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 TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? 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 ShelbyIs this any way for NASA to build a lunar lander? In-space refueling vs heavy lift? NASA and SpaceX choose both Budget deal sparks scramble to prevent shutdown MORE (R-Ala.) and Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions Graham moves controversial asylum bill through panel; Democrats charge he's broken the rules 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 LoweyWhite House won't move forward with billions in foreign aid cuts Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid Appropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid MORE (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerLobbying world House approves bill increasing federal worker pay House approves 3 billion spending package 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 JeffriesAnti-Trump vets join Steyer group in pressing Democrats to impeach Trump Appetite for Democratic term limits fizzling out Jeffries dismisses optics: We wanted testimony from Mueller, not Robert De Niro MORE (D-N.Y.)

“It could be ‘barrier.’ It doesn’t have to be a wall.” – House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOmar says US should reconsider aid to Israel I'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King Trump finds consistent foil in 'Squad' 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 Coats10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall 11 Essential reads you missed this week Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move MORE, national intelligence director



In an unusual break with Trump on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democratic field narrows with Inslee exit McConnell rejects Democrats' 'radical movement' to abolish filibuster 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 (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony 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 SchumerJewish Democratic congresswoman and veteran blasts Trump's 'disloyalty' comments Schumer says Trump encouraging anti-Semites Saagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? 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 PelosiMoulton drops out of presidential race after struggling to gain traction Conservatives push Trump tariff relief over payroll tax cuts Democrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence 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 ClintonThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces DHS cyber agency to prioritize election security, Chinese threats ABC chose a debate moderator who hates Trump 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 ThompsonDHS cyber agency to prioritize election security, Chinese threats Trump officials unveil rule allowing indefinite migrant family detentions House committee heads demand Coast Guard Academy explain handling of harassment allegations 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.