The Hill's Morning Report — Washington searches for answers as shutdown hits 24 days




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report, and happy Monday (fingers crossed)! 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.

 The NFL is down to its final four. The Los Angeles Rams will play the New Orleans Saints in Louisiana on Sunday at 3:05 p.m. and the New England Patriots travel to Arrowhead Stadium to play the Kansas City Chiefs at 6:40 p.m.

❆  Federal offices in the Washington region are closed today because of heavy snowfall on Sunday. Emergency employees and telework employees will continue to work (the change does not apply to furloughed workers “already in a non-work status,” according to the Office of Personnel Management). Announcement HERE.


Lawmakers return to snow-covered Washington today with negotiations to reopen the government still frozen in place for a record 24th day.

No talks occurred over the weekend, although Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate Republicans face tough decision on replacing Ginsburg Democratic senator calls for eliminating filibuster, expanding Supreme Court if GOP fills vacancy What Senate Republicans have said about election-year Supreme Court vacancies MORE (R-S.C.) says he asked President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama calls on Senate not to fill Ginsburg's vacancy until after election Planned Parenthood: 'The fate of our rights' depends on Ginsburg replacement Progressive group to spend M in ad campaign on Supreme Court vacancy MORE to reopen the government and negotiate for more border wall money later.

“He’s not going to give in.” — Graham on "Fox News Sunday."

Several other options are also off the table for the time being.

The president has backed away from his threat to circumvent Congress by declaring a national emergency to redirect money for the border wall, which would have paved the way for the government to reopen but would also have opened the spigot on a stream of legal challenges.

Trump ran into opposition from within his own party on that front, with conservatives worrying that it would set a precedent that could be exploited by a future Democratic president.

“I would hate to see it. Using that act, it would be — in this instance would be a far larger act than has ever occurred in the past.” — Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - White House moves closer to Pelosi on virus relief bill Second GOP senator to quarantine after exposure to coronavirus GOP-led panel to hear from former official who said Burisma was not a factor in US policy MORE (R-Wis.) on CNN’s “State of the Union”

And a potential collaboration to provide a pathway to citizenship for those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in exchange for more border wall money is going nowhere in the Democratic-controlled House.

Will growing pressure in the fourth week of the shutdown move the two sides to a deal?

Trump and lawmakers may want to resolve the shutdown before leaving for the long Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, but so far neither side has been negotiating with a sense of urgency.

The Hill: No clear path forward as shutdown enters fourth week.

The Associated Press: Congress to face same question. When will shutdown end?

Meanwhile, stories about the real-world fallout from the shutdown are provoking anger and frustration in Washington and across the nation. About 400,000 federal workers have been furloughed and another 400,000 are working without pay, including border officials caught in the dispute over a wall.

Trump is expected to sign legislation this week guaranteeing back pay for federal workers, but many federal employees are hurting in the interim.

"The people we depend upon to find explosives in luggage, to find weapons in luggage, the people we depend upon to secure our borders, to look for contraband at ports, to look for narcotics at courts are the people under great stress right now because of this shutdown. And it must be leading — I think I know this work force — it must be leading to all kinds of uncertainty, stress and anxiety and, frankly, anger and resentment." — Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on CBS’s “Face the Nation”

The Los Angeles Times: Border security workers miss paychecks.
The New York Times: Transportation Security Administration workers strike, raising turmoil at airports. A security checkpoint at Houston’s main airport is closed.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned last week that it’s only a matter of time before the impact of the shutdown shows up in the economic data.

The Wall Street Journal: Recession odds rise amid shutdown
The Hill: Five ways the shutdown is impacting the economy.




INVESTIGATIONS: Hearings for William Barr, Trump’s pick to be the next attorney general, begin on Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Barr is expected to be confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate, but Democrats will first demand ironclad assurances that he commit to allowing special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) 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 to complete his investigation, especially after a pair of bombshell reports dropped over the weekend about Trump and Russia.

The New York Times: FBI opened inquiry into whether Trump was secretly working for Russia.

The Washington Post: Trump concealed details of meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Those reports set off a predictable firestorm of reactions inside Washington, with Democrats sounding the alarm that the president might be a Russian agent and Republicans declaring that the FBI is engaging in a political war against the president.

Rather than denying the allegations, the strategy from the president and top administration officials has so far been to say that questions about whether Trump worked for or with Russia are too outlandish to dignify a response.

“I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked.” — Trump during an interview on Fox News Channel on Saturday

I’m not going to comment on New York Times stories, but I’ll certainly say this — the notion that President Trump is a threat to American national security is absolutely ludicrous … The idea that’s contained in the New York Times story that President Trump was a threat to American national security is silly on its face and not worthy of a response.” — Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHouse panel halts contempt proceedings against Pompeo after documents turned over Outgoing ambassador to China slams Beijing over coronavirus: 'Could have been contained in Wuhan' Hillicon Valley: FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden | Treasury Dept. sanctions Iranian government-backed hackers MORE on CBS’s “Face the Nation”

More from the investigations front … Top Dems raise intimidation, obstruction questions in response to Trump’s comments on Michael Cohen (The Hill) … Trump confronts possibility of nonstop war for political survival (The New York Times) … Domestic influence campaigns borrow from Russia’s playbook (The Hill) … Developments around Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortOur Constitution is under attack by Attorney General William Barr Bannon trial date set in alleged border wall scam Conspicuous by their absence from the Republican Convention MORE trigger new “collusion” debate (The Hill) … Senate Democrats will try to force a vote on Treasury’s decision to ease sanctions on Russian firms (The Associated Press).


POLITICS: The Democratic presidential field is taking shape.

The Los Angeles Times: Who’s in and who’s on the fence?

Over the weekend, Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardRepublicans call on DOJ to investigate Netflix over 'Cuties' film Hispanic Caucus campaign arm endorses slate of non-Hispanic candidates Gabbard says she 'was not invited to participate in any way' in Democratic convention MORE (D-Hawaii) said she’s decided to run and will make a formal announcement in the coming weeks. Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran and the first-ever Hindu member of Congress, lacks national name recognition but could be an intriguing vice presidential pick.

Gabbard, a progressive who backed Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersKenosha will be a good bellwether in 2020 Biden's fiscal program: What is the likely market impact? McConnell accuses Democrats of sowing division by 'downplaying progress' on election security MORE (I-Vt.) in 2016, has at times differed with establishment figures in her party.

The Hill: Gabbard, Hirono clash shocks Hawaii.

Haaretz: Tea with Assad, hugs with Adelson: Gabbard’s unique views on Israel and the Middle East appeal to some right-wing evangelicals.



Also announcing over the weekend, from his home state of Texas: Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro (D), who is running to be the nation’s first-ever Hispanic president.

In his launch speech, Castro cast himself as a progressive on issues that are sure to light up the liberal base, from health care to climate change.

San Antonio Express: Castro announces his candidacy for president.



Meanwhile, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump and Biden vie for Minnesota | Early voting begins in four states | Blue state GOP governors back Susan Collins Kamala Harris: Black Americans have been 'disproportionately harmed' by Trump Biden town hall draws 3.3 million viewers for CNN MORE (D-Calif.) is moving closer to a bid. She’ll visit the early primary state of South Carolina later this month (Politico).

The San Francisco Chronicle: Inside Harris’s stint in the Senate.

U.S. News and World Report: Harris is laughing on her way to a presidential bid.

Democrats are debating whether the party should look to its deep bench of young, up-and-coming candidates or whether their elder statesmen and women are the best to put up against Trump.

Former President Obama made headlines last week by saying the party needs “new blood,” a comment that raised eyebrows about former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSenate Republicans face tough decision on replacing Ginsburg What Senate Republicans have said about election-year Supreme Court vacancies Biden says Ginsburg successor should be picked by candidate who wins on Nov. 3 MORE, who spent nearly five decades in elective politics.

Amie Parnes reports that Obama still loves his old friend and views him as a top tier potential challenger (The Hill). But would Obama endorse Biden (or any leading contender) during the primaries? Unlikely.

More from campaigns and politics … Democrats see Florida drifting away (The New York Times) … Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBipartisan praise pours in after Ginsburg's death DHS opens probe into allegations at Georgia ICE facility Democratic lawmakers call for an investigation into allegations of medical neglect at Georgia ICE facility MORE (D-N.J.) tries to shake doubts about pharmaceutical ties ahead of 2020 (The Hill).

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Both sides must compromise to end the longest shutdown in our history, by Doug Schoen, opinion contributor, The Hill.

Syria is too complex to make decisions in 280-characters, even for a president, by James Cook, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features Kevin Brock, a former FBI assistant director of intelligence; New Hampshire political reporter Paul Steinhauser, on the presidential campaign of Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden's fiscal program: What is the likely market impact? Warren, Schumer introduce plan for next president to cancel ,000 in student debt The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Don't expect a government check anytime soon MORE (D-Mass.); and a second installment of a conversation with Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist.                         

The House meets at noon.

The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. and resumes consideration of the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act.

The president flies to New Orleans to speak to the American Farm Bureau Federation convention at midday (The New Orleans Advocate).

Secretary Pompeo is traveling in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait through Jan. 15. Almost half of State Department employees in the United States and about one-quarter overseas are furloughed during the shutdown. The balance are working without pay. Pompeo says despite the funding lapse, all U.S. ambassadors will fly to Washington at government expense for a previously scheduled conference in Washington on Jan. 16-17 (The New York Times).


> Teachers: As Los Angeles public school teachers prepare today to strike for the first time in 30 years in the nation’s second-largest school district, a big question lingers. Where’s the money? (The Los Angeles Times).

> Syria: Syrian President Bashar Assad is making a comeback in power, inching back into the fold of Arab nations. Assad’s troops are primed to retake an area they abandoned at the height of the country’s civil war, now in its eighth year. This would be a significant step in restoring Assad’s control over all of Syria (The Associated Press).

> Brexit: Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to experience a significant defeat on Tuesday when the British Parliament votes on a much-criticized deal she negotiated in accordance with the will of British voters to leave the European Union by the end of March. The fate of Brexit represents Britain’s biggest shift in foreign and trade policy in more than 40 years (Reuters)

> Tipping: Budget airline Frontier changed its policies on Jan. 1 and now encourages passengers to tip individual flight attendants for services. The question in the industry is whether tipping policies will change at other airlines (CNBC).

> Species: DNA of red wolves that were declared extinct nearly 40 years ago survives in the wild. Genetic analysis discovered that certain canines in Galveston, Texas, appear to be hybrids of the thought-to-be-extinct red wolf and coyote (The Associated Press).




And finally … Organizations, communities, state agencies and businesses are coming up with creative ways to help those hardest hit by official Washington’s inability to keep the entire government up and running. Here are a few examples.

Chicago: Free lunches this week will be offered to furloughed federal workers in the Windy City’s South Side neighborhood of Beverly, made possible by Horse Thief Hollow Brewing Co. The owner calls the generosity the “Shutdown Special” (Forbes).

Canada: Air traffic controllers from Canada came up with what they called “pizza diplomacy” — pizza delivery — to U.S. counterparts in at least 35 locations, including Alaska, Long Island, Cleveland and Minneapolis in a show of support while their American colleagues are working without pay during the shutdown (CBC, photos HERE).

Cleveland: Beginning today and through the week, families whose incomes qualify have an opportunity to get free half-gallons of milk — U.S. Department of Agriculture surplus — from the Greater Cleveland Food Bank (Fox8).

Prince George’s County, Maryland: The county adjacent to Washington, D.C., created a website directory listing assistance programs and options for affected families in need during the shutdown. Find it HERE.

Nebraska: State workers are proactively trying to help beneficiaries of federal nutrition assistance, whose ongoing support or new sign-ups for February may be interrupted because of the federal shutdown (The Associated Press).

The four largest U.S. banks — Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo and Bank of America — have offered to work with their customers who are not receiving paychecks because of the federal impasse over funding the government (Redding Record).