The Hill's Morning Report — Groundhog Day: Negotiations implode as shutdown reaches 20 days




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It’s Groundhog Day in Washington, where President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump administration eyes proposal to block jet engine sales to China: report Trump takes track to open Daytona 500 Brazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record MORE and Democratic leaders are cycling through the same daily drama while the partial government shutdown reaches 20 days.

If there is no agreement after 21 days, the president and Congress will achieve a new record: The longest shutdown in U.S. history.

This afternoon, the president heads to McAllen, Texas, for discussions at the southern border as part of his campaign to persuade Democrats in Congress that there is a “humanitarian and national security crisis” that can only be solved by constructing a border wall. He’s traveling today with Texas GOP Sens. John CornynJohn CornynBooker, Cornyn introduce bill to fund school nutrition programs Three Senate primaries to watch on Super Tuesday Democrats seek to drive wedge between Trump, GOP on whistleblowers MORE and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz 'impresses' his daughter with Chris Evans meeting Three Senate primaries to watch on Super Tuesday The advantage of paying for medical care directly MORE.

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: 'I'm not counting Joe Biden out' Short defends Trump's tweets as a 'very effective way' to communicate with Americans Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump MORE (D-Calif.) has no intention of bringing a spending bill with additional wall money to the floor for a vote.

A quick resolution appears unlikely. On Wednesday, negotiations at the White House imploded spectacularly, with both sides sniping at one another as they left the Situation Room.



The Hill: Trump storms out of meeting as shutdown careens toward fourth week.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBarr to testify before House Judiciary panel Graham won't call Barr to testify over Roger Stone sentencing recommendation Roger Stone witness alleges Trump targeted prosecutors in 'vile smear job' MORE (D-N.Y.) accused Trump of having another “temper tantrum” and Pelosi called him a “petulant president.” The Speaker also took a shot at Trump’s inherited wealth, saying he doesn’t understand the plight of federal workers who will be forced to go without paychecks.

“He thinks maybe they could just ask their father for more money.” – Pelosi

The House on Wednesday voted to reopen the Treasury Department, IRS and Small Business Administration, and several other federal agencies. Eight Republicans voted with Democrats to pass the legislation, which is the first of several small spending bills Pelosi plans to bring up this week.

In an interview with Laura Ingraham on Fox News last night, House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScalisePelosi's staff huddles with aides in both parties on 'surprise' medical billing Republicans sense momentum after impeachment win House Republicans move Jordan to Judiciary, Meadows to Oversight MORE (R-La.) cited speculation in the media that there could be up to 25 defections. Scalise pointed out he counts votes for the House GOP and anticipated a dozen defections at most.

“We were never close [to 25].” – Scalise

Regardless, the White House announced preemptively that Trump would veto the piecemeal spending legislation without wall money. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case MORE (R-Ky.) has no intention of bringing it up for a vote, even as some in his caucus challenged the president over his shutdown strategy at a closed-door meeting.

The Hill: GOP senators challenge Trump on shutdown strategy.

The Washington Post: In Texas, nearly every state and federal official who represents a district along the border is opposed to the president’s plan.

“We’re sticking with the president on this.” – McConnell

“I'm worried about what the end game is. This cannot be allowed to go on forever.” — Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsToward 'Super Tuesday' — momentum, money and delegates Trump unleashed: President moves with a free hand post-impeachment Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit MORE (R-Maine), interviewed on NBC News

The Hill: GOP emphasizes unity ahead of shutdown votes.

The Hill: Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump unleashed: President moves with a free hand post-impeachment The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Trump's former personal assistant to oversee White House personnel office MORE meets with moderate Republicans in search shutdown solution.

Which way from here?

Trump is threatening to declare a national emergency, which would ostensibly give the president power to redirect money from the military to spend on a border wall.

The president would be immediately challenged in court if he did that, and Republicans in both chambers have expressed unease with that option.

The Hill: Emergency declaration option for wall tests GOP.

Shutdown Fallout: #shutdownstories on Twitter has been trending among some federal workers impacted by Washington’s standoff. The anecdotes describe frustrations with Trump as well as lawmakers.

The New York Times: Washington’s strong economy, financed by taxpayers, takes a hit during shutdown.

The Hill: Worries mount as cybersecurity agency struggles through shutdown.

The Washington Post: Food and Drug Administration cuts back on food inspections.

The Hill: Shutdown chaos complicates tax season.

The Washington Post: Coast Guard told to navigate funding lapse with garage sales, second jobs.




POLITICS: One Democrat is out, while another appears to be gaining steam.

Billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer, who has spent millions on a campaign to impeach Trump, announced in Iowa on Wednesday that he will not seek the Democratic nomination for president.

Steyer had been laying the groundwork for a presidential run, but instead will continue to direct his time and money to pressuring Congress to impeach the president (The New York Times).

It’s possible that after analyzing the field, Steyer discovered that it would be tough for him to break through the crowded room of candidates, which is likely to include buzzier names, such as former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas).

Lisa Hagen reports on the growing “Draft Beto” effort that could leave the Texan with a healthy email and donor list if he decides to run (The Hill).

Democrats taking on Trump in 2020 will face a major challenge in trying to compete for airtime and headlines with a president who dominates the news, Amie Parnes reports (The Hill).

Turning to the House, Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingMother of child in viral meme sends Steve King cease-and-desist for using image in fundraising Nebraska Democratic Party Chair: Rural vote should be 'bedrock' of party With surge in anti-Semitism, political leaders need to be aggressive and reflective in response MORE (R-Iowa), who has repeatedly stumbled into controversy for his remarks on race, has drawn a Republican primary challenger in Iowa.




ADMINISTRATION: At the Justice Department, attorney general nominee William Barr is preparing for Senate confirmation hearings next week and visited Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamUS defense chief says Taliban deal 'looks very promising' but not without risk Lawmakers wary as US on cusp of initial deal with Taliban Graham requests interviews with DOJ, FBI officials as part of probe into Russia investigation MORE (R-S.C.) on Wednesday.

Graham said Barr, who held the job under former President George H.W. Bush, assured him that if confirmed he would let special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE complete the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election (CNBC).



Committee member Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharKlobuchar, Steyer unable to name Mexico's president in pointed interview Democrats redefine center as theirs collapses Speculation swirls around whether Bloomberg will make Las Vegas debate stage MORE (D-Minn.) tweeted she wants to meet with the nominee before his hearings next week, but was given a “shutdown” turn-down.



Justice: Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker had been invited by House Judiciary Committee Democrats to testify this month about the Russia probe and other issues. Whitaker, citing the continuing shutdown, now seeks to delay testimony until
February (The Hill).

Treasury: House Democrats as well as lawmakers across the aisle want to question Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinGOP senators offering bill to cement business provision in Trump tax law On The Money: Deficit spikes 25 percent through January | Mnuchin declines to say why Trump pulled Treasury nominee who oversaw Roger Stone case | Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Mnuchin defends Treasury regulations on GOP tax law MORE during a closed, classified briefing scheduled today about the administration’s decision, announced in December, to lift U.S. sanctions on companies owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska (The New York Times).

U.S.-China talks: Three days of trade negotiations concluded in Beijing as hopes grew for a deal by a March 2 deadline. China said the talks helped establish a foundation to resolve differences, without offering details (Reuters). U.S. negotiators are focused on China’s pledge to buy more U.S. goods (Reuters). …Financial markets soared on optimism that an end to tit-for-tat tariffs between the two countries may be achieved (The Associated Press). But next steps for China and the administration are unclear (The Associated Press).

Russia: Experts believe the arrest in Russia of U.S. citizen Paul Whelan, accused of espionage, is meant to retaliate for the U.S. arrest of Russian Maria Butina, who has pleaded guilty to being a foreign agent (The Hill). Whelan’s family says the former Marine is not a spy.

EPA: As anticipated, the president on Wednesday formally nominated Andrew Wheeler as acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, to succeed Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Controversial Trump adviser reportedly returning to EPA | Delta aims to be first carbon neutral airline | Dem senator gives EPA D-minus on 'forever chemicals' Architect of controversial EPA policies to return as chief of staff: report EPA asked to justify proposal to limit power of its science advisers MORE, who resigned under pressure last year (The Hill).

FEMA: Trump on Wednesday tweeted anew that he might withhold funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency working in California, if the state does not better mitigate wildfires and manage its forests.

Progressive Gov. Gavin Newsom, who this week succeeded former California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), is an outspoken Trump critic.



 ***Around town … Journalists gathered at the Newseum last night for a showing of “Vice,” the new movie about former Vice President Dick Cheney starring Golden Globe winner Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Steve Carell.

Spotted: The Hill’s Jordan Fabian, Scott Wong, Niall Stanage and Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack, as well as Josh Lederman, Margaret Talev, Philip Rucker, Daniel Lippman, Mike Memoli and John Harwood. Lawmakers also showed up, including Rep. Ami BeraAmerish (Ami) Babulal BeraLawmakers frustrated with lack of emergency funds for coronavirus Overnight Health Care — Presented by Philip Morris International — Trump officials to allow Medicaid block grants | WHO declares emergency over coronavirus | CDC reports first coronavirus case that spread in US WHO declares public health emergency over coronavirus MORE (D-Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonHillicon Valley: US hits Huawei with new charges | Judge orders Pentagon to halt 'war cloud' work amid Amazon challenge | IRS removes guidance on Fortnite game currency Democrats criticize FCC for not taking action against DC station broadcasting Russian disinformation House panel approves bill to grant DC statehood MORE (D-D.C.). ***

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!


President Trump’s border security fight is the right one, by former Trump campaign manager Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders repeats with NH primary win, but with narrower victory Trump campaign chief relocating to Washington: report Lewandowski decides against Senate bid MORE, opinion contributor, The Hill.

Terrorism is not a thing to cry wolf about, by Ruth Ellen Wasem, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features interviews with Rep. Paul MitchellPaul MitchellOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — House to condemn Trump plan for Medicaid block grants | Chinese doctor who warned of coronavirus dies | CDC ships coronavirus tests GOP lawmaker shreds Democratic resolution on House floor Democrats tear into Trump's speech: It was a 'MAGA rally' MORE (R-Mich.) and Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers.                         

The House convenes at 10 a.m. on day 20 of the government’s lapse in funding.

The Senate meets at 9:30 a.m. and continues debate on a Middle East policy measure.

The president travels to McAllen, Texas, to advocate for increased security at the border with Mexico. He’ll be on the ground there for three hours to participate in a roundtable discussion and a briefing.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoDonald Trump: Unrepentant, on the attack and still playing the victim US defense chief says Taliban deal 'looks very promising' but not without risk Kobach says he discussed his Senate bid with Trump MORE is in Egypt, where today he holds a news conference and delivers a speech about the United States as “a force for good.” Beyond Cairo, he will travel to Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait through Jan. 15.

The Labor Department reports at 8:30 a.m. on U.S. weekly jobless claims. The information will be viewed through the lens of the ongoing shutdown, which began Dec. 22. Data on claims filed by federal employees is released with a one-week lag.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell speaks at 12:45 p.m. at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida speaks about monetary policy and the economy at 7 p.m. at Money Marketeers of New York University in New York City. President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Neel Kashkari speaks about immigration and economic growth at noon at the Minneapolis Club.


> Teachers: In Los Angeles, the first teachers strike in 30 years in the nation’s second-largest school district is now set to begin on Monday (The Los Angeles Times). Teachers are seeking higher pay and smaller class sizes in a school district weighed down by budget deficits, including billions of dollars in obligations for pensions and health coverage.

> Students: Millions of college students are going hungry (The Atlantic).

> 3D paleontology: A 200-million-year-old skull measuring a yard in length was discovered in 1955 in a farm field in Great Britain and then largely forgotten on a museum shelf. Now, scientists have used CT scans and 3D technology to learn some secrets from the well preserved ancient ichthyosaur, a giant creature that once roamed the seas (The Daily Mail).




And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the never-ending shutdown, we’re eager for some savvy guesses and Googling about who said what, according to news and television reports this week.

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

The New York Times television critic James Poniewozik wrote on Tuesday night that a particular duo he viewed looked “unfortunately like a cross between Grant Wood’s `American Gothic’ and the twins from `The Shining.’ To whom did he refer?

  1. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Texas Sen. John Cornyn
  2. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi
  3. President Trump seated in the Oval Office with a photo of his father behind him
  4. White House senior advisers Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayBrazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record Conway: Reported sexist Bloomberg remarks 'far worse' than what Trump said on 'Access Hollywood' tape Candidates make electability arguments, talk Bloomberg as focus turns to more diverse states MORE and Stephen Miller

At the White House on Tuesday, who was reported to have said off-the-record about Trump’s planned trip today to the U.S.-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas, “It’s not going to change a damn thing”?

  1. Vice President Pence
  2. Melania TrumpMelania TrumpTrump takes track to open Daytona 500 The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump insists he can tweet about cases in rare break with Barr The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE
  3. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenActing DHS secretary says he expects Russia to attempt to interfere in 2020 elections House Homeland Security rip DHS's 'unacceptable' failure to comply with subpoena Trump puts Kushner in charge of overseeing border wall construction: report MORE
  4. President Trump

Which GOP senator on Tuesday advocated breaking with the White House and Senate leaders to pass bills this week to reopen parts of the government that are not embroiled in the wall funding fight, quipping with reporters, “I think we can walk and chew gum”?

  1. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' Ocasio-Cortez blasts Trump as 'corrupt' for blocking Global Entry for New Yorkers MORE of Alaska
  2. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrUS prosecutors bring new charges against China's Huawei Graham vows to approach Hunter Biden probe with caution: 'I'm not going to be the Republican Christopher Steele' McConnell displays mastery of Senate with impeachment victory MORE of North Carolina
  3. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case Mnuchin defends Treasury regulations on GOP tax law Wyden, Mnuchin clash over Trump tax returns, Hunter Biden probe MORE of Iowa
  4. Rick Scott of Florida

Which House Democrat said Tuesday on MSNBC, referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, “The president should not be asking for more money to an agency that has systematically violated human rights … because right now what we are seeing is death.”

  1. Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward Connolly'Liberated' Pelosi bashes Trump — and woos Democratic base Trump's best week ever? Trump set to confront his impeachment foes MORE (Virginia)
  2. Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeWhat the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber No experience required: US hiring immigration judges who don't have any immigration law experience Trump administration restricts travel from Nigeria and five other countries MORE (Texas)
  3. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezJulián Castro endorses Rep. Cuellar's primary opponent in Texas Overnight Energy: Controversial Trump adviser reportedly returning to EPA | Delta aims to be first carbon neutral airline | Dem senator gives EPA D-minus on 'forever chemicals' Intercept Bureau Chief: Culinary Union concerns over "Medicare for All" are faulty MORE (N.Y.)
  4. Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPelosi's staff huddles with aides in both parties on 'surprise' medical billing House panel approves bill to grant DC statehood Democrats bullish on bill to create women's history museum: 'It's an election year' MORE (Md.)

Which TV figure said after watching the president’s primetime speech, “This was Trump’s first address from the Oval Office. Up until now, he’d been using it for Kardashian meet-and-greets. But tonight, he got very serious.”

  1. Stephen Colbert (CBS)
  2. Lester Holt (NBC)
  3. Jimmy Kimmel (ABC)
  4. Tucker Carlson (Fox News)