House — again MORE
  4. George H.W. Bush

Who was the chief of staff on 9/11, who whispered into the ear of former President George W. Bush, “America is under attack”?

  1. Donald Rumself
  2. Dick Cheney
  3. John Sununu
  4. Andrew Card

Who was chief of staff during the assassination attempt on former President Ronald Reagan?

  1. Donald Regan
  2. James Baker
  3. Howard Baker
  4. Kenneth Duberstein