The Hill's Morning Report — Shutdown drama front and center in 2019

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report! As 2019 begins, 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, you can find us at @joneasley and @asimendinger.

Lawmakers return to work on Wednesday seeking a solution to the spending fight that has shuttered a quarter of the government for going on 12 days now.

While there’s no agreement in sight, President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE has invited the top two leaders from both parties in the House and Senate to the White House for a border security briefing today.

If it takes place, it would be the first time the president has met with House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiMulvaney: Military projects impacted by wall funding haven't been decided yet Left-wing Dems in minority with new approach to spending Julian Castro hints at brother Joaquin's Senate run MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerWhy we need to build gateway now Campaign to draft Democratic challenger to McConnell starts raising funds Schumer congratulates J. Lo and A-Rod, but says 'I'm never officiating a wedding again' MORE (D-N.Y.) since their lively Dec. 11 encounter in the Oval Office.

At that gathering for the cameras, Trump declared he would not back down from his demand of $5.7 billion for a border wall. He said he’d take full responsibility for the partial shutdown if Congress didn’t approve the funding. Trump subsequently blamed Democrats.

In a statement Tuesday night, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president believes a “Pelosi plan” to reopen the government is “a non-starter” because it “fails to secure the border and puts the needs of other countries above the needs of our own citizens.”



The dynamics of the spending fight will shift dramatically over the next 24 hours. 

Lawmakers in both chambers close the books on the 115th Congress today.

On Thursday, the 116th Congress will convene. Democrats will have a majority in the House and are expected to elect Pelosi as Speaker for her second turn in the top job.

One of Pelosi’s first actions in the next Congress will be to bring legislation to the floor to fund the full government, but with no additional money for a border wall.

The California Democrat outlined her plan in a Tuesday letter to lawmakers:

“On Thursday, House Democrats will take action to end the Trump Shutdown, as we pass strong, bipartisan legislation to reopen government, which has already received strong bipartisan support in the Senate … The package contains two bills. One consists of 6 bills already approved by the Republicans in the Senate, which would reopen all government agencies except for the Department of Homeland Security with full fiscal-year funding until September 30. The second bill would extend the Department of Homeland Security’s funding through February 8th, which is the date the Senate voted for unanimously. It is important to note that these bills contain no new wall funding.”

Read more about the legislation incoming House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyLeft-wing Dems in minority with new approach to spending On The Money: Trump issues first veto, warning of 'reckless' resolution | US hits Russia with new sanctions | Dems renew push for contractor back pay | Lawmakers seek probe into undocumented workers at Trump businesses House Dems renew push for government contractor back pay MORE (D-N.Y.)  introduced HERE.

Unless Trump has a change of heart, the Democratic spending package would die on his desk and the impasse would continue. Both sides are bracing for a prolonged shutdown.

The Associated Press: Tops on House Dems’ to-do list: Try to end shutdown.

The Hill: Five fights awaiting Trump, Congress in 2019.



ADMINISTRATION & WHITE HOUSE: At the Pentagon, acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanMulvaney: Military projects impacted by wall funding haven't been decided yet Overnight Defense: Trump issues first veto over 'reckless' emergency resolution | Pompeo moves to restrict international court probing war crimes | Trump taps Air Force general for NATO commander Trump taps Air Force general to be top NATO commander MORE, who succeeded James MattisJames Norman MattisJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria US planning to leave 1K troops in Syria: report Watchdog files ethics complaint over acting Pentagon chief's Boeing ties MORE on New Year’s Day, described in a memo some of the aims he hopes to carry out under the president’s “vision” (The Hill), while other department-watchers compiled lists of challenges this year as Trump hunts for someone to lead the Pentagon after Mattis quit (The Hill). 



> Shanahan is served by a new acting assistant for public affairs, Charles E. Summers Jr., named at the Pentagon to step into the role performed for Mattis by a spokeswoman who resigned suddenly on Monday while under internal investigation (The Washington Post).

State Department: Secretary Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo open to future Senate run: 'The Lord will get me to the right place' Overnight Defense: Trump issues first veto over 'reckless' emergency resolution | Pompeo moves to restrict international court probing war crimes | Trump taps Air Force general for NATO commander The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump condemns 'horrible' New Zealand mosque shootings MORE, while traveling in South America this week met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Brasilia, Brazil. The secretary said the United States remains committed to Israel’s defense despite Trump’s decision to gradually remove U.S. military forces from Syria (Bloomberg). … Pompeo on Tuesday attended the inauguration of Brazil’s new far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro (The Associated Press).

> Egypt: Trump and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi discussed the stability of the Middle East by telephone on Tuesday, according to an Egyptian official (Reuters). The president and Sisi spoke about countering terrorism and increasing regional stability, as well as efforts to advance religious freedom in Egypt, according to a senior U.S. official.

Russia: Following last week’s detention in Russia of former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, his family denied claims that Whelan is a spy. The espionage allegations in Moscow underscore fraying relations between Russia and the United States over a host of issues, including Russia’s election interference and U.S. economic sanctions imposed as punishment (The Washington Post). U.S. Embassy officials had not yet spoken with Whelan, according to his family (The Associated Press).

North Korea: Kim Jong Un would like to meet with Trump for a second summit anytime to discuss denuclearization, but speaks of a “new path” (Reuters). The president tweeted his reaction:



China: Trump’s chief trade negotiator, Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerTrump says no discussion of extending deadline in Chinese trade talks McConnell urges GOP senators to call Trump about tariffs Companies brace for trade war MORE, wants to keep the president from wavering as trade talks with Beijing resume with an eye toward a March deadline (The New York Times).   

Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpNew Zealand suspect wrote in manifesto he supported Trump 'as a symbol of renewed white identity' Ex-White House ethics chief compares Ivanka, Kushner security clearances to college admissions scandal College admissions scandal exposes the fantasy of the American Dream MORE, a senior White House adviser, plans a push for global women’s economic development this year (The Associated Press).


POLITICS: The calendar just turned to 2019, but Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke says he won't use 'f-word' on campaign trail O'Rourke not planning, but not ruling out big fundraisers MORE (D-Mass.) is getting an early jump on the 2020 presidential race.

After announcing this week that she’d formed an exploratory committee, Warren will head to Iowa this weekend, with stops planned in Council Bluffs, Sioux City, Storm Lake and Des Moines, according to the Des Moines Register.



The field is going to get crowded in a hurry. 

Expect a half-dozen Democrats or more to announce exploratory committees or outright presidential bids in the weeks ahead, with potential big names like former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenBeto could give Biden and Bernie a run for their money Biden: 'I have the most progressive record of anybody running ... anybody who would run' H.R. 1 falls short of real reform MORE, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas) and Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke says he won't use 'f-word' on campaign trail O'Rourke not planning, but not ruling out big fundraisers MORE (I-Vt.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke says he won't use 'f-word' on campaign trail O'Rourke not planning, but not ruling out big fundraisers MORE (Calif.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerO'Rourke faces pressure from left on 'Medicare for all' O'Rourke says he won't use 'f-word' on campaign trail O'Rourke not planning, but not ruling out big fundraisers MORE (N.J.), and many others sizing up the landscape.

The New York Times: How Biden has paved the way for a possible presidential run.

Niall Stanage has a helpful early handicapping list of the top 10 Democrats to watch as the presidential election cycle kicks into high gear (The Hill). 

More from campaigns and politics … The top five races to watch in 2019 (The Hill) … Chaos in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District could delay final outcome for weeks (The Charlotte Observer).


The president shapes the public character of the nation. Trump’s character falls short, by Sen.-elect Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration Overnight Defense: Senate rejects border emergency in rebuke to Trump | Acting Pentagon chief grilled on wall funding | Warren confronts chief over war fund budget 12 Republican senators defy Trump on emergency declaration  MORE (R-Utah), The Washington Post. 

It’s time to get out of Afghanistan, by Robert D. Kaplan, The New York Times.

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley & Alexis Simendinger Suggestions? Tips? We want to hear from you! Share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!



Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features Anibal Romero, a Newark, N.J., attorney who represents five immigrants who say they worked at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.; and Jacque Simon, public policy director for the American Federation of Government Employees union, talking about the impact of the partial shutdown on federal employees. 

The Senate convenes at 4 p.m. and resumes consideration of appropriations legislation and partisan impasses.

The House meets at noon. The 116th Congress officially convenes on Thursday.

The president may hold a border security discussion with House and Senate leaders from both parties at the White House, seeking to confer for the first time since Dec. 11 with Democratic leaders about appropriations and policy disputes.  


> States & localities: 2019 ushered in new laws, including higher minimum wages, changes to tax requirements, allowances for hunting vests and bans on foam food containers and drinking straws (USA Today, The New York Times, The Associated Press, The Washington Post). Washington now bars anyone under age 21 from purchasing assault weapons (The Washington Post). … And states begin this year with ambitious new legislative agendas (The Hill). 

> Space: A NASA explorer is believed to have reached the solar system’s outermost region on Tuesday, flying close to a space rock 20 miles long and billions of miles from Earth on a mission to gather clues about the creation of the solar system (Reuters)

> Catholic Church: The Vatican blocked U.S. bishops from moving to address the clergy sex abuse scandal because U.S. church leaders didn’t discuss the legally problematic proposals with the Holy See enough beforehand, according to a November letter obtained by The Associated Press. … Today, U.S.-based Roman Catholic bishops gather for a weeklong retreat near Chicago focused on the church sexual abuse scandal. Organizers say it will focus on prayer and spiritual reflection, not on crafting new policy (The Associated Press).

> Sports: On Tuesday, tennis champion Roger Federer, representing a Swiss team, beat the United States and fellow great Serena Williams in a mixed doubles Hopman Cup tennis competition, which they both described as great fun (The Associated Press).



> Russia: Ivan Fokin, an injured baby boy, was flown to Moscow Tuesday for medical care after being found alive Monday following a building collapse. He was located after he spent 35 hours under rubble in subzero temperatures. A blast that caused the collapse killed at least seven people and more than 30 others remain missing (Reuters). The baby’s mother survived.




And finally … It was a balmy 57 degrees in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, but elsewhere in America, winter and water are making frozen magic. Lake Geneva, Wis., residents and visitors have been waiting for Ice Castles on the beach, expected to open Jan. 10 to large crowds.

“Our goal is to make Ice Castles be like the frozen version of going to Disneyland,” construction overseer Jesse Stone says of amusement fortresses that are also located in Utah, Minnesota, Colorado, New Hampshire and Alberta, Canada.

Water gets sprayed from sprinkler heads installed throughout castle locations each night, where it freezes, creating 5,000 to 10,000 crystal clear icicles that are then hand-harvested and used to build special worlds that celebrate the beauty of winter.