The Hill's Morning Report — Back to the drawing board as shutdown reaches 19 days

 

 

 

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


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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump reversed course on flavored e-cigarette ban over fear of job losses: report Trump to award National Medal of Arts to actor Jon Voight Sondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report MORE will meet with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSchumer calls on Trump to testify as part of impeachment inquiry Sunday shows — Spotlight shifts to Sondland ahead of impeachment inquiry testimony Perception won't be reality, once AI can manipulate what we see MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary Schumer blocks drug pricing measure during Senate fight, seeking larger action MORE (D-N.Y.) in the Situation Room today as the two sides resume negotiations aimed at reopening the federal government, which has been partially shuttered for 19 days now.

Last night, the president and the Democratic leaders took their cases directly to the public in highly anticipated prime-time remarks broadcast across all major networks and cable news outlets.

Both Trump and the Democrats ended their speeches by demanding the other side bring an end to the shutdown.

The Memo: Takeaways from Trump’s Oval Office address.

Speaking from the Oval Office, Trump said the situation at the border represents a “growing humanitarian and security crisis” that can only be solved by Congress allocating $5.7 billion for a steel barrier along the border.

The president stopped short of saying he’d use emergency war powers to circumvent Congress by redirecting money from the military to build the wall.

Rather, he cast the border as a pipeline for drugs, violent criminals and human trafficking.

“Thousands of more lives will be lost if we don’t act now. This is a humanitarian crisis — a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul.” – Trump

Bottom line: Democrats are more united than Republicans on the shutdown and while Trump didn’t declare a national emergency Tuesday night, that option has not been taken off the table. It could be Trump’s only way out without caving.

The Hill: Trump describes border wall as a “choice between right and wrong.”

Pelosi and Schumer followed, standing side-by-side for rebuttals.

The Speaker called Trump’s remarks “full of misinformation and malice” and blamed his policies for deepening the “humanitarian challenge” at the border. Pelosi also highlighted the impact of the shutdown on federal workers and those who rely on government services.

“The fact is, President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety and well-being of the American people and withhold the paychecks of 800,000 innocent workers across the nation — many of them veterans.” — Pelosi

Schumer described the president as a child who shut the government because he didn’t get what he wanted.

“We don’t govern by temper tantrum. No president should pound the table and demand to get his way or else the government shuts down.” — Schumer

 

 

Meanwhile, pressure is rising on the president to come up with an endgame, as new cracks appear in the GOP coalition.

Trump and Vice President Pence will head to Capitol Hill to meet with Senate Republicans today.

The Hill: Pence urges Republicans to stand with Trump.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers skeptical of progress on spending deal as wall battle looms Impeachment battle looms over must-pass defense bill 'Saturday Night Live' presents Trump impeachment hearings with 'pizzazz' of soap opera MORE (R-Ky.) is refusing to bring House-passed legislation that fully funds the government up for a vote, but at least three Republicans in his caucus are calling for a vote to reopen the government without additional funding for the wall.

The Hill: GOP senators skeptical of using national emergency for wall money.

House Republicans are growing restless, too.

Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryImpeachment battle looms over must-pass defense bill Hillicon Valley: Schumer questions Army over use of TikTok | Federal court rules against random searches of travelers' phones | Groups push for election security funds in stopgap bill | Facebook's new payment feature | Disney+ launch hit by glitches Retirements pose threat to cybersecurity expertise in Congress MORE (Texas), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday he does not support using military funds to build the wall.

And Reps. Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonShimkus says he's reconsidering retirement Shimkus says he's been asked to reconsider retirement Trump urges GOP to fight for him MORE (R-Mich.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickHillicon Valley: Critics press feds to block Google, Fitbit deal | Twitter takes down Hamas, Hezbollah-linked accounts | TikTok looks to join online anti-terrorism effort | Apple pledges .5B to affordable housing Twitter takes down Hamas, Hezbollah-affiliated accounts after lawmaker pressure GOP lawmakers express concerns about Giuliani's work in Ukraine MORE (R-Pa.) and Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdImpeachment hearings likely to get worse for Republicans The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democrats open televised impeachment hearings Here are the key players to watch at impeachment hearing MORE, a Republican who represents a Texas district along the U.S.-Mexico border, have each vented their frustrations with the shutdown and Trump’s demands for wall money.

Conservative groups, such the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the network of groups affiliated with billionaire conservative Charles Koch, are also calling for an end to the shutdown, as are bipartisan governors’ and mayors’ groups from across the country, where the shutdown’s impact is being felt.

The polling is moving against the president as he prepares for a Thursday trip to McAllen, Texas, for an event at the border.

Reuters/Ipsos: The shutdown is unpopular, and a majority of Americans blame Trump.

PRRI: A majority of Americans oppose building a wall along the southern border.

Politico/Morning Consult: 42 percent believe the U.S. faces a border “crisis” due to illegal immigration.

LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS: The 116th Congress has made history for its racial, gender and religious diversity. The new Congress has more African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and openly LGBT members than any that has come before, as well as the first Muslim and Native American women to serve. Our colleagues put together this helpful guide to getting to know the most diverse Congress ever assembled (The Hill).

So, what are they up to?

The new Democratic majority in the House has prioritized gun legislation, unveiling a universal background checks bill on Tuesday as one of their first major moves (The Hill).

Next up, House Democrats are eyeing smaller pieces of bipartisan legislation aimed at lowering drug costs before tackling sweeping, more controversial proposals, such as allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices (The Hill).

House Democrats also want to undo certain provisions of the 2017 GOP tax law. Naomi Jagoda reports on early plans (The Hill). And they vow to be a legislative check on Trump’s defense agenda and evolving foreign policies, particularly in the Middle East (The Hill).

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans, in control in the upper chamber, want to craft a new approach to health care before 2020, recognizing that voter anxieties about GOP efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and Democrats’ adroit focus during 2018 campaigns on protecting coverage of pre-existing conditions worked against Republicans (The Hill).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS: The influential liberal website Daily Kos has released its first straw poll of the 2020 Democratic presidential field, and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden says he won't legalize marijuana because it may be a 'gateway drug' Democrats seize on report of FedEx's Elizabeth Warren tax bill to slam Trump's tax plan Warren 'fully committed' to 'Medicare for All' MORE (D-Mass.), the first big name to actively campaign this cycle, is sitting at the top with 22 percent support.

Those who follow with double-digit support: Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) at 15 percent, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisIf we want to save earth, we need to change how we eat New poll shows four top-tier 2020 candidates in Iowa The Democratic race for president may not sort itself out MORE (D-Calif.) and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report Biden says he won't legalize marijuana because it may be a 'gateway drug' Impeachment hearings don't move needle with Senate GOP MORE at 14 percent, and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden says he won't legalize marijuana because it may be a 'gateway drug' Democrats seize on report of FedEx's Bernie Sanders tax bill to slam Trump's tax plan If we want to save earth, we need to change how we eat MORE (I-Vt.) at 11 percent.

It’s very early and another two dozen candidates or more could still jump into the race. Still, the survey shows Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBiden says he won't legalize marijuana because it may be a 'gateway drug' New poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa Deval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne MORE (D-N.J.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandMaloney primary challenger calls on her to return, donate previous campaign donations from Trump Senate confirms controversial circuit court nominee She Should Run launches initiative to expand number of women in political process MORE (D-N.Y.), and former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julian Castro have their work cut out for them, with each registering 3 percent support or less.

The next to get in is probably billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer, who has an announcement planned today in Iowa (The Hill).

Harris, the California Democrat and first term senator, is inching closer to taking the plunge. She released a memoir and shuttered her state campaign arm this week ahead of a potential run.

Castro, meanwhile, became the latest Democrat to embrace “Medicare for all” legislation at a campaign event in Iowa (The Hill).

More from campaigns and politics … U.S. still leans conservative but liberals keep recent gains (Gallup) … North Carolina election fraud probed long before 2018 race (The Associated Press) … More than 1 million Floridians with felony convictions regained the right to vote on Tuesday, setting in motion a process that carries the potential to reshape elections in the country’s largest and most unpredictable battleground state (The Hill).

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INVESTIGATIONS: Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinDemocrats ask judge to force McGahn to comply with subpoena Democrats ask court to force DOJ's hand on Mueller grand jury materials Washington celebrates diplomacy — and baseball — at Meridian Ball MORE, who is overseeing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE’s probe into Russian interference in 2016 election,  plans to leave his post at the Department of Justice in the coming weeks, according to ABC News. The report says that Rosenstein is not being forced out by the president, but that rather he has planned to step aside once a new attorney general is in place. The Senate will hold a confirmation hearing for Trump’s nomination of former Attorney General William Barr next week.

> Whoops. Attorneys for Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortGates sentencing set for next month Yovanovitch says John Solomon's columns were used to push false allegations Trump bemoans 'double standard' in Stone conviction MORE failed to redact portions of a court filing, revealing that Mueller has accused Manafort of sharing campaign information with a man who is believed to have ties to Russian intelligence and then lying about it to the special counsel (Bloomberg). Manafort and his attorneys dispute the allegations of lying to investigators (The Hill).

> Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr., Manafort and Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump to tour Apple factory with Tim Cook on Wednesday Resistance or unhinged behavior? Partisan hatred reaches Trump's family Trump admin preparing to seize private land for border wall: report MORE at Trump Tower in 2016, has been charged with money laundering by federal prosecutors in New York.

The charges are unrelated to the Trump Tower meeting, but the court filings revealed that Veselnitskaya has deep ties to senior Russian government officials (The New York Times).

> The Supreme Court has received an appeal from a mysterious foreign company that could provide new clues about the Mueller probe (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

A wall can’t be the only answer to uncontrolled illegal immigration, by Nolan Rappaport, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2siOhkS

What if we paid people to donate their kidneys to strangers? by Megan McArdle, Washington Post columnist. https://wapo.st/2Fiuj1k

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features Reps. Dan KildeeDaniel (Dan) Timothy KildeeOvernight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' from major defense policy bill EPA touts Great Lakes funding after Trump tried to ax the program MORE (D-Mich.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.), sharing reactions to the president’s speech, and A. Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, discussing the shutdown’s impact on the judges she represents. http://thehill.com/hilltv

The House convenes at 10 a.m. Pelosi and Schumer will hold a press conference at 11 a.m.

The Senate meets at 9:30 a.m.

The president participates in a signing ceremony for anti-human trafficking legislation at 11:30 a.m. He and the vice president will attend the weekly Senate GOP policy lunch in the Capitol at 1 p.m. The president and Pence also meet with House and Senate leaders from both parties at 3 p.m. in the White House Situation Room to discuss the government’s funding impasse.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoImpeachment battle looms over must-pass defense bill Five takeaways from ex-ambassador's dramatic testimony Pompeo: No US response ruled out in Hong Kong MORE made an unannounced stop in Iraq overnight while visiting Arab capitals (The Associated Press and Reuters). He was in Jordan on Tuesday and will be in Egypt today to deliver a speech in Cairo. Then he heads to Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait through Jan. 15.

The Federal Reserve at 2 p.m. will release minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting of Dec. 18-19. 

ELSEWHERE

> States & Cities: New Democratic governors in blue and purple states are using inaugural addresses to take aim at the Trump administration, vowing to delink their states from Washington (The Hill). … New York Mayor Bill De Blasio (D) on Tuesday announced a $100 million health care plan for undocumented and low-income city dwellers (The New York Times). … California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced a plan on Monday to seek a waiver from the federal government to explore a single-payer health care system, pool California’s resources to bring down prescription drug costs and expand Medi-Cal coverage to all undocumented immigrants younger than 26 (The Mercury News).

> Environment: America’s carbon dioxide emissions rose by 3.4 percent in 2018, the biggest increase in eight years, even as many U.S. coal plants ceased operations last year, according to a report released this week. The findings further complicate aims to address greenhouse gases and climate change in years to come (The New York Times).

> Trump Organization: The Washington Post published an overview describing the president’s business, from ongoing investigations to expansion plans as 2019 begins. Find it HERE.

> Brick and mortar: Sears Holdings Corp, the 126-year-old U.S. department store icon, gained a day to try to land a takeover deal before bankruptcy and an auction deadline (Fox Business). Should Sears wind up liquidating its assets, including Kmart, the company would become one of the most high-profile victims of the rise of online shopping, potentially shedding 50,000 employees (Reuters).

 

 

> Raw foods: The first nudist restaurant in Paris is being forced to close because it cannot put enough bums on seats (Agence-France Presse).

THE CLOSER

And finally … The ongoing shutdown, which is now the second longest in the nation’s history, carries real-world consequences that grow by the hour. Americans from Florida to Maine and through Midwestern and Western states where voters generally support Trump’s aims say they feel the effects.

Life-saving: Furloughed Food and Drug Administration employees fear the lapse in funding and staffing could cost lives, including through oversight, drug approvals and compassionate-care drug trial management (CNN).

Life without wages: Some federal employees around the country, especially lower wage workers, describe a precipice without paychecks. Now living “nothing to nothing” instead of “paycheck to paycheck,” they say they cannot afford school lunches, day care, transportation and gasoline, rent and many other everyday expenses (Federal News Network; The Washington Post; The New York Times).

Travel delays and safety: Air travel has been impacted (The Associated Press). … In Maine, the shutdown interrupts key training for air traffic controllers, who may not be able to complete it (Portland Press Herald).

Border security: The Department of Homeland Security has furloughed workers employed in border security, and DHS canceled a trip to the southern border in Texas for its advisory council because of the shutdown. The January visits were supposed to help the council draft recommendations for Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenWhite House backs Stephen Miller amid white nationalist allegations Top House Democrats ask for review of DHS appointments Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary MORE (The Daily Beast).

Love Act: The D.C. council passed an emergency bill supported by Mayor Muriel Bowser on Tuesday to allow the city to issue marriage licenses because the marriage bureau at D.C. Superior Court has been shuttered (The Washington Post).

Parks see wear and tear: Joshua Tree National Park in California needs several days this week to close and clean up restrooms and accumulated garbage before reopening by the weekend. With a skeleton crew of rangers to supervise during the shutdown, the park sustained wear from off-road driving and some defacement of the park’s namesake Joshua trees by visitors (The Los Angeles Times). … Administration efforts to tap national park entrance fees to cover maintenance costs during the partial shutdown create budget questions because the fees cannot be replenished for planned purposes when the temporary funding lapses eventually end (The Hill).