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 conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report 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 CornynGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet Trump administration floats background check proposal to Senate GOP MORE and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan NRA says Trump administration memo a 'non-starter' Barr fails to persuade Cruz on expanded background checks MORE.

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Democrats bicker over strategy on impeachment Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul 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 SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall 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 ScaliseScalise blasts Democratic legislation on gun reforms Liz Cheney calls for 'proportional military response' against Iran On The Money: Senate panel scraps vote on key spending bill amid standoff | Democrats threaten to vote against defense bill over wall funding | Trump set to meet with aides about reducing capital gains taxes 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 McConnellLawmakers run into major speed bumps on spending bills Budowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet 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 CollinsGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Sinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico MORE (R-Maine), interviewed on NBC News

The Hill: GOP emphasizes unity ahead of shutdown votes.

The Hill: Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump's 'soldier of fortune' foreign policy The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Democrats set for Lone Star showdown Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan 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 KingOcasio-Cortez rips Steve King after he shares video drinking from toilet-fountain hybrid at border Steve King says he drank from toilet at detention center Steve King jokes about China forcing Muslims to eat pork 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 GrahamGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Overnight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort GOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi 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 MuellerLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation MORE complete the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election (CNBC).



Committee member Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity 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 MnuchinLawmakers run into major speed bumps on spending bills The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Graham clash over Iran policy Liz Cheney calls for 'proportional military response' against Iran 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 administration to repeal waterway protections| House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge| Administration takes key step to open Alaskan refuge to drilling by end of year Trump administration to repeal waterway protections The Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks 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 BeraDemocrats bicker over strategy on impeachment Seniors deserve access to Health Savings Accounts Democratic lawmakers support Bustos after DCCC resignations MORE (D-Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonDC statehood will give representation to city residents and rectify a deep injustice DC flies flags with 51 stars ahead of statehood parade Democrats grill BLM chief over plans to move officials out of DC 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. LewandowskiPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Ocasio-Cortez mocks 'White House ethics' in Instagram post Democrats bicker over strategy on impeachment 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 MitchellGOP struggles with retirement wave Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Iowa GOP chair calls Steve King's rape, incest comments 'outrageous' 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 PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran Trump doubles down on Graham: 'How did going into Iraq work out?' 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 ConwayObama, Bush among those paying tribute to Cokie Roberts: 'A trailblazing figure' Journalists, political heavyweights pay respects to Cokie Roberts: 'A pioneer for so many' Iran's supreme leader rules out talks with US at all levels 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 TrumpMelania Trump to ring stock exchange opening bell on Monday On The Money: Fed delivers second rate cut to fend off global risks | Trump says Fed has 'no guts' | House gets deal on continuing resolution | GM faces bipartisan backlash amid strike Washington Monument reopens after three years of repairs MORE
  3. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenDHS officials called lawmaker visit to migrant detention facility a 'Hill stunt' White House fires DHS general counsel Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network 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 MurkowskiSinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw McConnell lashes out at Democrats over 'unhinged' criticism of Kavanaugh MORE of Alaska
  2. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrLawmakers applaud Trump's ban on flavored e-cigarettes Trump to hold campaign rally in North Carolina day before special House election Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post MORE of North Carolina
  3. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan NRA says Trump administration memo a 'non-starter' Barr fails to persuade Cruz on expanded background checks 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 ConnollyHistory in the House: Congress weathers unprecedented week Democrat grills DHS chief over viral image of drowned migrant and child Hillicon 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 MORE (Virginia)
  2. Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeDemocrats bicker over strategy on impeachment Jackson Lee: 'Racism is a national security threat' Most oppose cash reparations for slavery: poll MORE (Texas)
  3. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez mocks 'White House ethics' in Instagram post Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul Kennedy to challenge Markey in Senate primary MORE (N.Y.)
  4. Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul Dem leader says party can include abortion opponents Hoyer calls on GOP leader to denounce 'despicable' ad attacking Ocasio-Cortez 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)