The Hill's Morning Report - Trump's intraparty feuds divide Republicans
The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama?
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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 Trump'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 Stewart (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 Graham (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
LEADING THE DAY
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 Gillibrand (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 Trump 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 Kushner 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 Omar'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 Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer 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).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
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).
> 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 Schumer (D-N.Y.) is recruiting former fighter pilot Amy McGrath (D) to challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (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 Manafort lied multiple times to FBI, special counsel Robert Mueller (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).
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Howard Schultz's vanity project will re-elect Trump, by David Brock, opinion contributor, The Hill. http://bit.ly/2TOLo7c
WHERE AND WHEN
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 Nielsen.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 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 Scalise (R-La.); House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.); and Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, 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 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, 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?
- The Appomattox Court House
- The balcony overlooking the north door of the White House
- Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg
- 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?
- The Lincoln bed
- A portrait of George Washington
- The Resolute desk
- An ornate tea box
Lincoln is the only president to hold a patent. What was his device?
- A wooden wheel with letters and numbers to send coded messages
- A boat lift to dislodge ships that ran aground
- A drill to plow farm land
- A metal detector
What was Lincoln's middle name?
- He didn't have a middle name.
Which federal holiday did Lincoln establish?
- President's Day
- Independence Day