The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama?




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report, and it’s Thursday, Valentine’s Day! 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.


Lawmakers are feeling the crunch as they rush to pass a spending and border security bill ahead of Friday’s midnight deadline to avert another partial government shutdown.

The text of the bill was only released late last night, giving members less than 48 hours to review the legislative language, pass the bill through the House and Senate and send it to the White House for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat MORE’s signature.

The Senate will vote on it first today, followed by a vote in the House tonight, as lawmakers look to bring an end to the months-long spending saga that produced the nation’s longest ever federal closure.

Jordain Carney dug through the details and has a rundown of what is in the 1,159 page bill (The Hill). The funding deal does not include back pay for federal contractors impacted by the recent shutdown and does not extend the Violence Against Women Act, which expired late last year.

The good news: The White House is strongly signaling that the president will sign the bill and avert a shutdown, even as some of Trump’s core supporters blast the deal as insufficient.

You have to ignore reality to say anything different … The deal we ended up with now is worse than we had before the shutdown." — Rep. Chris StewartChristopher (Chris) Douglas StewartMoulton, Stewart pen op-ed backing three-digit suicide prevention hotline FCC proposes new 3-digit suicide prevention hotline number GOP lawmaker's town hall erupts in shouting over mass shootings, Trump MORE (R-Utah)

But Trump said Wednesday that another shutdown would be a “terrible thing.” He insisted that he’d review the bill for hidden “landmines,” but emphasized that in addition to the nearly $1.4 billion for border fencing, the bill includes nearly $23 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to invest in other border security measures.

The Associated Press: Border security brawl seems near a serene resolution.

Poll: Voters overwhelmingly approve of border deal, want Trump to sign it.

Of course, the showdown has always been about money for the wall and Trump turned down a similar deal in December, laying the groundwork for the current impasse.

If and when Trump signs a bill into law, all eyes will be on the White House to see what the president does next. Trump is under extreme pressure from his right flank to go big on the wall. This bill won’t cut it.

Trump’s allies, including Fox News host Sean Hannity and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico Bolton exit provokes questions about Trump shift on Iran The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-S.C.), predict Trump will declare a national emergency to secure additional funds or reprogram existing appropriations to get the wall money.

Trump might do both, which would ignite an entirely new fight with Democrats.

With the wall [Congress wants] to be stingy, but we have options that most people don't really understand." — Trump







CONGRESS: The Democratic-led House seeks to tighten gun laws one year after the deadly Parkland, Fla., school shooting that killed 17 people. Any House-passed measure is expected to falter in the GOP-controlled Senate or on the president’s desk, mirroring the nation’s divisions about gun safety and the causes of mass shootings (The Hill). Last night, the House Judiciary Committee advanced legislation that would require universal background checks for gun purchases (The Hill).

Anniversary coverage: The Miami Herald, in partnership with nonprofit news organization The Trace, published a multimedia series titled “Since Parkland,” found HERE. … “Parkland: A Year after the school shooting that was supposed to change everything” (The New York Times). 

> The Democrats’ “Green New Deal” is being politically rebranded by House and Senate Republicans as extreme, impractical and unaffordable (The Hill).

> A $26 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint was the subject Wednesday of a hearing organized by Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. They say they want the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice’s antitrust division to block the deal (The Hill).

> Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandAt debate, Warren and Buttigieg tap idealism of Obama, FDR Trump court pick sparks frustration for refusing to answer questions Klobuchar, Buttigieg find themselves accidentally flying to debate together MORE (D-N.Y.), who is campaigning for president, reintroduced a paid family leave measure this week, hoping to talk up the issue as she visits primary states (The Hill). Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico 2020 is not a family affair, for a change Katy Tur says it is 'shameful' that Congress hasn't passed new family leave law MORE met on Wednesday with GOP senators, urging Republicans to take up a version that would let new parents only pay for their own leave with early withdrawal of Social Security funds (CNN).

> Moderate Democrats unveiled a measure on Wednesday that would allow people 50 and older to buy into the Medicare system instead of waiting until age 65. Democratic presidential aspirants are offering competing approaches to health coverage, ensuring continued national debate through 2020 (The Hill).


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Vice President Pence, who is in Warsaw, Poland, seeks this week to underscore the Trump administration’s commitment to Israel and opposition to Iran, including during a meeting today in Poland with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (The Washington Post). Pence hailed Netanyahu for “breaking bread” with Arab leaders in Warsaw (Times of Israel).

As part of a U.S. campaign to undercut Tehran’s military and isolate its economy, the White House accelerated a secret program to sabotage Iran’s missiles and rockets, The New York Times reports

The vice president is traveling with Trump adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerThe Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Democrats set for Lone Star showdown Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan Arrests at southern border drop to 64K in August MORE to participate in a joint U.S.-Poland conference on Middle East peace and security at the same time that a controversy emerged in Washington over what were assailed as anti-Semitic tweets.

During an interview on Wednesday with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, the vice president called Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOmar says she hopes Netanyahu not reelected Sunday shows - Guns dominate after Democratic debate Omar responds to family of 9/11 victim who called her out at anniversary ceremony MORE’s recent comment critical of a pro-Israel lobby group’s influence in Congress “a disgrace,” adding that “anti-Semitism has no place in the United States Congress or anywhere in our country or the free world.”

On Wednesday, the House approved a motion to condemn anti-Semitism, adding the language to a separate measure days after Omar apologized for her comment (The Hill).

Trump took the freshman lawmaker to task on Tuesday, arguing she should resign from Congress or forfeit her role on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Omar, who chafes at some of the attention she’s received as one of two female Muslim representatives in Congress, waited until Wednesday to reply to the president:



Meanwhile, the House took direct aim at the president on Wednesday by adopting a resolution calling on the administration to withdraw all U.S. military support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition involved in the civil war in Yemen. Eighteen Republicans joined Democrats in passing the measure. The Republican-controlled Senate also is expected to approve the measure, which would likely lead to Trump’s first veto. (The Hill).

Iran: Against the backdrop of the Trump administration’s forceful criticism of Iran, a federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted a former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence officer for espionage, alleging she spied for Tehran (The Hill).

Afghanistan: U.S. negotiators on Monday are to meet with Taliban representatives in Islamabad to continue peace negotiations in an attempt to end 17 years of war in Afghanistan (Reuters). Meanwhile, Russia’s clout in Afghanistan expands (The Associated Press).

China trade: Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinIran: Rouhani, Trump won't meet at United Nations Trump denies reports he's willing to meet with Iran with 'no conditions' Turkey confirms delivery of second Russian anti-missile system MORE and U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerOn The Money: Economy adds 164K jobs in July | Trump signs two-year budget deal, but border showdown looms | US, EU strike deal on beef exports Chinese, US negotiators fine-tuning details of trade agreement: report The Trump economy keeps roaring ahead MORE are in Beijing for trade talks. Trump on Wednesday told reporters he is pleased with progress to date. President Xi Jinping is expected to meet with the U.S. delegation while the team is in China, increasing optimism that Trump’s March 1 deadline for new U.S. tariffs on imported Chinese goods can be averted (CNBC). Trump is weighing a postponement of 60 days into May before any new tariffs might be triggered (Bloomberg).

Federal Emergency Management Agency: Brock Long, the embattled FEMA head who last year wrestled an ethics probe and numerous natural disasters, announced his resignation on Wednesday. Deputy Administrator Peter Gaynor takes over until the president nominates a successor (The Hill).


POLITICS & 2020: Trump’s approval rating jumped 7 points in the latest Gallup survey to 44 percent, the president’s highest marks in months.

According to Gallup, contributing factors include the government reopening, a well-received State of the Union address and economic confidence (Gallup).

These poll numbers show that Trump has recovered from a bad January and are another reason Trump will sign the bipartisan budget bill to avoid another shutdown.

The Democratic presidential field

> The first Democratic presidential debates will take place in June or July. The Democratic National Committee is still figuring out how to accommodate so many candidates. It’s possible there will be two debate stages, similar to how Republicans did things in 2016 (The Associated Press).

> The female Democratic contenders are hauling in big money (The Associated Press).

> Pressure is growing on former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's 12:30 Report: NY Times story sparks new firestorm over Kavanaugh Top Sanders adviser: 'He is a little bit angry' Working Families Party endorses Warren after backing Sanders in 2016 MORE as he agonizes over whether to join the presidential race (The Washington Post). Biden will give a speech in Munich, Germany this weekend.

> Irrespective of whether he runs for the Democratic presidential nomination, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will spend $500 million to ensure Trump is not reelected president (Politico).

> Democrats are facing a chaotic primary process with so many candidates running (FiveThirtyEight).

> Democratic presidential hopefuls are barnstorming South Carolina, lured by a condensed primary schedule and diverse electorate that will be crucial to securing their party’s nomination in 2020 (The Hill).

More from the campaign trail … Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (D-N.Y.) is recruiting former fighter pilot Amy McGrath (D) to challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: NY Times story sparks new firestorm over Kavanaugh Senator asked FBI to follow up on new information about Kavanaugh last year Congress must reinstate assault weapons ban MORE (R-Ky.) in 2020 (Politico).


INVESTIGATIONS: Trump’s former attorney and self-described “fixer” Michael Cohen will testify before three congressional committees before he reports to prison on March 6.

It’s unclear whether any of Cohen’s testimony will be public, but his lawyer says he intends to speak with lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee, House Oversight and Reform Committee, and Senate Intelligence Committee in the coming weeks (CNBC). Lawmakers had become frustrated with Cohen after he postponed his testimony on several occasions.

Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison for lying to Congress, personal financial crimes, and a campaign finance violation pertaining to election year payments he made to women who claim to have had affairs with Trump.

Cohen has since turned on the president and has vowed to tell lawmakers everything he knows about Trump’s alleged “dirty deeds.”

More from the investigations front … Judge rules Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDemocrats return to a battered Trump Manafort's legal team argues NY prosecution constitutes double jeopardy Clip surfaces of Paul Manafort and wife on Nickelodeon game show MORE lied multiple times to FBI, special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal MORE (The Hill) … The little-noticed change to House rules that will enhance Democratic investigations into Trump (The Hill) … Drama is building around the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe after a split among the top two lawmakers on the committee (The Hill) …The Justice Department is investigating a leak of Cohen’s bank records (CNN).

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 unlikely legislative duo that joined together on immigration, by former Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. Israel3D-printable guns will require us to rethink our approach on gun safety The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Democrats set for Lone Star showdown Can we trust polls in 2020? MORE (D-N.Y.), opinion contributor, The Hill.

Howard Schultz’s vanity project will re-elect Trump, by David Brock, opinion contributor, The Hill.


The House convenes at 10 a.m. Lawmakers expect to vote on a spending measure to fund a quarter of the government through Sept. 30 after Senate action today.

The Senate meets at 10 a.m. and proceeds to resume consideration of the nomination of William Barr to be Attorney General. And the Senate expects to vote today on the 1,159-page spending measure, ahead of the House.

The president participates in a national anti-abortion-rights conference call in the morning from the Oval Office, and at 2:45 p.m. meets with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network DOJ to Supreme Court: Trump decision to end DACA was lawful Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign MORE.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's 12:30 Report: NY Times story sparks new firestorm over Kavanaugh Gabbard warns Trump: Acting like 'Saudi Arabia's b---- is not "America First"' Trump ramps up rhetoric on Iran MORE is traveling in Poland, Belgium and Iceland through Friday.

Economic reports released at 8:30 a.m.: U.S. jobless claims; U.S. producer-price index for January; U.S. retail sales for December.

Axios’s Mike Allen discusses Congress in 2019 with House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseOn The Money: Senate panel scraps vote on key spending bill amid standoff | Democrats threaten to vote against defense bill over wall funding | Trump set to meet with aides about reducing capital gains taxes Overnight Energy: House moves to block Trump drilling | House GOP rolls out proposal to counter offshore drilling ban | calls mount for NOAA probe House GOP rolls out energy proposal to counter Democrats offshore drilling ban MORE (R-La.); House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesWords matter, except to Democrats, when it involves impeaching Trump Democrats face key moment on impeachment drive Top House Democrat walks back remarks contradicting Judiciary on impeachment inquiry MORE (N.Y.); and Michigan Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowConservatives offer stark warning to Trump, GOP on background checks USDA cuts payments promised to researchers as agency uproots to Kansas City USDA eases relocation timeline as researchers flee agency MORE, chairwoman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, 8-9 a.m. at AJAX, 1011 4th St. NW, Washington.


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> Tech: Google and its parent company, Alphabet Inc., announced Wednesday it will invest $13 billion in 2019 in data centers that will result in “tens of thousands” of jobs in Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia (Reuters).

> Covington controversy: An investigation into the viral incident involving the Covington Catholic students found that the young men did not use “racist or offensive statements” toward Native American and black protesters on the national mall (The Washington Post).

> Space: NASA's Opportunity rover spent almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars, but stopped communicating with Earth in June when a severe dust storm on the red planet buried its solar capabilities. NASA made the executive decision this week to officially end the mission (USA Today).




And finally …  It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s birthday this week, we’re eager for some smart guesses about the 16th president.

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.

Where did Lincoln give what turned out to be his final public address?

  1. The Appomattox Court House
  2. The balcony overlooking the north door of the White House
  3. Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg
  4. Ford’s Theatre

Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, angered the president by overshooting her decorating budget on “flub dubs.” Which expensive item drew the president’s ire?

  1. The Lincoln bed
  2. A portrait of George Washington
  3. The Resolute desk
  4. An ornate tea box

Lincoln is the only president to hold a patent. What was his device?

  1. A wooden wheel with letters and numbers to send coded messages
  2. A boat lift to dislodge ships that ran aground
  3. A drill to plow farm land
  4. A metal detector

What was Lincoln’s middle name?

  1. Knox
  2. Henry
  3. Birchard
  4. He didn’t have a middle name.

Which federal holiday did Lincoln establish?

  1. President’s Day
  2. Thanksgiving
  3. Christmas
  4. Independence Day