The Hill's Morning Report - Negotiators face long odds to reach immigration truce




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report, and it’s 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.


A bipartisan group of lawmakers in both chambers will meet for the first time today to negotiate a long-term spending agreement in an effort to avoid another government shutdown.

The deadline is Feb. 15 and the task is tricky, as President TrumpDonald John TrumpHow to stand out in the crowd: Kirsten Gillibrand needs to find her niche Countdown clock is on for Mueller conclusions Omar: White supremacist attacks are rising because Trump publicly says 'Islam hates us' MORE is demanding additional money for a border wall and House Democrats insist they will not give it to him.

The Senate panel is made up of four Republicans and three Democrats, led by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyFive takeaways from Trump's budget Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Trump unveils 2020 budget | Calls for cuts to NIH | Proposes user fees on e-cigs | Azar heads to Capitol to defend blueprint | Key drug price bill gets hearing this week Trump's emergency declaration looms over Pentagon funding fight MORE (R-Ala.) and Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyTop Senate Dem to Trump: It would be a 'grave mistake' to follow in Richard Nixon's footsteps Booker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Hillicon Valley: Mueller delivers report, ending investigation | FEMA exposed info of 2.3M disaster survivors | Facebook asks judge to toss DC privacy lawsuit | Trump picks his first CTO | FCC settles lawsuit over net neutrality records MORE of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the committee.

The House conferees will be made up of six Democrats and four Republicans, led by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyStop asking parents to sacrifice Social Security benefits for paid family leave Bottom Line Left-wing Dems in minority with new approach to spending MORE (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerOn The Money: Trump issues first veto, warning of 'reckless' resolution | US hits Russia with new sanctions | Dems renew push for contractor back pay | Lawmakers seek probe into undocumented workers at Trump businesses House Dems renew push for government contractor back pay The Hill's Morning Report — Cohen testimony turns up heat on Trump associates MORE of Texas, the ranking Republican on the committee.

CNN: Get to know the conferees.

The Associated Press: Lawmakers hopeful of agreement that would prevent shutdown.

Lawmakers are optimistic they can reach some kind of a deal, with another shutdown viewed as the worst-possible scenario as Washington recovers from the record 35-day impasse.

But what the deal will ultimately look like is anyone’s guess.

Semantics will be important, as Democrats don’t want to allocate any money for a “wall” but might be open to some funding for a “fence” or a “barrier.”

“We’ve consistently said we do not support a medieval border wall from sea to shining sea. However, we are willing to support fencing where it makes sense. But it should be done in an evidence-based fashion.” – House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesTop Dem: 'Certainly a possibility' that Congress will call Barr, Mueller to testify publicly Omar controversies shadow Dems at AIPAC Pelosi rejects any classified briefings on Mueller report MORE (D-N.Y.)

“It could be ‘barrier.’ It doesn’t have to be a wall.” – House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse leaders need to modernize Congress for the sake of America Overnight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide MORE (R-Calif.)

A grand bargain that includes an immigration overhaul, or a pathway to citizenship for those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, is the dream scenario for many lawmakers but seems unlikely.

The Hill: No GOP appetite for a second shutdown.

More on the funding fight …  The government is fully open but the effects of the partial shutdown will be felt for months in the federal judiciary (The Hill).




WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Intelligence experts from the Trump administration as well as members of Congress from both parties challenged key tenets of the president’s international policies on Tuesday (The Hill).

During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing devoted to assessments of global threats, top administration officials contradicted a number of Trump’s assertions about North Korea, Iran, the Islamic State and national security threats the president perceives at the U.S.-Mexico border (The New York Times).

While Trump has said U.S. forces have defeated ISIS, his top intelligence advisers testified about prevailing risks.

“ISIS will continue to be a threat to the United States, and we’re going to have to continue to keep our eyes on that … as the realization that this terrorism threat is going to continue for some time.”Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Defense: Pentagon lists construction projects at risk from emergency declaration | Officials deny report on leaving 1,000 troops in Syria | Spy budget request nears B Trump administration requests nearly B for spy budget Dems request probe into spa owner suspected of trying to sell access to Trump MORE, national intelligence director



In an unusual break with Trump on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLessons from the 1999 U.S. military intervention in Kosovo Five things to watch as AIPAC conference kicks off Romney helps GOP look for new path on climate change MORE (R-Ky.) announced he will seek to amend a foreign policy measure to warn against a “precipitous withdrawal” of U.S. troops from either Syria or Afghanistan.

The president last year ordered a pullout of U.S. forces from Syria and has been mulling an exit from Afghanistan, despite objections from some military advisers and from leading Republican allies in Congress. 

McConnell said his proposal would "acknowledge the plain fact" that al Qaeda, ISIS and affiliates "pose a serious threat to us here in home” (The Hill).

Pentagon: Meanwhile, the administration announced the Defense Department will deploy “a few thousand” more troops to the U.S. southern border with Mexico to support Department of Homeland Security personnel (The Hill). The Pentagon announced the decision as congressional negotiators are beginning negotiations over funding levels to support border security beyond a Feb. 15 deadline.

China & trade: U.S. criminal charges this week against Chinese firm Huawei Technologies Co. complicate trade talks in Washington resuming today between the two countries (The Hill). On trade, the divides are wide (The Wall Street Journal).

Justice Department: William Barr, Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, must wait until next week for a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation vote (The Hill). Democrats on the committee are perturbed that Barr will not pledge to make public a report to the Justice Department by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE when his team’s investigation is complete. On Tuesday, the panel postponed action for a week.

Impeachment: Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer was on Capitol Hill to promote his articles of impeachment on Tuesday, but Pelosi is keeping a tight grip on her caucus and tamping down talk about impeaching Trump (The Hill).

State of the Union: Trump’s address to the nation will occur on Feb. 5, and the traditional televised rebuttal by a Democrat will be delivered by Stacey Abrams, who was defeated in November in Georgia’s gubernatorial race. Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis Schumer4 in 5 Americans say they support net neutrality: poll GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar MORE (D-N.Y.) announced the choice (The Hill).

White House: Trump is expected to spend the coming weekend at his resort in Mar-a-Lago, his first trip to Florida this year. Days before his State of the Union speech, the president will sit down for an interview on Friday with CBS News’s Margaret Brennan, to be broadcast on Super Bowl Sunday (The Washington Post). 


POLITICS & 2020: It’s been a tough few weeks for the president, who suffered a stinging defeat on the government shutdown and has seen his poll numbers decline as Democrats are lining up to challenge him in 2020.

AP-NORC: 70 percent of respondents say U.S. is headed in wrong direction.

Quinnipiac University Poll: Voters trust Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiHow to stand out in the crowd: Kirsten Gillibrand needs to find her niche Omar controversies shadow Dems at AIPAC Five things to watch as AIPAC conference kicks off MORE (D-Calif.) more than Trump.

Journalist David Drucker adds to the list of the president’s worries:

The Washington Examiner: Texas Republicans fear Trump could lose the state in 2020.

Who will be the Democrat that gets to take Trump on in 2020?

The New York Times has this helpful infographic to keep you apprised of who is already in the race, who is a lock to get in soon, and who is likely to get in at some point.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will not be among those seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, announcing on Tuesday that he wants to “finish the job” at home (The Los Angeles Times).

Speculation kicked up once again this week around Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHow to stand out in the crowd: Kirsten Gillibrand needs to find her niche Ex-Clinton aide: Dems should make 2020 'about integrity' Trump mounts Rust Belt defense MORE. Alexander Bolton reports that the Senate Democrats who were in lockstep with the former secretary of State in 2016 say it would not be a good idea for her to run again in 2020 (The Hill). Clinton’s former campaign chairman John Podesta told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Tuesday night that “she’s not running.

Finally, there was some star wattage in Washington on Tuesday, as actresses Patricia Arquette and Alyssa Milano were on Capitol Hill to rally support for an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. Judy Kurtz has the rundown HERE.

More from the campaign trail … Democrats are looking to put a number of their own incumbents in the crosshairs in 2020 as competing party factions vie for influence in the new House majority (The Hill) … Howard Schultz has been laying the groundwork for an independent presidential bid for months (The Washington Post).

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 Trump administration is not ready for a foreign policy crisis, by Antony J. Blinken.

The president owes federal workers more than just missed paychecks, by Edgar Chen and Julie Zebrak, opinion contributors, The Hill.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features an interview with Rep. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonHillicon Valley: Kushner accused of using WhatsApp, personal email for official work | White House rejects request for Trump-Putin communications | Facebook left 'hundreds of millions' of passwords unsecured | Tech pressured to root out extremism Lawmakers urge tech to root out extremism after New Zealand Hillicon Valley: Nunes sues Twitter for 0 million | Trump links tech giants to 'Radical Left Democrats' | Facebook settles suits over ad discrimination | Dems want answers over spread of New Zealand shooting video MORE (D-Miss.), the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, about his expectations for the new Congress. Former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams and The Hill’s Alex Gangitano will stop buy to talk about the special counsel probe and foreign lobbying.

The House meets at 9 a.m.  The Speaker and her allies plan an event today to formally re-introduce the Paycheck Fairness Act, a measure intended to equalize pay between men and women that Democrats have sought to enact for decades.

The Senate convenes at noon.

The president receives an intelligence briefing at 11:30 a.m.

The Federal Reserve concludes a two-day meeting and releases a policy statement at 2 p.m. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell holds a press conference at 2:30 p.m.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis delayed release planned today of its report on gross domestic product for the fourth quarter of 2018, due to the effects of the partial federal shutdown. A new date for release has not been set, but it could be next week (CNBC). 


> Brexit: The U.K. Parliament continued on Tuesday to struggle to find a path forward to devise an orderly divorce for Great Britain from the European Union. British lawmakers instructed Prime Minister Theresa May to demand that Brussels replace the Irish border arrangement known as the “backstop,” in a last-ditch attempt to renegotiate an exit treaty. The EU ruled it out within minutes of Parliament’s vote (Reuters).

> Cancer: Israeli scientists working for a biotechnology firm assert they may have found the first complete cure for cancer. The researchers liken the treatment to a “cancer antibiotic” (The Jerusalem Post).

> Las Vegas shootings: After a 16-month investigation, the FBI said it found no “single or clear motivating factor” to explain why Stephen Paddock opened fire from his suite in a high-rise Nevada casino hotel and killed 58 people and injured close to 900 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern history. The 64-year-old, who acted alone on Oct. 1, 2017, fatally shot himself as police closed in (The Associated Press).


And finally … You can still get tickets for the big game, but it’s going to cost you.

Tickets for Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta on Sunday could be the most expensive ever, with prices starting at $2,900 through On Location Experiences, which is partnering with the NFL on ticket sales. Those seats won’t get you very close to the field.



The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the average ticket price was about $6,000 after the match-up between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams was finalized, with prices for high-end packages running past $20,000.

It’s not just the ticket that will make the weekend pricey. You’ll need a place to stay, and one ticket plus three nights at the Hampton Inn Atlanta-Buckhead will run you around $5,000 right now.