Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report – Shutdown drama shifts to Senate

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report, and happy Wednesday! Our newsletter gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Co-creators are Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger (CLICK HERE to subscribe!). On Twitter, you can find us at @joneasley and @asimendinger.


After spending weeks on the sideline, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has entered the shutdown fray, striking an agreement with Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to vote on competing proposals to reopen the government.

The two votes will happen on Thursday. There’s no guarantee that either measure will pass the Senate, where Republicans have a 53 – 47 majority. Funding bills require 60 votes for passage.

Vote one

Senators will first have an opportunity to go on the record on President Trump’s proposal to extend legal protections for some immigrants for three years in exchange for $5.7 billion for a border wall.

It’s highly unlikely that the bill will get enough support from Democrats to reach the 60-vote threshold. Even if does, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said the House will not consider it.

“The opportunity to end all this is staring us right in the face … All that needs to happen is for our Democratic colleagues to agree that it’s time to put the country ahead of politics, take yes for an answer and vote to put this standoff behind us.” – McConnell

If (and when) that bill fails, McConnell will move on to…

Vote two

The Senate will consider a “clean” continuing resolution to reopen the government for three weeks, with no additional border wall money. It seems highly unlikely right now that the bill will get enough support from Republicans to reach the 60-vote threshold. Even if it does, the president has threatened to veto any spending measure that does not include $5.7 billion for a wall.

“Senate Republicans need to re-open government, not continue their complicity in the Trump Shutdown with a vote for the President’s unacceptable border and immigration schemes that only increase the chaos and suffering at the border. The Senate GOP and President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, and re-open government immediately.” – Pelosi

While both measures appear doomed, the votes are significant after weeks in which the two sides were not even negotiating, much less voting on concrete proposals. The key question is: which party on Thursday will suffer more defections? It’s quite plausible that a few moderates will back both bills.

The stakes are high for Trump and Republicans, who are trying to pressure Democrats into splintering from their leadership, even as poll after poll shows the shutdown blame landing squarely on Republicans.

The Hill: GOP seeks to change narrative in shutdown fight.

The Hill/Harris X Survey: Independents increasingly blame Trump for shutdown.

Until this week, McConnell — a veteran of past shutdowns, fiscal crises and sequestration escape hatches — had waded into the current fight only to block House bills. On Tuesday, the Senate majority leader did it again, blocking a bill that would temporarily reopen the Department of Homeland Security.

The New York Times Magazine: McConnell got everything he wanted. But at what cost?

House Democrats are applying their own pressure, sending McConnell stories about those impacted by the shutdown.

They had a slew of new material to choose from on Tuesday:

The Hill: Coast Guard chief: “Unacceptable” that members are missing paychecks.

CNN: State Department cancels border security conference amid shutdown.

The Hill: Shutdown could delay food stamps beginning in February.

ABC News: FBI agents share shutdown pain.

The Hill: Federal courts to run out of money at the end of January.

Meanwhile, Trump’s scheduled State of the Union address on Tuesday remains in limbo after Pelosi asked him to reschedule, citing security concerns during the shutdown.

Jordan Fabian reports that the White House sent a letter on Tuesday asking Congress to conduct a dry run ahead of the speech, a sign that Trump may disregard Pelosi’s request to reschedule (The Hill).

More from Capitol Hill … Momentum for earmarks grows with Dem majority (The Hill) … The House passed legislation supporting U.S. support for NATO amid reports Trump wants to pull out of the alliance (The Hill).


SUPREME COURT: The high court’s Tuesday rulings produced headlines.

Transgender rights – military: The Supreme Court handed the president a partial win, allowing the administration to temporarily enforce its restrictions on transgender people serving in the military. The court ruled 5-4 to stay two district court orders that blocked the new policy, with the court’s liberal wing dissenting. The justices said they are waiting for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to weigh in (The Hill).

At issue is a Trump policy decision that reversed an Obama administration rule that would have opened the military to transgender men and women and instead barred those who identify with a gender different from the one assigned at birth and who are seeking to transition (The Washington Post).

Guns: The Supreme Court said it will examine New York City’s ban on transporting a licensed and unloaded handgun outside the city limits, the first Second Amendment challenge it has accepted in nearly a decade. The decision to hear the case during the term that begins in October may signal that the reinforced conservative majority on the court is ready to examine more laws that restrict gun rights (The Washington Post).

> In the background, the U.S. gun industry is experiencing declining sales and shifting politics (The Associated Press).

Immigration – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): The Supreme Court took no action on the Trump administration’s plans to shut down a program that shields from deportation some 700,000 young immigrants who came to this country illegally. The court’s inaction almost certainly means it will not hear the administration’s challenge in its current term, which ends in June. The president previously said he did not want to negotiate with Congress over DACA until the high court ruled on his policy to rescind the Obama-era program (The New York Times).

Census: The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to decide quickly whether a controversial question it favors about citizenship can be placed on the 2020 census. The questionnaire, locked in a legal battle, must be finalized by June to accommodate a printing schedule, according to the administration, which seeks an expedited ruling (The Washington Post).




WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: House Democrats plan to haul Trump administration Cabinet secretaries and agency heads before various oversight and investigative panels this year, but the question has been who will be first under the hot lights.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week declined to testify before the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday during a hearing about the shutdown’s impact on his department (The Washington Examiner).

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declined to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the department’s role in the administration’s family separation immigration policy. “We are going to get him here at some point one way or another,” Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) said in a statement on Tuesday (The Hill).

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker agreed after negotiations with lawmakers to publicly testify on Feb. 8 before the House Judiciary Committee, although Trump’s nominee for the post, William Barr, awaits a Senate confirmation vote that could come before then (The Hill).

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross agreed to appear on March 14 to talk about the census citizenship controversy in which he’s embroiled, the House Oversight and Reform Committee announced this week (ABC News).

China – intellectual property: Administration officials are ratcheting up pressure on China in response to the country’s alleged theft of trade secrets, even as the dispute escalates beyond the two countries. Members of Congress have also taken aim at Chinese telecommunication firms accused of working with the national government (The Hill).

OSHA – workplace safety: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration seeks to relax a new worker safety regulation in shipbuilding and construction businesses, putting at risk thousands of workers who are exposed to beryllium, a cancer-causing substance (Reuters special report).

White House briefings: On Tuesday, the president said he is responsible for canceling regular televised press briefings now conducted infrequently by his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

National Journal’s George E. Condon Jr., a veteran White House correspondent, wrote about why the White House briefing is important.

The last regular White House briefing for the news media took place on Dec. 18; none has occurred in 2019 (The Hill).

Trump and his advisers have turned to other forms of communication, including interviews and impromptu short question-and-answer sessions with national and local journalists and announcements and statements distributed via Twitter.

The president likes to make the news. And he especially likes to speak for himself.




POLITICS: News this morning as mayors arrive in Washington … South Bend, Ind., Mayor Democrat Pete Buttigieg, 37, is joining the 2020 presidential field by forming an exploratory committee (The Associated Press). He was recently profiled as the “first millennial” presidential wannabe (The Washington Post Magazine).

> A new survey from left-leaning Public Policy Polling casts Trump as “a clear underdog for reelection,” with the president pulling only 41 percent or 42 percent support in head-to-head match-ups against top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The view from PPP:

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads 53 to 41

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) leads 51 to 41

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) leads 48 to 41

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) leads 47 to 41

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) leads 48 to 42

Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) each lead 47 to 42

A Harvard CAPS/Harris survey released on Tuesday found Trump trailing a generic Democrat by a margin of 43 to 36 (The Hill).

The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes that tension in American life revolving around the explosive issues of race, gender and identity are about to be exacerbated by the 2020 presidential race (The Memo).

More from the campaign trail … Harris faces Democrats’ Rocky Mountain divide (The Hill) … Iowa prepares for the mother of all caucuses (Politico) … Democrats and their votes have shifted left as 2020 nears, betting the rest of the country follows (The Washington Post) … Dem field waiting on Biden, Beto, Bernie and Bloomberg (NBC News).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley & Alexis Simendinger. We want to hear from you! and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


The Supreme Court leaves DACA in legal limbo, by The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board.

What Trump should say in the State of the Union address, by Deroy Murdock, columnist, The Manchester (N.H.) Union-Leader.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) discussing the latest on the shutdown; Jennifer Peace, a transgender U.S. Army captain, on the Supreme Court ruling affecting transgender service members; and activist Emiko Atherton, who unpacks findings in a new report about U.S. pedestrian fatalities.

The House convenes at 10 a.m.

The Senate convenes at 11 a.m.

The president holds a conference call about immigration with state, local and community leaders at 10:30 a.m. At 2 p.m., Trump hosts a roundtable discussion about health care pricing in the Roosevelt Room. An hour later, the president discusses his “immigration proposal” with “conservative leaders” in the Roosevelt Room, and Vice President Pence will also attend.  

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at 3 p.m. at the Department of State.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors begins its annual winter meeting in Washington with a press conference at 10 a.m., to be televised by C-SPAN.


> Education: A union representing teachers in Los Angeles reached a tentative deal with the Los Angeles Unified School District that could bring an end to the first teachers strike in 30 years (The Los Angeles Times).

> Baseball: The ballots have been counted and Major League Baseball will induct four new members into its Hall of Fame. Closer Mariano Rivera is the first person to ever be unanimously voted in. His induction class will also include designated hitter Edgar Martinez and pitchers Roy Halladay and Mike Mussina (ESPN).



> Brrrrr: Brutal winter weather that caused at least a dozen deaths in the Midwest has moved to the Northeast, provoking some counties to declare states of emergency (CNN). The signs and symptoms: Pancake ice, sea smoke, snow waves and frost quakes (




And finally … the envelope please…

The nominations for the 91st Oscars are in, with “Black Panther,” “Vice,” “The Favourite” and Netflix’s “Roma” leading the way to the annual awards program, which will air Feb. 24.

“Black Panther,” with eight nominations in total, is the first movie based on a comic book to ever be nominated for Best Picture. “Vice,” a political satire based on the life of former Vice President Dick Cheney, also pulled eight nominations, including a Best Actor nod for Christian Bale in the lead role. Spike Lee received his first Oscar nomination for Best Directing with “BlacKKKlansman.”

“The Favourite” and “Roma” each scored 10 nominations.

Deadline Hollywood has the full rundown of nominees HERE.



Just as important: Who was snubbed?

Hollywood 411 and IndieWire have lists of great movies from 2018 that were passed over by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The breakthrough horror hit “A Quiet Place” was shut out. Emily Blunt won’t get an Oscar for her work in “Mary Poppins.” And a couple of critically acclaimed documentaries, “Three Identical Strangers” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” failed to make the cut. However, the CNN documentary “RBG” about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was nominated in the Best Documentary category.

And by the way, the live Oscars show on ABC is still host-less. Entertainment Week proposed alternative solutions HERE.

2018 was a strong year for movies, with a record $11.5 billion in domestic box office revenues (Variety).



Tags 115th United States Congress Bernie Sanders Candidate Position Charles Schumer Cory Booker deferred action for childhood arrivals Derek Kilmer Donald Trump Donald Trump Donald Trump 2016 presidential campaign Elizabeth Warren Employment Relation Frank Pallone Jr. Government shutdowns in the United States Joe Biden Kirsten Gillibrand Mike Pompeo Mitch McConnell Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Person Attributes Person Career Person Communication Person Location Person Party Person Travel Polls Result Presidency of Donald Trump Quotation Steven Mnuchin United States United States federal government shutdown of 2018–19 United States federal government shutdown of January
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