The Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck
The Hill's Morning Report - Immigration, health care headline Trump second-term agenda
Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report. Happy Monday! 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.
President Trump's second-term agenda is coming into full view.
While 2020 Democratic candidates are releasing policy proposals left and right, Trump has slowly released his own pitch to voters, most of which is aimed at his base and can only pass if Republicans take back the House in 2020 after two years of Democratic control.
As Niall Stanage writes, his second-term plan is headlined by a proposal for a merit-based immigration system that was released by the White House last week, which Trump all but admitted stands a chance only if the GOP retakes the House. It also involves a light-on-specifics health care plan that would replace the Affordable Care Act.
However, it includes two issues where the administration is trying to make progress in the coming year: infrastructure and North American trade. Both issues are likely to be a heavy lift as an election year looms, pushing them into the second-term plans.
As the president looks ahead to 2021, he remains embroiled in issues that surround him today. Among them is abortion, an issue that has climbed up the 2020 pecking order in the last week. The president distanced himself from an Alabama law that essentially outlaws abortion. While weighing in on that, he also took out his frustration at two of his favorite subjects: the media and "Never Trump" Republicans.
The president expressed frustration at Fox News, his news outlet of choice, for covering the 2020 Democratic primaries after it held a town hall with South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) on Sunday, doing so only minutes after he promoted an interview he did with the network for Sunday night and hours after he vented at the "negative" Sunday talk shows.
He also directed his ire at Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), a libertarian-leaning GOP lawmaker who became the first Republican congressman to say the president "engaged in impeachable conduct" in a series of tweets on Saturday. Amash is expected to draw a primary challenger, which he has not faced since he fought one off in 2014.
The New York Times: Abortion fight or strong economy? For GOP, cultural issues undercut 2020 message.
Politico: Trump team convinced court overhaul will drive 2020 win.
The New York Times: Republican National Committee accepts money from Steve Wynn, mogul accused of sexual misconduct.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is having a moment as she releases one policy proposal after another and is reaping the political benefits in the process.
As Amie Parnes writes, Aides and allies to the Massachusetts Democrat say her policy proposals are showing signs of paying off in the primary race. While Warren had a bumpy start, they say her hoard of proposals - from a wealth tax to opioids - have given her momentum as she climbs in the polls. According to the latest Fox News poll, Warren sits behind former Vice President Joe Biden (D) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at 9 percent, making her the only candidate nearing double digits at this point.
Those around her say she is giving voters what they want in terms of new ideas and filling in the details with meat on the bone.
As for Biden, the party's front-runner for the nomination, he wrapped up his campaign rollout before nearly 6,000 supporters in Philadelphia on Saturday by making clear his desire to unify the country after what he viewed as years of division under Trump's leadership (RealClearPolitics).
The speech, delivered in the shadow of Independence Hall, was a culmination of over three weeks of campaigning in early states as he cemented his position as the Democrat in pole position for the party's nomination. In the Saturday address, he hardly paid attention to the other 23 Democrats vying for the 2020 nod and trained his focus on Trump, making the president and a return to the pre-Trump era as the centerpiece of his message.
The Atlantic: Joe Biden's bet that 2016 didn't change everything.
The Washington Post: Democrats were said to be furious and hungry for change. Then Biden jumped in.
The Associated Press: Jimmy Carter finds a renaissance in 2020 Democratic scramble.
Perspectives and Analysis:
Dan Balz: Obama & Trump broke the mold. What happens next?
Josh Kraushaar: Why the crowded primary field boosts Biden.
Paul Kane: Democrats waiting for large presidential field to take shape before endorsing.
LEADING THE DAY
WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: On Sunday afternoon, Trump warned Iran not to threaten the United States again or it will face its "official end." The president's tweet came shortly after a rocket landed near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad overnight. In a Fox News Channel interview that aired Sunday and was conducted last week, Trump called the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran a "horror show."
"I just don't want them to have nuclear weapons and they can't be threatening us," Trump said (The Associated Press).
Saudi Arabia also warned Iran it stands ready to respond with "all strength" and said it was up to Iran to avoid war (Reuters).
> Republican lawmakers are worried they may have a John Bolton problem on their hands.
Bolton, the national security adviser, is widely seen as a divisive figure within Republican circles. His position as an Iran hawk is creating issues with lawmakers while the White House sends conflicting messages about Iran (The Hill).
The enveloping situation with Iran is also showing off the president's split with the U.S.'s traditional European allies as the U.S. appears out of step with those countries over whether the Iranians pose a new threat that warrants the recent military buildup and evacuation from parts of the region (The Hill).
The Hill: Pentagon reporters left in dark as Iran tensions escalate.
David Ignatius: America and Iran are both oddly eager for war.
Josh Rogin: The Trump administration isn't aiming for war with Iran - but that doesn't mean we should relax.
> Trump is showing no signs of slowing down in his administration's escalating trade fight against China, so the question is being asked: Who blinks first - Trump or Chinese President Xi Jinping?
As Jordan Fabian and Brett Samuels report, neither leader has shown signs of letting up since trade talks broke down last week, foreshadowing a continued standoff that could last months or even years.
A protracted trade war could have wide-ranging consequences for two countries whose economies have become increasingly intertwined over the past three decades. Buoyed by the strong U.S. economy, Trump is feeling little pressure from Capitol Hill to strike a quick deal with Beijing and people close to the White House say he is prepared to hold out for the best possible deal.
Companies, however, are not enthused by the ongoing trade war and have urged the president to make a deal, as Niv Elis reports. Led by Walmart, companies are speaking out against Trump and say that import taxes are forcing them to raise prices on consumers.
The price increases could complicate things for Trump, who has repeatedly claimed that China, not U.S. consumers, would pay the price of the trade war. Trump is betting that amid strong economic growth and low unemployment, a move in consumer prices won't sour voters.
The Associated Press: Trump's "great patriot" farmers follow him into a trade war.
Roll Call: Trump heads to Pennsylvania, where China trade war is hitting home.
Politico: Pat Toomey: "Absolutely painful" China tariffs may be "worth the price."
The Hill: Nancy Pelosi, Dems walk Trump trade tightrope.
> The White House wants to identify donors and supporters willing to provide economic incentives and opportunities for Palestinians and other Arabs during a conference to take place next month in Bahrain. Trump will not attend. Analysts who were part of such efforts during previous Democratic and Republican administrations expressed skepticism about the effort. The business-centered approach is part of a lead-in to a Middle East peace plan White House adviser Jared Kushner previously said the United States may roll out in June (The New York Times).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CONGRESS & INVESTIGATIONS: House Democrats have been left to wonder if special counsel Robert Mueller will ever make his way to Capitol Hill.
As Scott Wong and Morgan Chalfant write, it seemed like a no-brainer that Mueller, who wrapped up his Russia probe in late March and saw his redaction-laden report released in mid-April, would appear on Capitol Hill in the aftermath of the report's release, with May 15 having been discussed as a target day.
Now, some Democrats are beginning to doubt he'll ever show, though some believe a June appearance could happen. They believe Mueller may have no desire to get pulled into what would become a partisan food fight that has become a proxy battle for those harboring 2020 presidential ambitions.
The Hill: 5 things to watch as Trump, Dems clash over investigations.
The Associated Press: Charles Schumer calls for probe of Chinese rail tech.
> With only four days in session before the Memorial Day recess, questions continue to surround whether the Senate will pass a disaster relief package before the week concludes.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week that he would force a vote on a disaster aid proposal this week regardless of whether the two sides reach an agreement.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters last week negotiators were "closer than we've ever been" to a deal, though some hang-ups remained. Those included the administration's $4.5 billion emergency request for the border and harbor maintenance funding.
Democrats made an offer late Thursday that included billions in humanitarian assistance at the U.S./Mexico border, though it did not include "non-starters," such as an increase of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds (The Hill).
> Politico: Mitch McConnell embraces his dark side:
"Call him 'Cocaine Mitch,' 'Nuclear Mitch' or the steward of the 'legislative graveyard.' Mitch McConnell says he's the 'Grim Reaper' anyway, so he's loving every minute of it.
"While his critics have tried to make the Kentucky Republican public enemy No. 1, the Senate GOP leader has embraced the demonization in a bid to protect his Senate majority, his own seat and his title as longest serving Senate GOP leader in U.S. history.
"'We need to have a little fun in this business,' McConnell said in a brief interview. 'I used to call myself Darth Vader when I was back in the campaign finance wars.'"
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We invite you to share The Hill's reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
We're living in a more dangerous world, by Leon Panetta, former defense secretary and former CIA director, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2M62Q7M
The merit of merit-based immigration, by Kevin D. Williamson, correspondent, National Review. https://bit.ly/2w9uy8Y
WHERE AND WHEN
Hill.TV's "Rising" program, starting at 8 a.m., features Richard Beneville, the mayor of Nome, Alaska, to discuss infrastructure and climate change; Sarah Riggs Amico, the chairman of Jack Cooper Holdings and a former Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia, talking about the Alabama abortion law; and Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for The New York Times and author of "Obama: The Call of History," reacting to news of the day. http://thehill.com/hilltv
The House convenes at noon and will consider a number of bills concerning veterans benefits and foreign policy.
The Senate will meet at 3 p.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of David P. Collins to be a United States circuit judge for the 9th Circuit.
The president will receive his intelligence briefing at noon. Trump will travel to Montoursville, Pa., ahead of Tuesday's special election to campaign for Fred Keller, a state representative running to replace former Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District. The rally is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Vice President Pence will depart for Jacksonville, Fla., where he will deliver remarks at an America First Policies event at 12:25 p.m. At 2:15 p.m., Pence will tour the F-8 aircraft before delivering remarks to U.S. service members at 2:50 p.m. before returning to Washington.
➔ State Watch: As Democratic staffers make Iowa their temporary home, they also build a mini community of sorts as they battle it out for the nomination. This means establishing a pattern of favored bars and cafes where they can blow off steam when they get a break from wooing voters. As Reid Wilson reports from the Iowa capital city, one frontrunner campaign even considered circulating a memo declaring Carl's Place, a beloved dive bar in the city, neutral territory and a welcome spot for staffers working for any 2020 Democrat.
➔ Education: Robert F. Smith, a billionaire technology investor, shocked the 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College when he revealed during his commencement address on Saturday that he would cover the student loans of the nearly 400 graduates. Smith's grant to the all-male historically black college in Atlanta will cover roughly $40 million in student loan debt, and is on top of a $1.5 million gift he already made to the school (The Associated Press). Who is Smith? (The Washington Post).
➔ The Terminator: Famed actor, body-builder and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he was unharmed despite being assaulted during an appearance in South Africa. Schwarzenegger was talking to children when he was struck by a man doing a flying kick to his back. He joked that he was just "glad the idiot didn't interrupt my Snapchat." The former GOP governor was in the country to promote fitness as part of his Arnold Sports Festival (The Associated Press).
And finally ... Die-hard viewers of the HBO hit "Game of Thrones" are mourning today after the show exited stage left following eight seasons on the air. Among those taking part in the grief are lawmakers, who have taken to the show and have used it to message on a number of topics.
As Judy Kurtz writes for In The Know, "In the roller-coaster, often topsy-turvy world of Capitol Hill, that unpredictability could be strikingly relatable. Or maybe it's the constant bloody clashes and Machiavellian scheming that seem all too familiar."