The Hill's Morning Report — What a shutdown would mean for the government

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report and happy Tuesday! 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.

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It’s four days and counting until a possible partial government shutdown.

Polling shows the public does not like Washington’s funding impasses and that the party responsible will suffer negative political consequences if some of the government runs out of money before the holidays.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpCoast Guard chief: 'Unacceptable' that service members must rely on food pantries, donations amid shutdown Dem lawmaker apologizes after saying it's never been legal in US to force people to work for free Grassley to hold drug pricing hearing MORE, believing he has leverage with Democrats, says he’ll be proud to own the shutdown. He doesn’t seem worried that demanding billions more for a border wall could lead to unpleasant political fallout.

 

 

If parts of the government run out of funds before the end of the year, the result would be different from what most Americans recall from previous shutdowns.

First, there does not appear to be an intense Washington scramble to reach a deal, at least not yet.

The full House won’t be in session until Wednesday, little more than 48 hours before the deadline Congress and the president set. Departments and agencies are briefing federal employees on procedures to close down parts of the government, delay pay, identify essential personnel and furlough some government workers. Democrats are preparing for a prolonged ordeal through the holidays (The Hill).

Republicans, including those who reassured the country for weeks that the government would keep operating and resolve any spending impasse, now believe Trump has backed himself into a corner. Outwardly, they appear content to allow the president to fashion a compromise — or not.

As Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGraham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Trump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  Texas governor, top lawmakers tell Trump not to use hurricane relief funds to build border wall MORE (R-Texas) told reporters last week, the logic eludes some in the president’s party.

"Perhaps the president has a strategy. I heard him talk about getting the military to build some of those physical barriers. That just remains to be seen. But I can tell you that right now, I don't see the benefits of a shutdown strategy." — Cornyn, Dec. 12 (Houston Chronicle)

The Hill: GOP frets as Trump shutdown looms.

The Hill: Trump, Dems dig in over shutdown.

Another difference from past funding fights: Approximately 75 percent of the government has the necessary appropriations for fiscal 2019 through legislation Trump already approved, so a shutdown would impact only about a quarter of federal operations.

Still, that would leave hundreds of thousands of workers at key agencies without paychecks over Christmas. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which manages the border and provides security and protection for the president, is home to parts of the executive branch that would be deemed essential, which means some employees would work without pay, even without funding after Friday. Hundreds of thousands more employees would be furloughed.

News outlets including Government Executive as well as lobbying groups have identified the departments and agencies that could shut down before Christmas, if Congress and the president can’t come up with a temporary or lasting fix:

In addition to DHS — Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice (the special counsel continues its investigation), State, Transportation, Treasury, the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies.

Bloomberg: Trump is said to oppose a short-term spending measure to avert a shutdown.

Bloomberg: One GOP lawmaker wants Treasury to issue special savings bonds as a way to fund the border wall.

Trump is scheduled to visit his resort in Mar-a-Lago this weekend, although it’s unclear whether he’ll follow through with the trip if there’s a partial government shutdown.

 

 


LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS: Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGrassley to test GOP on lowering drug prices McConnell blocks House bill to reopen government for second time Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks MORE, 78, first elected in 2003 and chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, announced Monday he will not seek reelection when his term is up in 2020.

Alexander joins 84-year-old Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchPhRMA CEO 'hopeful' Trump officials will back down on drug pricing move Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing Trump praises RNC chairwoman after she criticizes her uncle Mitt Romney MORE (R-Utah), Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSchumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat The Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days Poll: Sanders most popular senator, Flake least MORE and Tennessee colleague Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy The Memo: Romney moves stir worries in Trump World Senate GOP names first female members to Judiciary panel MORE (R) in voluntarily departing the Senate during Trump’s first term. 

Alexander’s decision will make the map a little more difficult for Republicans in two years, although the GOP will likely be favored to hold his seat. Still, Senate Republicans will be defending about 22 seats, including in Colorado and Maine, which Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPavlich: Mueller’s indictment of the media Poll shows 36 percent support Trump's reelection, 43 percent prefer generic Democrat How the Clinton machine flooded the FBI with Trump-Russia dirt … until agents bit MORE won in 2016 (The Hill).

 

 

> Lawmakers are still scrambling to analyze the fallout after a federal judge in Texas ruled ObamaCare unconstitutional. It likely means that former President Obama’s signature legislative achievement is headed for another test at the Supreme Court.

Democrats are already vowing to hold hearings on the matter when they gain the House majority next year (The Hill). Republicans, who declined to fulfill their promise to repeal and replace the law when they had full control of Congress, are keeping their distance from the ruling, wary of the political backlash around a law that has gained in popularity since Obama left office (The Hill). And a group of Democratic attorneys general began the process Monday of appealing the recent court order that struck down ObamaCare (The Hill).

More from politics and campaigns … Coalition of liberal grass-roots groups call on Pelosi to appoint progressives to key committees (The Hill) … North Carolina Republicans call on a state board to certify House race, unless it can prove fraud changed results in November (The Hill).

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INVESTIGATIONS: Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn will be sentenced in federal court today.

Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition.

But Flynn cooperated extensively with the special counsel probe, and Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE has recommended he face the minimum sentence. It’s possible that Flynn will get off without serving any jail time.

Still, in the days since Mueller’s sentencing memo, Flynn has fanned the flames around the idea that he was duped into lying by federal prosecutors, who capitalized by squeezing him to turn on the administration.

It will be interesting to see if the judge takes those allegations into consideration on Tuesday, one way or the other.

The Hill: Flynn sentencing marks key moment in Mueller investigation.

The Associated Press: Run-up to Flynn’s sentencing tinged with unexpected drama.

As Flynn’s legal case wraps up, another is just beginning for one of his associates, Bijan Kian.

Kian was indicted on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent for work he did on behalf of the Turkish government (The Associated Press).

You can read the federal indictment HERE.

It was thought that Flynn might face similar charges but his cooperation with the special counsel might have helped him out on that one.

The Hill: Five things to know about Turkey and Flynn.

 

 

Elsewhere, former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyPavlich: Mueller’s indictment of the media How the Clinton machine flooded the FBI with Trump-Russia dirt … until agents bit Mueller’s report: Release enough, but not too much MORE was quizzed in private by GOP lawmakers on Monday about allegations of political bias at the agency and the origins of the investigation into the Trump campaign.

When reporters asked Comey later whether he has confidence in acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, he replied, "no comment" (CBS News). During a November interview, Comey said Whitaker “may not be the sharpest knife in our drawer,” adding he knew him “casually” from their time in the Justice Department (WGBH).

It’s likely the last time House Republicans will get a shot at a key figure in the investigation, with Democrats taking the majority in January. The bitter feelings flow both ways.

“Republicans used to understand that the actions of a president matter, the words of a president matter, the rule of law matters, and the truth matters. Where are those Republicans today. At some point, someone has to stand up and in the face of fear of Fox News and fear of their base, fear of mean tweets, stand up for the values of this country and not slink away into retirement.” — Comey after meeting with lawmakers

The New York Times: Tech companies dragged feet on Russian interference, report says.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Lawmakers, administration officials and outside advisers have tried without success to discourage the president from publicly commenting on decisions made by the independent Federal Reserve, which today begins its final meeting of the year.

On Monday, Trump blasted the nation’s central bank via Twitter, advising against an interest rate hike many Fed watchers say they expect will be announced on Wednesday (The Hill).

“It is incredible that with a very strong dollar and virtually no inflation, the outside world blowing up around us, Paris is burning and China way down, the Fed is even considering yet another interest rate hike. Take the Victory!” — Trump

Reuters: Growth fears grip world stock markets before Fed meeting.

The New York Times: There is increasing concern that the central bank is risking a return to recession.

> Agriculture: The president also turned to Twitter to announce he’s making good on his promise to deliver billions of dollars in additional bailouts for U.S. farmers and ranchers impacted by retaliatory tariffs levied as a result of U.S. trade policies (The Washington Post).

“Today I am making good on my promise to defend our Farmers & Ranchers from unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations. I have authorized Secretary Perdue to implement the 2nd round of Market Facilitation Payments. Our economy is stronger than ever – we stand with our Farmers!” — Trump

> Interior: The president says he'll announce his pick to replace Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Major California utility PG&E filing for bankruptcy after wildfires | Zinke hired at investment firm | Barclays to avoid most Arctic drilling financing Zinke takes job at investment firm Trump taps Commerce watchdog to be new Interior inspector general MORE this week. David Bernhardt, Zinke's deputy and the lead official on numerous major department priorities, is thought to be the top candidate. Other Republicans seen as potential candidates: outgoing Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds Trump’s shifting Cabinet to introduce new faces Trump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 MORE (Nev.), outgoing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, outgoing Rep. Raúl Labrador (Idaho), Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOvernight Energy: House votes to reopen Interior, EPA | Dems question EPA over Wheeler confirmation prep | Virginia Dem backs Green New Deal Grijalva backs Bishop over current acting Interior Secretary Dems question legality of park fees during shutdown MORE (Utah) and former Rep. Cynthia LummisCynthia Marie LummisTrump’s shifting Cabinet to introduce new faces The Hill's Morning Report — What a shutdown would mean for the government Leading contenders emerge to replace Zinke as Interior secretary MORE (Wyo.) (The Hill). … Labrador eyed for Interior (Bloomberg).

> Immigration: A second federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked the Trump administration from enforcing a ban on asylum for people who cross the southern border illegally (The Hill). … Three immigrants held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Southern California detention centers have sued the Department of Homeland Security, claiming they’re being denied proper access to lawyers while they fight the government’s attempt to remove them (Bloomberg).

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

The three biggest immigration issues Congress needs to tackle, by Michael Wildes, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2PKiMt1

Government shutdowns tend to increase government spending, by economist LeRoynda Brooks, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2SOxqkQ

WHERE AND WHEN

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. to continue consideration of a criminal justice reform bill.

The House is in pro forma session today. House members are due to return Wednesday.

The president hosts a roundtable discussion on a report from the Federal Commission on School Safety.

Vice President Pence, who leads the president’s Space Council, is at Cape Canaveral, Fla., to witness a U.S. Air Force satellite launch.

The Federal Open Market Committee begins a two-day meeting that wraps up with a press conference on Wednesday. Economists expect the central bank to raise rates for the fourth time in 2018. Analysts are all ears for the Fed’s economic outlook (The Wall Street Journal).

 

 

ELSEWHERE

> China: President Xi Jinping delivers a high-profile address Tuesday in Beijing and seeks to solidify his reputation as a reformer (Bloomberg).

> United Kingdom: Prime Minister Theresa May, who postponed a vote on a Brexit plan earlier this month because it did not have sufficient votes from her own Conservative Party in parliament, said Monday the vote has been rescheduled for the week of Jan. 14. The British cabinet meets today to prepare for a disorderly exit from the European Union (The Associated Press).

> Economy: Americans are increasingly more pessimistic about the direction of the economy, with the number of people expecting things to get worse over the next year at its highest level since 2013 (Bloomberg). The stock market is experiencing its most dismal December start since 1980 (MarketWatch). Meanwhile, burnout and stress among employees are leading some employers to experiment with four-day work weeks (Reuters).

THE CLOSER

And finally … Four billion people worldwide use Global Positioning System technology available through satellites. This morning, the U.S. Air Force plans to launch the next generation of GPS satellites aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center. Pence, whose portfolio includes space policy, will be on hand for the event, and he’s expected to visit the Pentagon for that purpose this week.

Trump is expected to use the launch as a backdrop for a new presidential order this week creating a Space Command that will help launch the sixth branch of the military, or a space force.

CNN: The Pentagon envisions a space entity under the Air Force. Congress must approve such a military force, and because the House will soon be under Democratic control, that may be a tough legislative sell.

Air Force Times: U.S. Air Force set to launch next-generation in GPS satellites

Florida Today: Weather forecast is fine for this morning’s Cape Canaveral launch.

At least for today, the Air Force wants to upgrade older GPS satellites and make new, high-end features operable by 2022 or later (including a new ground control system). Today’s launch is the first in a series of 32 replacement satellites planned for the Air Force satellites operated out of Colorado Springs, Colo.

The upgraded satellites are expected to provide location information that will be three times more accurate, and for the military, the new technology will be harder for other nations and outside forces to jam.