The Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work?




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Wednesday! 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.

In roughly 24 hours, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth Poll: Biden holds five-point lead over Warren among New York Democrats MORE is expected to become the 21st Democrat to announce a bid for the party’s nomination and an instant front-runner in a race that has already seen multiple ebbs and flows within the primary field.


Biden's expected entrance into the Democratic presidential race sets up a clash with his former colleague Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth Kamala Harris calls for new investigation into Kavanaugh allegations MORE (I-Vt.), the only other candidate who nearly mirrors Biden's age and overlaps with his years spent in Washington.


As Amie Parnes and Alexander Bolton report, Biden and Sanders, who have repeatedly topped almost every early primary poll, served briefly together in the Senate. For most of Biden's time in Congress, he was a bigger congressional star than Sanders. But the Vermont Independent ascended when he challenged the Obama administration's economic policies. Sanders also acknowledged Biden's influence when he called him before deciding to challenge Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump heads to California Hillary Clinton: Voter suppression has led to 'crisis in democracy' in the US MORE in the 2016 Democratic primary.


The former vice president is expected to roll out a “unifying” message intended to bring Democrats of all stripes together. While the Democratic Party remains divided including when it comes to trying to impeach President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness, ballots and battling opioids: Why the Universal Postal Union benefits the US Sanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth MORE, Biden will be forward-looking in his approach. His team says the 76-year-old wants to be aspirational.


“He’s not going to be dwelling on the past,” said one source who is familiar with the budding campaign’s strategy. “He wants this campaign to have a forward looking message and I think the message you’ll hear is what he’ll do to help move the country forward.”


There is a palpable tension in the Democratic Party and many relish a fight with Trump. Former President Obama ran successfully on a unifying message in 2008, but can that approach work in the 2020 contest?


Biden may want to peek ahead with voters during his third bid for the White House, but a problem he is expected to face is an attempt by candidates in both parties to drag him back through nearly half a century spent in public life — from decades of Senate votes to personal decisions, to two terms as the loyal lieutenant working beside Obama.


The campaign’s launch is expected to come Thursday with a video message followed by whistle stops in early primary states before Biden heads to battleground Pennsylvania early next week.


The New York Times: Biden plans to enter the race on Thursday. He’s starting with $0.


Jeff Greenfield: Biden’s toughest 2020 opponent Is Joe Biden.


NBC News: Biden voted with the NRA when the Senate, and the nation, were very different.


> Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisCalifornia poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth Kamala Harris calls for new investigation into Kavanaugh allegations Poll: Biden holds five-point lead over Warren among New York Democrats MORE (D-Calif.) has launched an offensive this week, particularly on the issue of guns, after she said Monday that she would enact stricter gun controls by executive order if she were elected president and Congress did not take immediate action.


As Niall Stanage writes, Harris's proposal demonstrates how much more aggressive Democrats have become on the issue, rather than pulling punches, as polls show broad support for some tightening of gun laws. The timing also is noteworthy because she announced her plan only days before the president is slated to address a National Rifle Association convention in Indianapolis on Friday.


It also comes after Trump launched a fight over executive powers to build a border wall, potentially setting a precedent for future expansive moves by any Democratic president, a prospect that worries some conservatives.


> While Democrats gear up to face off with Trump, another potential foe seems to be doing the same: Gov. Larry Hogan (R).


Hogan, the two-term Maryland governor, continued to stoke chatter about a possible primary bid against the president Tuesday by appearing in New Hampshire for Politics & Eggs, a quintessential political event in the state and a sign that he could be seriously considering a presidential plunge.


I am taking it more seriously and doing more things,” Hogan told the Washington Examiner’s David M. Drucker while in Manchester, N.H. as he made the 2020 rounds. “We’re having discussions.”


Hogan has made it known he has no interest in a suicide mission or in launching a bid simply to make a point. If he runs, he’d run to win.


Mark Leibovich: Meet the Other Resistance: The Republican One.


Politico: Hogan derides Trump as “dear leader.”





> The Hill: South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegCalifornia poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth Buttigieg unveils disaster response plan focused on communities Poll: Biden holds five-point lead over Warren among New York Democrats MORE is winning early support from K Street, especially LGBTQ lobbyists who have rallied behind his upstart campaign.


In other political news … A horde of 2020 Democrats are slated to appear for the “She the People” forum in Houston on Wednesday, including Harris, Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders supporters cry foul over Working Families endorsement of Warren California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth Kamala Harris calls for new investigation into Kavanaugh allegations MORE (D-Mass.) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) … 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.) vowed on Tuesday not to use stolen or hacked materials in the 2020 race and released a cybersecurity pledge calling on her competitors to do the same (The Washington Post)… Fox News announced the network will hold a candidate town hall with Buttigieg on May 19. Chris Wallace will moderate from Claremont, N.H. (Politico) … Julián Castro’s sluggish start tests strategy for high office (The Associated Press).


CONGRESS & INVESTIGATIONS: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPence says it's 'vital' for Congress to pass US-Mexico-Canada trade deal The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump heads to California Obama, Bush among those paying tribute to Cokie Roberts: 'A trailblazing figure' MORE (D-Calif.) and House Democratic leaders are trying to keep a lid on growing pressure within their caucus to move toward impeaching Trump.


As Mike Lillis and Cristina Marcos report, part of leadership’s strategy involves bringing in 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 and former White House counsel Don McGahn — a key voice in Mueller’s report — to testify. The hearings are intended to show Democrats are doing serious investigations of Trump, even as they kick the can down the road on impeachment.


However, the question remains: Will Democrats be able to keep the pressure from blowing up?


The Washington Post: ‘We’re not there yet:’ Pelosi pushes back on impeachment as more Democrats call for proceedings.


> The Senate is emerging as a serious roadblock for progressive policies being championed by 2020 candidates.


As reported by Jordain Carney, Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHillary Clinton: Voter suppression has led to 'crisis in democracy' in the US New York Times authors blame Kavanaugh correction on editing error: 'There was zero intent to mislead' The Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? MORE (R-Ky.), who is already holding up dozens of House-passed bills, is pitching himself as the "Grim Reaper" in his push to win re-election and keep his leadership post. Democrats have pick-up opportunities but need to flip at least three seats to have 50 votes, in addition to needing Republican support to pass legislation.


Elsewhere in Congress … House Democrats are subpoenaing McGahn in what is also considered to be an attempt to get under Trump and inside his head as he fumes about McGahn’s cooperation with Mueller’s investigation (The Hill) … Pelosi and 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.) are slated to meet with Trump next week to discuss infrastructure (The Hill) … House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsThe Hill's Morning Report - What is Trump's next move on Iran? House committee launches investigation into Transportation Secretary Chao Pence extends olive branch to Cummings after Trump's Baltimore attacks MORE (D-Md.) is threatening to hold Carl Kline in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena to testify as part of the committee’s White House security clearance investigation (ABC News).


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump’s tax returns: The Treasury Department on Tuesday missed a second deadline from House Democrats to hand over copies of Trump’s tax returns. Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump at a pivotal crossroads on Iran Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't want war with Iran | Pentagon chief calls attack on Saudi oil facilities 'unprecedented' | Administration weighs response | 17th US service member killed in Afghanistan this year Iran: Rouhani, Trump won't meet at United Nations MORE said the department can't act on the request "unless and until it is determined to be consistent with law." He said he expects the department to provide the House Ways and Means Committee with a final decision on that question by May 6 (The Hill). The president says he will not consent to the release of his tax filings because he remains under IRS audit.





Constitutional clash: During an interview with The Washington Post, the president said he is opposed to current and former aides testifying to Congress, especially following the release of the Mueller report. Trump called Congress “very partisan” at a time when the White House indicates it plans to broadly defy requests for information from Capitol Hill, moving the two branches of government closer to a constitutional collision.


Education Department: More than 41,000 public service workers sought federal student loan forgiveness under provisions of a specific new law that offers benefits to those who graduate and choose public sector jobs. The government approved just 206 applications, a success rate of 0.5 percent (USA Today).


Social Security and Medicare: 2020 presidential candidates who propose to dramatically expand Medicare and sidestep substantive changes to Social Security are absorbing sobering data from the latest government report indicating that Medicare insolvency is projected to be seven years away and Social Security insolvency is expected within 16 years (CBS News analysis).


Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and facial recognition: DHS is plowing ahead with a program to scan nearly all departing travelers’ faces in the next four years to experiment with a facial recognition system. Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Ocasio-Cortez endorses Markey in Senate race amid speculation over Kennedy candidacy House votes to block drilling in Arctic refuge MORE (D-Mass.), a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, says the administration’s effort lacks privacy safeguards, among other problems. "Homeland Security should change course and stop its deployment of facial recognition technology” until adequate precautions are in place, he said. House Democratic oversight is planned (The Hill).


No breaking bread with the news media: Trump decided on Tuesday that White House and administration staff and officials must cancel any plans they had to don  tuxedos and formal dresses to enjoy themselves during Saturday’s annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington as guests of news outlets. The president is sticking with a pattern he set since taking office of declining to attend the event, and he wants his aides to stay away. Instead, he’ll headline a Saturday night reelection rally in Green Bay, Wis. (Reuters).


My fellow Hasidic Jews are making a terrible mistake about vaccinations, by Moshe Friedman, opinion contributor, The New York Times.


The Democrats aren’t really in disarray about what to do about Robert Mueller, by Elaine Godfrey, The Atlantic.

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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 travel to Atlanta today with first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpTrump introduces Mariano Rivera for Medal of Freedom ceremony with Metallica's 'Enter Sandman' Trump awards Yankees legend Mariano Rivera the Medal of Freedom The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico MORE to speak at the Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit, billed as the largest national conference addressing the opioid crisis. The program will be live streamed at 1 p.m. HERE.


Vice President Pence will travel to Michigan today for three events. He’ll headline a closed-press Trump Victory fundraiser in Detroit, tour the Ford Motor Co. truck plant in Dearborn, Mich., and later speak at Motor City Solutions about the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the successor to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. Pence returns to Washington this evening.


The Hill's Newsmaker Series: A Conversation with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump heads to California Pence says US is 'locked and loaded' to defend allies US-Iran next moves — Déjà vu of Obama administration mistakes? MORE. 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.


Supreme Court: During oral arguments on Tuesday, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority pushed back on the argument from opponents that the Commerce Department acted arbitrarily in adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census, and that Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossOvernight Energy: Top presidential candidates to skip second climate forum | Group sues for info on 'attempts to politicize' NOAA | Trump allows use of oil reserve after Saudi attacks Group sues Trump administration for info related to 'attempts to politicize NOAA' NOAA chief praises agency scientists after statement backing up Trump tweet MORE lacked the authority to include the controversial question (The Hill).


Tech: Twitter Inc. reported first-quarter revenue and a surge in monthly users, that surprised analysts (Reuters). The president met at the White House on Tuesday with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and complained his follower count has dropped (The Washington Post) … Facebook’s challenges with hate speech and other types of problematic content are complicated by the company’s inability to keep up with new languages on mobile devices (Reuters) … Amazon is testing a service with its Prime users that allows delivery personnel to electronically open residents’ garages to drop off packages (Engadget).





Boy Scouts: Victim's rights attorney Jeff Anderson on Tuesday said in Manhattan that nearly 8,000 alleged child sex abusers have been in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) since 1940. "For many, many years there's been an excavation of what are called the 'perversion files' — those are files held and hoarded at the Boy Scouts of America headquarters," Anderson said at a press conference on Tuesday. BSA said it cares “deeply about all victims of child sex abuse” and apologized “to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting” (NBCNew York).


North Korea - Russia summit: Kim Jong Un arrived today in Russia a day ahead of his planned meeting with President Vladimir Putin. Wearing a black coat and a fedora, Kim said he would like to discuss with Putin “settlement of the situation in the Korean Peninsula” as well as bilateral ties with Russia (The Associated Press).


And finally … Put on your green eyeshades! States’ fiscal health can affect national politics and policy, which is why Reid Wilson looked closely at the good-news findings inside a new report that concludes the 2017 GOP tax cuts helped state revenues rebound, even if the bonanza turns out to be short-lived.


Revenue collections were boosted thanks to the new law, which was eagerly signed by Trump nearly a year and a half ago. Other factors at work, according to researchers who published their findings on Tuesday: favorable economic conditions, rising stock market returns in late 2017 through much of 2018 and state policy actions.


Forty-one states are now bringing in more revenue than their pre-recession highs, according to data from the Pew Charitable Trust’s Fiscal 50 project. All told, the states collectively brought in 13 percent more revenue in the third quarter of 2018 than they did during the pre-recession peak.

Most of the nine states that have yet to rebound are energy-producing states that have seen revenues drop as global commodity prices have fallen.