The Hill's Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Tuesday! Our newsletter gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Co-creators are Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver (CLICK HERE to subscribe!). On Twitter, find us at @asimendinger and @alweaver22.

Good policy is good politics. That old adage is making a comeback for 2020.


There’s a reason Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Buttigieg calls Warren 'evasive' on Medicare for all Sanders hits 1 million donors MORE (D-Mass.) focused this week on easing the burden of college costs and student loan debt with a new proposal for universal free college.


She’s not alone. Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Krystal Ball calls on Sanders to follow Yang's lead on war on drugs Buttigieg calls Warren 'evasive' on Medicare for all MORE (I-Vt.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharDemocrats will not beat Trump without moderate policy ideas Harris revamps campaign presence in Iowa Sanders, Yang to miss CNN's town hall on LGBTQ issues MORE (D-Minn.), Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellDemocrats press Nadler to hold Lewandowski in contempt Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate MORE (D-Calif.), and soon-to-be presidential candidate Joe Biden, a former vice president whose wife, Jill Biden, is a college professor, all want to talk up education policy.


It’s a kitchen table issue on the minds of voters across the political spectrum and in Rust Belt states and in blue states. Costs and access to higher education spark curiosity among young voters as well as their debt-stressed parents. Education policies open doors for candidates to court the powerful teachers unions, to mobilize on college campuses and to talk about an economic plank that cuts across parties, depending on the details.


“What we have to do as a country is roll back that debt,” Warren, a former Harvard and University of Pennsylvania professor, said Monday while describing her education plan during a town hall event hosted by CNN.


Make college universally available with free tuition and fees… This is about opportunity for everyone,” she said, adding details about her proposed “2-cent wealth tax” that she said would more than cover the costs.


The expanding field of Democratic presidential candidates tell reporters that voters are interested in more than the incumbent president or the evidence presented last week as part of the special counsel’s Russia probe.


In Warren’s case, she called on the House to conduct an impeachment inquiry to examine evidence that President TrumpDonald John TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it MORE may have sought to obstruct justice. Three days later, she pivoted back to policy with a progressive education plan that allows her to run with the pack.


The sprawling field of Democratic candidates argue they can defeat Trump with big ideas that touch the lives of middle-class voters, with experience and probity in governance and perhaps with the persuasiveness of investigations and principle.


“There is no political inconvenience exception to the United States Constitution,” Warren said, arguing that every member of Congress should have to vote on impeachment “and live with that for the rest of their lives.”


If any other human being in this country had done what’s documented in the Mueller report they’d be arrested and put in jail,” she added, describing her Senate oath to uphold the Constitution.


“I would rather see an objective investigation done by the House,” Sanders added when asked about a potential Trump impeachment inquiry, noting that the House and Senate will continue examining the evidence. “Let’s see where it goes,” he told the CNN audience after touting proposals for universal health care, tuition-free college and income equality.


“Health care is a human right,” he repeated. “Government should make that happen.”


Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisTwo former Congressional Black Caucus chairmen back Biden Strippers, 'Hustlers' and the Democratic debates 2020 Dems honor Emily Clyburn MORE (D-Calif.) said during Monday’s town hall that she supports debt-free college, refinancing of outstanding student debt at a 3.5 percent rate and income-based student loan debt repayment.


“I think a lot about education,” Harris assured the CNN audience made up of Saint Anselm College students, throwing in a quick plug for all teachers.


The Hill: Harris also made news, adding, “I believe Congress should take the steps toward impeachment."   


The Hill: Sanders argued the right to vote should not be stripped from imprisoned terrorists and felons, including convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 25, sentenced to death in 2015. “I think we should have that conversation,” Harris agreed. “No, I don’t think so” while felons are incarcerated, Buttigieg said when asked the same question. The mayor said he supports “re-enfranchisement upon release.”


The Hill: Five takeaways from five candidates during five hours of town hall Q&A.


Quartz: Guide to 2020 Democratic presidential candidates and their leading economic policies.


PBS: Where 2020 Democrats stand on student loans, teacher pay and other education issues.


The New York Times: Klobuchar’s big idea may be bipartisanship in the Rust Belt.  


The Associated Press: Can South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Buttigieg calls Warren 'evasive' on Medicare for all Overnight Energy: Trump officials formally revoke California emissions waiver | EPA's Wheeler dodges questions about targeting San Francisco over homelessness | 2020 Dems duke it out at second climate forum MORE turn buzz into momentum with policies and a campaign team?


The Hill: Where 2020 Democratic candidates stand on impeachment.





CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: A final countdown is on for former Vice President Biden to jump into the 2020 race.


It was expected until late Monday that the former senator from Delaware would kick off his campaign on Wednesday with potential stops in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, two cities he has frequented in the past in one of the key battleground states on the 2020 map. However, that rollout may be in flux, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.


With Biden signaling in every other way that he will run, Niall Stanage writes that Trump allies are questioning whether they fear or savor the idea of a general election campaign against him.


Prior to his announcement, Biden has already drawn the attention of Trump, who has tweeted multiple times in the past month about the former vice president, including Monday with a retweet of Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel after she wrote that “Biden has been losing presidential elections since the 1980s,” adding that “2020 will be no different.”


The New York Times: Biden plans to close foundation when he enters 2020 race.





> Sanders has strengthened his grip on the liberal base as he moves into a front-runner role in the 2020 race. But according to Jonathan Easley, there is growing interest on the left in South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, according to a new survey of progressive activists.


More political news and analysis… 2020 Democrats are vowing to return to the Iran nuclear deal that Trump withdrew from nearly one year ago (The Hill) … Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyEx-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate Democrats press Trump Treasury picks on donor disclosure guidelines MORE, Jr. (D-Pa.) is pressing the Democratic National Committee for a presidential debate in Pennsylvania (The Associated Press) … In their first 100 days in charge, new governors across the country have shaken up their states and advanced legislation likely to shape the future of American politics (The Hill).


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The United States on Monday continued its crackdown on Tehran. Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Pentagon waiting for Saudi assessment on attack | Defense bill talks begin | Border fight takes centerstage | Pentagon finalizes .5B in wall contracts | US withholds Afghan aid citing corruption House Armed Services panel gets classified briefing on Saudi attacks US withholds 0M in Afghan aid citing corruption MORE said the administration will no longer grant sanctions waivers to countries importing Iranian oil and will impose U.S. sanctions on those that buy crude from Iran. China is the biggest buyer of Iranian crude. CNBC reported that the decision, effective May 2, will remove about 1 million barrels of oil per day from international markets.


The announcement came as petroleum markets have tightened and crude and gasoline prices have been rising. Pompeo said Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other “major producers” agreed to “ease this transition and ensure sufficient supply” (The Associated Press). Some analysts point to increasingly hawkish U.S. policy decisions impacting Iran. Despite repeated statements that the U.S. policy is not regime change in Iran, Pompeo on Monday said the administration does not rule out military options, should the United States believe its national defense is an issue.


> Health care: Does the Trump administration want a new federal definition of gender? The Health and Human Services Department has encouraged discussion of that question with a proposed rule that may soon make it easier for doctors and hospitals to deny treatment to transgender patients as well as women who have had abortions (The Hill).


> Federal Reserve: Trump nominee Herman Cain, a former GOP presidential candidate in 2012, withdrew from consideration for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board following weeks of pushback from Senate Republicans who said controversies and Cain’s unconventional experience for the post made it impossible to line up sufficient votes for confirmation (The Hill). Next in the crosshairs: Fed nominee Stephen Moore (The New York Times).


> Education: Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosNYC teacher suing DeVos over student loan forgiveness program Trump administration says joint UNC, Duke program portrays Islam too positively Trump awards Medal of Valor, civilian honors to responders in Dayton and El Paso shootings MORE attracted negative publicity after high school journalists sought to cover an education event in Kentucky she headlined. The students were turned away from the “open press” event because they did not sign up beforehand. Shut out, they decided to write an editorial. The Education Department later said the secretary would have had no objections to welcoming student journalists to the event, which focused on school choice (The Washington Post).


> Immigration: White House senior adviser Stephen Miller has lobbied Department of Homeland Security officials to deport individual migrants by name, acting on what he knows about their cases. The anecdotes also underscore a policy change made by the administration to remove privacy rights for those who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (Politico).




CONGRESS: The drumbeats are growing louder and louder for impeachment, but Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPatagonia says to shut stores for a few hours during Global Climate Strike Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Progressives push for changes to Pelosi drug pricing plan MORE (D-Calif.) is still not ready to go there.


As Mike Lillis, Scott Wong and Cristina Marcos report, Pelosi and other party leaders looked to rein in those pushing for impeachment proceedings, warning them once again that a rush toward ousting Trump before pinpointing criminal wrongdoing — and securing some Republican support — could harm the party at the polls next year.


“We need to hear from [Attorney General William] Barr and Mueller. And we need to see the unreacted report and the documents [that] go with it,” House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsFederal agency to resume processing some deferred-action requests for migrants Overnight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort Top Oversight Democrat demands immigration brass testify MORE (D-Md.) said, according to a source on the call. “We cannot allow this president to continue going down this course.”


Some rank-and-file Democrats believe there’s already enough evidence to impeach Trump, but Democratic leaders are seeking a middle ground of sorts: vowing to continue aggressive oversight and investigations into the president, but hesitant to go full bore into impeachment, which they believe could buoy Republicans ahead of 2020.


“We’re moving forward with hearings on what’s in the Mueller Report, just not formal ‘impeachment’ hearings. I think it’s a sensible middle option,” one Democratic lawmaker on the call told The Hill. “I also think when Mueller testifies it will be the biggest event to date in all of this, even more so than Comey.”


The lawmaker also said that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Nadler's House committee holds a faux hearing in search of a false crime Lewandowski says he's under no obligation to speak truthfully to the media MORE (D-N.Y.) will invite special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation MORE to testify before the panel, but added that he wasn’t sure if he would be invited or subpoenaed.


The Hill: House Judiciary chairman subpoenas former White House counsel Don McGahn.





The Washington Post: Top Republican on House Judiciary urges Democrats to view less-redacted special counsel report.


The New York Times: “While our views range from proceeding to investigate the findings of the Mueller report or proceeding directly to impeachment, we all firmly agree that we should proceed down a path of finding the truth,” Pelosi wrote her colleagues. “It is also important to know that the facts regarding holding the president accountable can be gained outside of impeachment hearings.”


The Washington Post: House Democratic leaders say no immediate plans to open impeachment proceedings against Trump.


> On the Republican side, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPatagonia says to shut stores for a few hours during Global Climate Strike Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes On The Money: House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November | Judge blocks California law requiring Trump tax returns | Senate panel approves three spending bills MORE (R-Ky.) stiff-armed any talk about impeachment:


“Well, look, I think it's time to move on. This investigation was about collusion, there's no collusion, no charges brought against the president on anything else, and I think the American people have had quite enough of it” (NBC News).


McConnell, who was making a stop in Owensboro, Ky., played up his recent talk about the Democratic party adopting socialism, pointing to the party’s embrace of “Medicare for All” and the “Green New Deal.”


"I don't want you to think it's just a couple of nutcases running around on the fringe. This is pervasive policy views on the other side,” he said, according to McClatchy. He also vowed not to let any of it pass as long as he controls the agenda as leader.


"Think of me as the Grim Reaper. None of that stuff is going to pass. None of it,” McConnell said.


More from Congress … A group of Democratic senators announced the creation of the Environmental Justice Caucus on Monday to commemorate Earth Day. Headlined by Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerOvernight Energy: Trump officials formally revoke California emissions waiver | EPA's Wheeler dodges questions about targeting San Francisco over homelessness | 2020 Dems duke it out at second climate forum Two former Congressional Black Caucus chairmen back Biden Strippers, 'Hustlers' and the Democratic debates MORE (D-N.J.), the caucus was formed to “call Congress’ attention to the many environmental justice issues affecting our nation” (Yahoo News).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Impeachment will tear Democrats apart, by Noah Rothman, Commentary magazine


There’s a bigger prize than impeachment, by Joe Lockhart, The New York Times


The House returns to a legislative schedule on April 29.


The Senate gets back to work at 3 p.m. on April 29.


The president will meet with winners of the annual White House News Photographers Association photo contest. Trump will have lunch with Vice President Pence. Later, he will participate in a swearing-in ceremony for Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who was confirmed by the Senate on April 11.


Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonDemocrat accuses GOP of opposing DC statehood because of 'race and partisanship' DC statehood will give representation to city residents and rectify a deep injustice DC flies flags with 51 stars ahead of statehood parade MORE (D-D.C.) will be honored at 4 p.m. by Georgetown University Law Center, which will dedicate its “tower green” to Norton, a professor emeritus. Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser and other officials will participate.


The Hill's Newsmaker Series: A Conversation with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. You’re invited April 29 at 8 a.m. as The Hill hosts Pompeo for a wide-ranging conversation covering the administration’s foreign policy and the latest global events. RSVP HERE.


Sri Lanka: American Dieter Kowalski, 40, of Denver was among at least four Americans killed in Colombo, Sri Lanka, according to the State Department and Kowalski’s employer (NBC News). Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa, a fifth grade student who attended Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., also was among the Americans killed on Sunday (WTOP). Other Americans were among the more than 500 people injured (The Associated Press) … Trump called Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday and expressed condolences along with an offer of U.S. support to Sri Lanka to help bring those responsible to justice, the White House reported.


This morning, Sri Lanka’s state defense minister says the Easter church bombings were retaliation for the New Zealand mosque attacks, which killed 50 people. A leader of little-known militant Islamist group blamed for carrying out the carnage in Colombo began posting videos three years ago calling for non-Muslims to be “eliminated” (The Associated Press). The masterminds carried out eight bombings that struck three churches and three five-star hotels favored by foreigners, killing 300 people (The New York Times) … Later, 87 bomb detonators were found at the city’s main bus station, and an explosive went off near a church on Monday when bomb squad officials were trying to defuse it in a location where scores had been killed a day earlier (Reuters).


Sri Lankan government leaders were warned two weeks before the bombings by Sri Lankan intelligence officials to expect attacks and received names of suspects; the failure to take precautions is now under investigation and described as a monumental security failure (The Guardian and Reuters).





North Korea and Russia: Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin are planning to meet in Russia before the end of this month, the Kremlin announced (Reuters).


Supreme Court: Justices will consider three cases to decide whether federal law protects gay and transgender workers from employment discrimination, the court announced on Monday. The cases mark the Supreme Court’s first major consideration of gay rights since the retirement of former Justice Anthony Kennedy, who led a closely divided court through a series of landmark opinions leading to the constitutional recognition of same-sex marriage (The Wall Street Journal). … Today, justices will hear oral arguments in Department of Commerce v. New York, a government appeal following a federal court’s rejection earlier this year of the Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census (The Hill) … And tensions on the court over the death penalty are suddenly in public view (The Hill).


Media: NBC News personality and “Today” co-anchor Jenna Bush Hager, daughter of former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush, is expecting her third child with husband Henry (The Hill).


And finally … While you’re reaching for your coffee, how about venturing into the wild?


The National Zoo in Washington is asking for volunteers to spy on nature for the good of science. Spying is not unknown in the nation’s capital, so this caught our attention (Snapshot USA information is HERE).





Much farther afield in the Congo, we also recommend the selfie-sophisticated gorillas. Seriously. They strike a pose (BBC).





And finally, for a taste of “wild” just down the road from Disney World, don’t miss the brawling bunny footage from an Orlando intersection. It was Easter. It was in Florida. Need we say more?