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 TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push 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 ShelbyCongress, White House near deal on spending, debt limit The Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending MORE (R-Ala.) and Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyGraham says Bolton briefed him on Iran, tells Trump to 'stand firm' Overnight Defense: Congressional leaders receive classified briefing on Iran | Trump on war: 'I hope not' | Key Republican calls threats credible | Warren plan targets corporate influence at Pentagon Key Republican 'convinced' Iran threats are credible 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 LoweyOvernight Defense: Trump officials say efforts to deter Iran are working | Trump taps new Air Force secretary | House panel passes defense bill that limits border wall funds House Appropriations passes defense bill that would limit funds for border wall, pull US support from Yemen war Ending AIDS requires US investment MORE (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerOvernight Defense: Trump officials say efforts to deter Iran are working | Trump taps new Air Force secretary | House panel passes defense bill that limits border wall funds House panel advances billion energy bill, defying Trump House Appropriations passes defense bill that would limit funds for border wall, pull US support from Yemen war 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 JeffriesThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Overnight Defense: Trump officials say efforts to deter Iran are working | Trump taps new Air Force secretary | House panel passes defense bill that limits border wall funds House Democrats press leaders to start Trump impeachment MORE (D-N.Y.)

“It could be ‘barrier.’ It doesn’t have to be a wall.” – House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Congress, White House near deal on spending, debt limit On The Money: Congress, White House aim to include debt limit increase in spending deal | McConnell optimistic budget deal near | Carson defends HUD eviction plan | Senate votes to undo tax hike on Gold Star families 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 CoatsHillicon Valley: Facebook co-founder calls for breaking up company | Facebook pushes back | Experts study 2020 candidates to offset 'deepfake' threat | FCC votes to block China Mobile | Groups, lawmakers accuse Amazon of violating children's privacy Experts are studying mannerisms of 2020 candidates to help offset threat of 'deepfake' videos Bolton held unexpected meeting on Iran with top intel, military advisers at CIA: report MORE, national intelligence director



In an unusual break with Trump on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Iraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests 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 MuellerHouse progressive: Pelosi 'has it right' on impeachment Democrats talk subpoena for Mueller Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna: 'I'm not there yet' on impeachment 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 SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act 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 PelosiTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push The Memo: Trump allies see impeachment push backfiring on Democrats 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 ClintonNevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Iowa Democrats brace for caucus turnout surge 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: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact Huawei officials say they would 'welcome' US ban on tech posing national security risk 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.