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




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


It’s Groundhog Day in Washington, where President TrumpDonald John TrumpAmash responds to 'Send her back' chants at Trump rally: 'This is how history's worst episodes begin' McConnell: Trump 'on to something' with attacks on Dem congresswomen Trump blasts 'corrupt' Puerto Rico's leaders amid political crisis 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 CornynDemocratic Houston councilwoman announces Senate bid Trump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal MORE and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz calls for 'every penny' of El Chapo's criminal enterprise to be used for Trump's wall after sentencing Conservatives defend Chris Pratt for wearing 'Don't Tread On Me' T-shirt Google official denies allegations of ties to China MORE.

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSally Yates: Moral fiber of US being 'shredded by unapologetic racism' Al Green calls for additional security for House members after Trump rally #IStandWithPresTrump trends in response to #IStandWithIlhan 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 SchumerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US 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 ScaliseDemocratic strategist on Trump tweets: 'He's feeding this fear and hate' The four Republicans who voted to condemn Trump's tweets White House abruptly cancels Trump meeting with GOP leaders 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 McConnellMcConnell: Trump 'on to something' with attacks on Dem congresswomen Dems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Senate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime 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 CollinsHillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp Trump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout MORE (R-Maine), interviewed on NBC News

The Hill: GOP emphasizes unity ahead of shutdown votes.

The Hill: Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment White House abruptly cancels Trump meeting with GOP leaders The Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question 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 KingYoung Turks reporter tricks Steve King into tweeting about 'A Few Good Men' villain Holocaust survivor who offered to tour Auschwitz with Ocasio-Cortez calls for her to 'be removed from Congress' Liz Cheney hits back at Ocasio-Cortez over concentration camp comments: 'This isn't model Congress' 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 GrahamSenate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime Graham: Trump's attacks on minority congresswomen more 'narcissism' than racism Meghan McCain promotes July 17 as #GBMday to raise awareness of father's cancer 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 MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE complete the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election (CNBC).



Committee member Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean Klobuchar2020 Democrats react to 'send her back' chants at Trump rally Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations Bullock makes CNN 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 MnuchinMnuchin says White House, Pelosi have deal on top-line budget numbers The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Administration pushes back on quick budget deal: 'We have a way to go' 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: Trump officials gut DC staff for public lands agency to move West | Democrats slam EPA over scientific boards | Deepwater Horizon most litigated environmental issue of decade Democrats, scientists slam Trump administration actions on scientific boards Overnight Energy: Scientists flee USDA as research agencies move to Kansas City area | Watchdog finds EPA skirted rules to put industry reps on boards | New rule to limit ability to appeal pollution permits 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 BeraOvernight Defense: Shanahan exit shocks Washington | Pentagon left rudderless | Lawmakers want answers on Mideast troop deployment | Senate could vote on Saudi arms deal this week | Pompeo says Trump doesn't want war with Iran Cruz pitches Ocasio-Cortez on bill to make birth control available over the counter To protect our health, we must act on climate MORE (D-Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonMajority of Americans opposes DC statehood: poll DC statehood hearing rescheduled to make room for Mueller testimony DC mayor: Trump's July 4 celebration 'depleted' security fund 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. LewandowskiJudiciary issues blitz of subpoenas for Kushner, Sessions, Trump associates House Judiciary to vote to authorize subpoenas for Trump officials, immigration documents Pavlich: Nadler's intimidation tactics backfire 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 MitchellHouse GOP presses members to oppose resolution condemning Trump remarks as racist The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump creates new firestorm with 'go back' remarks Rising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems 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 PompeoIn Afghanistan, give peace a chance — and a lot of time The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Mystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia 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 ConwayFederal guidance identifying 'go back to where you came from' as discrimination goes viral after Trump comments Kellyanne Conway says she meant 'no disrespect' with question about reporter's ethnicity Kellyanne Conway asks reporter 'what's your ethnicity' while defending Trump's 'go back' comments about minority lawmakers 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 TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Cruz in 2016 said 'something fundamentally wrong' with Christians who back Trump: book Designer defends Melania Trump statue: 'People may laugh but the context still resonates' MORE
  3. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele Nielsen Trump's family separation policy has taken US to 'lowest depth possible,' says former immigration lawyer Four heated moments from House hearing on conditions at border facilities Chuck Todd on administration vacancies: 'Is this any way to run a government?' 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 MurkowskiOvernight Defense: Highlights from Defense pick's confirmation hearing | Esper spars with Warren over ethics | Sidesteps questions on Mattis vs. Trump | Trump says he won't sell F-35s to Turkey Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse PBS premieres first nationally distributed kids' show with Native American lead MORE of Alaska
  2. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Sanders mounts staunch defense of 'Medicare for All' | Biden, Sanders fight over health care heats up | House votes to repeal ObamaCare 'Cadillac Tax' | Dems want details on fetal tissue research ban Top North Carolina newspapers editorial board to GOP: 'Are you OK with a racist president?' Hillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns MORE of North Carolina
  3. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Sanders mounts staunch defense of 'Medicare for All' | Biden, Sanders fight over health care heats up | House votes to repeal ObamaCare 'Cadillac Tax' | Dems want details on fetal tissue research ban Senate approves long-delayed tax treaties in win for business The peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff 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 ConnollyHillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp House panel advances bill to protect elections from foreign interference Four heated moments from House hearing on conditions at border facilities MORE (Virginia)
  2. Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeDemocrats warm to idea of studying reparations Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Schumer throws support behind bill to study reparations MORE (Texas)
  3. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOmar responds to 'send her back' chant with Maya Angelou quote Trump blasts minority Democrats, rally crowd chants 'send her back' Trump refers to Ocasio-Cortez as just 'Cortez' because it 'takes too much time' to say full name MORE (N.Y.)
  4. Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe House Democrats who voted to kill impeachment effort Overnight Defense: House votes to block Trump arms sales to Saudis, setting up likely veto | US officially kicks Turkey out of F-35 program | Pentagon sending 2,100 more troops to border House votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale 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)