The Hill's Morning Report - Senate to vote on reopening government as Trump sinks in the polls




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-creators are Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger (CLICK HERE to subscribe!). On Twitter, you can find us at @joneasley and @asimendinger.


The Senate will vote today on dueling proposals to reopen the government, as a raft of new polling data shows President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel 'inappropriate' press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of 'unprecedented steps' to 'spin' Mueller report MORE getting pummeled over the shutdown fight.

The surveys:

The Associated Press-NORC poll: Sixty percent say Trump bears a great deal of responsibility for the impasse, compared to 31 percent who blame Democrats. The president’s approval rating sank 8 points month-over-month, to 34 percent positive.

The Hill-Harris X poll: Trump’s approval rating falls in third consecutive survey.

CBS News poll: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Pelosi accuses Barr of 'single-minded effort' to protect Trump against Mueller report Dems attack Barr's credibility after report of White House briefings on Mueller findings MORE (D-Calif.) has the edge over Trump in budget negotiations. Seventy percent say a border wall isn’t worth shutting down the government over, including 43 percent of Republicans.

The Morning Consult/Politico Poll: Trump disapproval rating hits record high of 57 percent.

Trump’s top economic adviser Kevin Hassett warned on Wednesday that U.S. economic growth could be zero percent this quarter if the shutdown lasts through March. Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday Trump ditches one-on-one meetings with vice president: report Dems demand documents on Trump 'sanctuary city' plan MORE is preparing for the shutdown to last into April, according to The Washington Post.

Amid that backdrop, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems prep for Mueller report's release McConnell touts Trump support, Supreme Court fights in reelection video Why Ken Cuccinelli should be Trump's choice for DHS MORE (R-Ky.) will bring two government funding bills to the floor today, although neither is expected to get the necessary 60 votes for passage.

The Senate will first vote on Trump’s proposal to extend protections for some immigrants in the country illegally in exchange for the $5.7 billion he’s requesting for a border wall. The second bill would open the government for three weeks, ostensibly to give lawmakers more time to negotiate over border wall money.

“It’s hard to imagine 60 votes developing for either one.” — Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Lawmakers, tech set for clash over AI Overnight Health Care: CEO of largest private health insurer slams 'Medicare for All' plans | Dem bill targets youth tobacco use | CVS fined over fake painkiller prescriptions | Trump, first lady to discuss opioid crisis at summit MORE (R-Mo.)

While both bills appear doomed, the votes will be closely watched to see which party suffers more defectors and whether the results could spark new negotiations.

The Hill: GOP seeks to chip away at Dem unity with shutdown votes.

The Associated Press: Votes on Senate bills seen as progress even if they fail.

Is there another way out? House Democrats are preparing a new proposal that would give Trump somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 billion for border security, as long as it’s not used on a physical barrier (Reuters).

Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third ranking Democrat in the House, said the money could be used for “smart wall” technologies, such as drones and X-rays, as well as for additional border agents.

It’s unclear if Trump would go for something like that. The president has said he’ll veto anything that doesn’t include $5.7 billion specifically for a wall, but Republicans are sure to be citing Clyburn’s remarks heading into the weekend.

Meanwhile, a showdown over the State of the Union address ended late Wednesday when Trump agreed to postpone the speech in the House chamber until “the shutdown is over” (The Hill).

The president struck a conciliatory tone heading into day 34 of the shutdown after Pelosi withdrew his invitation to address the House chamber. Trump had also considered options to speak from outside Washington.




Earlier in the day, Trump told Pelosi he intended to accept the Speaker’s Jan. 3 invitation to address the American people on Tuesday. But the president appeared boxed in by Pelosi after she officially withdrew the offer, raising questions about when and where he would speak, and whether networks would cover the address.

“The House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the president's State of the Union address in the House chamber until the government has opened.” — Pelosi

The House canceled votes on Friday, when the second pay period for 800,000 federal workers ends without compensation, making it almost certain the shutdown will drag on through Tuesday.




CONGRESS: The public testimony of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen had been billed as the must-watch season opener for House Democratic investigations. But citing public remarks by the president and by members of Trump’s legal team, Cohen said he won’t appear on Capitol Hill on Feb. 7 (The Hill).

He’s expected to report to federal prison to begin a three-year sentence in March, raising questions about whether his House appearance is postponed or effectively canceled. Democrats are already talking about forcing Cohen to testify through a subpoena.

“Due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and [Trump lawyer Rudy] Giuliani, as recently as this weekend, as well as Mr. Cohen's continued cooperation with ongoing investigations, by advice of counsel, Mr. Cohen’s appearance will be postponed to a later date,” Cohen legal spokesman Lanny Davis said on Wednesday.

The president weighed in to say he thought his former “fixer,” who pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and is cooperating with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE, is threatened by the truth (The Hill).

Separately, Democrats who lead the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday announced they will investigate the White House security clearance process, including how it impacted Trump son-in-law and West Wing senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerKushner says Middle East peace plan won't be released before June Oversight Republicans to chairman: Investigate Obama aides The Hill's 12:30 Report: GOP wants Trump to keep them in the loop MORE (The Hill). … And the House Foreign Affairs Committee said it plans to probe whether Trump’s business interests are linked to foreign policy decisions (CNN).

According to Deutsche Bank today, the House Financial Services and Intelligence committees asked the lender for information about ties to Trump as part of Democrat-led inquiries. The bank said it is in discussions with the committees (Reuters).

Congressional Black Caucus member Rep. Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeDems attack Barr's credibility after report of White House briefings on Mueller findings O'Rourke sweeps through Virginia looking to energize campaign GOP senators dismiss Booker reparations proposal MORE (D-Texas), who is embroiled in a lawsuit claiming she fired an aide who said she was sexually assaulted by a supervisor at the CBC’s foundation, said on Wednesday she will resign as the foundation’s chairwoman. The veteran lawmaker known for her assertive style also stepped down from a House Judiciary subcommittee chairmanship for the time being (The New York Times).



Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezWarren praises Ocasio-Cortez in Time 100 Ocasio-Cortez knocks Republican over Kentucky trip: 'GOP thought they could catch us with a bluff' Ocasio-Cortez releases 'Green New Deal' short film MORE (D-N.Y.), the liberal firebrand from Queens, is using her command of social media and her moment in the political spotlight to tackle some of her targets, employing communications techniques some liken to Trump’s (The Hill). 


POLITICS: Another day, another name atop the Democratic presidential field.

The 2020 Democratic primary will be a long and brutal slog, so early surveys should be taken with a grain of salt.

But California Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisEx-Obama campaign manager: Sanders can't beat Trump Pollster says Trump's approval rating in 2020 will be impacted by Dem nominee 20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall MORE has moved to the top of the latest Daily Kos straw poll with 27 percent support, followed by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOvernight Defense: Reports detail effect of transgender military ban | Watchdog auditing 8 billion submarine program | Warren questions top general on climate change Booker calls for sweeping voting rights reforms Warren praises Ocasio-Cortez in Time 100 MORE of Massachusetts at 18 percent, former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenMcAuliffe says he won't run for president in 2020 Ex-Obama campaign manager: Sanders can't beat Trump Trump says he'd like to run against Buttigieg MORE of Delaware at 13 percent, Vermont independent Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersOvernight Health Care: DOJ charges doctors over illegal opioid prescriptions | Cummings accuses GOP of obstructing drug pricing probe | Sanders courts Republican voters with 'Medicare for All' | Dems probe funding of anti-abortion group Ex-Obama campaign manager: Sanders can't beat Trump Booker calls for sweeping voting rights reforms MORE at 12 percent and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke at 8 percent.

The 2020 Democratic presidential contenders are preparing to unload on the president. Amie Parnes reports that Democrats are increasingly calling Trump a racist, and have no intentions of backing away from that attack line in what is expected to be one of the ugliest presidential battles in modern politics (The Hill).

The Republican National Committee will vote Friday to declare the party’s “undivided support” for Trump’s presidency in an effort to block any potential GOP primary challengers (The Associated Press).

Tune into C-SPAN today for the latest. Biden will address the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual winter meeting at 8:45 a.m. Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Booker calls for sweeping voting rights reforms 20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall MORE (D-N.J.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts Long-shot goal of nixing Electoral College picks up steam MORE (D-Ore.) will take the stage beginning at 4:15 p.m. Other speakers today include South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is running for president, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and Eric Garcetti, the Democratic mayor of Los Angeles. You can find the full schedule HERE.

More from the campaign trailBiden’s long political record attracts scrutiny, including a speech he gave that boosted an incumbent GOP lawmaker in a tight House race (The New York Times) … Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D), who is considering a presidential run, is defending his controversial “stop and frisk” program and says he opposes legalizing marijuana (The Hill).

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!


Will Democrats ever give Trump on a chance on border security talks?, by Marc Lotter, opinion contributor for The Hill and former press secretary for Vice President Pence.

The shutdown has backfired on Trump, by Gregory J. Wallance, opinion contributor for The Hill.


The House meets at 9 a.m.

The Senate convenes at 11 a.m.

The president has no public events on his schedule.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Cain 'very committed' to Fed bid despite opposition | Pelosi warns no US-UK trade deal if Brexit harms Irish peace | Ivanka Trump says she turned down World Bank job Treasury targets Venezuelan central bank with sanctions Mnuchin plans to hire ex-Fox News contributor Monica Crowley: report MORE will speak at the U.S. Conference of Mayors luncheon in Washington at 2 p.m.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump admin announces new restrictions on travel to Cuba Russia is gaining influence in Libya: How will Washington respond? Trump reverses policy, allows lawsuits against businesses in Cuba MORE meets with British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt at 12:15 p.m. at the State Department.

During a period of spotty government economic data resulting from the partial federal shutdown, the Commerce Department comes through with its weekly jobless claims report at 8:30 a.m.


> Venezuela: The United States and Venezuela plunged into a new face-off during the country’s leadership struggles  (The Associated Press). The president of Venezuela's National Assembly, Juan Guaidó (pictured below), took an oath on Wednesday as interim president amid nationwide demonstrations against Nicolás Maduro this week.



During a fast-moving situation with uncertain geopolitical implications, the U.S. officially recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s leader after describing Maduro, who was sworn in for a second six-year term earlier this month, as the “former president.”

Pompeo late Wednesday said in a statement that the U.S. government rejects Maduro’s demand that U.S. diplomats leave Venezuela (The Hill). Pompeo called on the Venezuelan armed forces to refrain from endangering American personnel or face “appropriate actions” (The Washington Post).

> Uninsured: Women and young adults helped drive up the U.S. rate of the uninsured to its highest level in four years, according to the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index released on Wednesday. The increase is equivalent to about 7 million more adults without health coverage. Federal policy changes and more expensive insurance premiums are thought to have contributed to the rise.

> Flying cars! The Boeing Company successfully completed the first test of a prototype pilotless passenger vehicle that flies. The trial run, which took place Tuesday in Virginia, included takeoff, hover and landing, but the vehicle did not fly forward (USA Today).




And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by today’s anniversary of the first, transformative sale of Apple Macintosh computers in 1984, we’re eager for some smart guesses drawn from past and current headlines tied to Apple.

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.

Why did some Wall Street analysts trim projections this month for the price of Apple stock?

  1. Apple’s CEO focused on education during this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland
  2. iPhone sales are projected to decline in 2019
  3. The company announced it will stop making iPhones
  4. MacBook laptops were unpopular with consumers in 2018

When Steve Jobs ­unveiled the first Apple Macintosh computer with its 9-inch screen 35 years ago, what was the price tag?

  1. $2,500
  2. $1,500
  3. $850
  4. $500

Apple ran into some controversy last year when it unveiled the latest version of the Apple Watch with what new function?

  1. Fitness activity tracking
  2. Electronic ignition of consumer vehicles
  3. Remote piloting of recreational drones
  4. Detects cardiac performance akin to a medical electrocardiogram

Apple aired the now-iconic commercial for its Macintosh computer during the 1984 Super Bowl. The ad was created for the company on a small budget by which famous filmmaker?

  1. Steven Spielberg
  2. Ridley Scott
  3. Sidney Pollack
  4. James L. Brooks

Apple CEO Tim Cook, in an op-ed published by TIME last week, advocated for greater consumer privacy online. What idea did he propose?

  1. Independent blue ribbon panel to study consumer privacy
  2. Federal ban on all data collection, retention and resale by private companies
  3. New app
  4. Requirement for a clearinghouse of data brokers, to be regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, allowing consumers to delete their data