The Hill's Morning Report — No new negotiations as shutdown hits 25 days

 

 

 

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

***

We’re 25 days into the longest government shutdown but President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWhite House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Sunday shows - Trump coronavirus executive orders reverberate Pelosi: 'Of course there's room for compromise' on 0-per-week unemployment benefit MORE (D-Calif.) aren’t even negotiating a way out.

Lawmakers are throwing around an assortment of potential solutions, but it doesn’t appear that either side feels enough pressure to make concessions at this point.

The House

Pelosi will bring another round of funding measures to the floor this week that propose to temporarily reopen the government. Neither of the bills expected to pass the House will include additional resources for a border wall.

The Hill: Top Dem introduces short-term spending bills to reopen the government

The president has said repeatedly he will veto any measures that don’t include billions of dollars more to construct a wall or barrier at the U.S. border with Mexico.

The Senate

A new group of bipartisan senators met on Monday in search of a solution, including Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinHillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court cancels shutdown of Dakota Access Pipeline | US could avoid 4.5M early deaths by fighting climate change, study finds | Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic MORE (D-W.Va.), Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerCoronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters The US military has options against China MORE (R-Colo.), Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsWary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure MORE (D-Del.), and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSeveral GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Graham says he appreciates Trump orders, but 'would much prefer a congressional agreement' Sunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief MORE (R-S.C.), among others.

“I sat there for an hour and didn’t know what the hell it was about.” - Manchin to The Washington Post

A previous gathering of moderates that included some of the same members dissolved without making any progress.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal MORE (Ky.), the most powerful Republican on Capitol Hill, has been largely absent from the shutdown debate, saying he won’t bring anything up for a vote if the president plans to veto it.

 

 

The White House

Trump has given no indication that he’d be willing to compromise or agree to any solution that doesn’t include $5.7 billion in wall construction funding. He’s been using the bully pulpit to make his case, as he did once again on Monday during a speech in New Orleans to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“When it comes to keeping the American people safe, I will never ever back down. I didn’t need this fight.” — Trump

The president appears unmoved by polls that suggest he’s losing the shutdown fight. The conservative news aggregator Drudge Report’s banner headline on Monday was, “Trump approval lowest in a year.” And a new Quinnipiac University survey found that nearly two-thirds of voters support the Democratic proposal to reopen parts of the government that don’t deal with border security while negotiating funding for a wall.

Quinnipiac University: Public backs Dem plan to reopen the government.

Graham also supports that proposal and has asked Trump to consider it.

“I did reject it…I’m not interested.” — Trump

Jordan Fabian is reporting that the president has invited moderate House Democrats to the White House later this week. Some Democrats cited scheduling conflicts and said they couldn’t make it. It’s highly unlikely that a Democratic revolt in the House would materialize to force Pelosi’s hand.

The Hill: Trump’s poll numbers sag amid wall fight.

The complete lack of urgency from both sides comes even as the real-world impact of the shutdown hits ordinary Americans.

In addition to the hundreds of thousands of federal workers going without paychecks, air travel is snarled, as airports deal with long lines from a worker shortage at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The Hill: TSA absences raise stakes in shutdown fight.
The Associated Press: Long lines at airport checkpoints because of shutdown.

The president hosted members of the national champion Clemson Tigers football team on Monday, opting to serve fast food during the shutdown because some White House kitchen and residence staff are furloughed.

 

 


LEADING THE DAY

INVESTIGATIONS: William BarrBill BarrGOP lawmaker calls for Justice Dept. to probe international court Barr pulls over to thank pro-police rally in Virginia Trump: Yates either lying or grossly incompetent MORE, Trump’s pick to be the next attorney general, will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, the first step in his confirmation process.

With Republicans in control of the Senate, Barr is expected to be confirmed, but Democrats will make a point of demanding that the nominee 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 complete his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

In his opening remarks today, Barr is expected to address his past criticism of the special counsel investigation and will make the case that he has no plans to interfere in the investigation.

“The country needs a credible resolution of these issues. If confirmed, I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests, or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation.” — Barr

Barr will also address a controversial 19-page memo he wrote last summer and sent to Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinFBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Sally Yates to testify as part of GOP probe into Russia investigation Graham releases newly declassified documents on Russia probe MORE, who is overseeing the Mueller probe. In it, Barr dismissed an obstruction of justice case against the president as “fatally misconceived.” Barr also shared the memo with senior White House officials.

Barr explained the memo in a letter to Graham HERE.

“I discussed my views broadly with lawyer friends; wrote the memo to senior Department officials; shared it with other interested parties; and later provided copies to friends. I was not representing anyone when I wrote the memorandum, and no one requested that I draft it. I wrote it myself, on my own initiative, without assistance, and based solely on public information.” — Barr

Democrats are also going to want assurances that Mueller’s full report on the investigation be made public, as the White House has signaled it might claim executive privilege on some of Mueller’s findings.

Here, Barr was equivocal.

“My goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can, consistent with the law. I can assure you that, where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law.” — Barr

But Barr, who served as attorney general once before, in the 1990s under former President George H.W. Bush, said Trump did not ask him for anything in return when he offered him the job.

“President Trump has sought no assurances, promises or commitments from me of any kind, either express or implied, and I have not given him any, other than that I would run the department with professionalism and integrity.” — Barr

In 1991, Barr was approved unanimously by the Judiciary committee and approved by the full Senate by voice vote. This will be a much tougher confirmation process.

The Hill: Five things to watch for at Barr’s confirmation hearing.

The Associated Press: Trump’s AG pick to steer through Dem, GOP queries at hearing.

 

 

Meanwhile, Washington is alight with chatter over two recent news reports about Trump and Russia.

The first indicated that the FBI launched an investigation into whether the president was working on behalf of Russia after Trump fired former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyTrump: Yates either lying or grossly incompetent Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing Trump knocks Sally Yates ahead of congressional testimony MORE. Trump denied that allegation in remarks to reporters on Monday.

“I never worked for Russia. Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it's a disgrace that you even asked that question because it's a whole big fat hoax.” — Trump

The second story alleges that Trump took measures to conceal details about a meeting he had with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including the confiscation of notes from an official U.S. interpreter who was present.

Democratic leaders in the House are debating whether to subpoena the interpreter, as well as a range of other actions, as they use their new majority to ramp up oversight of the president.

The Hill: Dems zero in on Trump and Russia.

The Memo: Trump’s troubles pile higher.

 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CONGRESS: House and Senate Republicans took steps to assail Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden builds big lead in battleground Florida Progressive Bowman ousts Engel in New York primary Colorado GOP Rep. Scott Tipton defeated in primary upset MORE (R-Iowa) for remarks about “white supremacy” perceived as racist. Divisive within his party and an increasing embarrassment, King met privately with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthySunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief A trillion stimulus, but Kevin McCarthy for renewable energy — leading businesses want to change that When will telling the truth in politics matter again? MORE (R-Calif.) and was stripped of all three committee assignments he expected to secure this year (The Hill).

McCarthy issued a four-sentence statement urging the congressman to treat “all Americans equally without regard for race.” The 69-year-old congressman, first elected in 2003, was also castigated on Monday by McConnell (The Hill).

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyFrom a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters Tennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans NRCC poll finds McBath ahead of Handel in Georgia MORE (R-Utah) told CNN he thought King, who has long been publicly candid about his views, should resign: “I think he ought to step aside, and I think Congress ought to make it very clear he has no place there.”

Two House Democrats introduced measures as the week began that would censure King and a third lawmakers said he supports a lesser form of punishment, a formal rebuke by the House (The Hill).

Among the pileup of investigations that Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsBill Maher delivers mock eulogy for Trump The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden comes to Washington to honor John Lewis Lawmakers set for tearful goodbye to John Lewis MORE (D-Md.) is undertaking in the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which he chairs, is a sweeping probe of drug pricing, a subject that in theory attracts bipartisan support (The Hill).

“The goals of this investigation are to determine why drug companies are increasing prices so dramatically, how drug companies are using the proceeds, and what steps can be taken to reduce prescription drug prices” — Cummings

 

 

Among Democrats, internal frictions from the left are bubbling up over remarks and positions staked out by democratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDemocratic convention lineup to include Ocasio-Cortez, Clinton, Warren: reports Ethics Committee orders Tlaib to refund campaign ,800 for salary payments Hispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants MORE (N.Y.). “AOC,” as she’s known, is a national news media sensation and also an aggravation for some centrist Senate Democrats who could face challengers from the right in 2020, as well as voters who are not nearly as liberal as those represented by Ocasio-Cortez (The Hill).

After losing 40 GOP-held seats in the 2018 midterms, House Republicans want to rebound in 2020 in many of the suburban districts where Trump remains unpopular among college-educated and female voters — this time with the president at the top of the ticket. They say they have a strategy (The Hill).

The calendar for bipartisan legislating in the 116th Congress is narrowing by the day, believe it or not. At the outset: A historically lengthy shutdown. In 2020: A presidential election populated by candidates from the House and Senate. Time is limited to approve major bills (The Hill). 

Democratic lawmakers, interest groups, lobbyists and entertainers gathered in Puerto Rico last weekend for the Bold PAC convention and a summit hosted by the Latino Victory Fund. Trump mocked the event as a “vacation” for liberals during the ongoing shutdown. What was the event about? (The Hill).

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

Here are the commitments William Barr needs to make to be attorney general, by Senate Judiciary Committee member Christopher Coons (D-Del.), opinion contributor, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2MakUdx

Cardinal Wuerl knew about Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. And he lied about it, by The Washington Post editorial board. https://wapo.st/2ALeltj

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets at 10 a.m. House Republican leaders hold a press conference at 10:15 a.m.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. The Senate Judiciary Committee begins two days of planned confirmation hearings at 9:30 a.m. for Barr to be attorney general.

The president will have lunch with lawmakers in the Roosevelt Room at 12:30 p.m., and at 2:30 p.m., he speaks by phone about his border security agenda with “leaders” from states and communities.

Vice President Pence joins Trump for lunch with members of Congress at the White House.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBeirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally Advocacy groups come out against Trump pick for ambassador to Germany US pledges million in disaster aid to Lebanon MORE concludes a weeklong trip through the Middle East in Kuwait before returning to Washington.

ELSEWHERE

> China death sentence: A Chinese court sentenced a Canadian man to death on charges of drug smuggling, sparking diplomatic tensions between the two countries following Canada’s arrest in December of a top Chinese tech executive (The Associated Press). China and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau exchanged objections Monday and Tuesday (Reuters).

 

 

> Teachers: Tens of thousands of public school teachers walked off the job in Los Angeles on Monday, striking for higher pay and smaller class sizes following failed contract negotiations (NBC News). The superintendent of schools said 1,240 K-12 schools are open, and that the school system is willing to resume negotiations (The Associated Press). Parents worry schools staffed with substitute teachers mean less instruction for their children (The Associated Press).

 

 

> Wildfires liability: Pacific Gas & Electric Co., California’s largest publicly owned utility, filed for bankruptcy as the company faces billions of dollars in potential liability over an equipment malfunction that sparked wildfires that resulted in nearly 90 deaths in the state (CNBC). The situation is another challenge for newly inaugurated Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the California legislature (The Associated Press).

> Wireless privacy: Tech news site Motherboard published a startling account describing the ease with which individuals can be tracked through a cell phone number, adding pressure to leading wireless providers to stop selling customers’ location data while overhauling privacy practices (The Hill).

> Opioid crisis: Americans are now more likely to die from opioids than car crashes, according to new data (National Safety Council).

> Space: China plans another moon mission this year and eyes Mars in 2020 (The Washington Post).

THE CLOSER

And finally … What’s luck got to do with it? For a family missing an income stream, a lot.

An Ashburn, Va., woman who is married to a furloughed government employee won the $100,000 Virginia lottery and said her family plans to use some of the winnings to visit Florida’s Disney World.

Carrie Walls bought a golden scratch-off on Dec. 4, two weeks before the partial government shutdown began, and won the $100,000 grand prize out of 554,000 entries. She took home the money and a new SUV on the day her husband, John Walls, who works for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, missed his first government paycheck (Fox News).

 

 

 

Correction: The Jan. 14 Morning Report scrambled a word and should have quoted Jeh Johnson, former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, telling CBS’s “Face the Nation”: “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 ports are the people under great stress right now because of this shutdown.” The Hill regrets the error.