The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Dems make last dash for debate stage




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The clock is ticking on the 2020 Democratic primary field as candidates fight and claw to make it on the debate stage in Miami in what is largely considered the first major event of the primary campaign and a make-or-break moment for some fledgling campaigns.


The debates are less than a month away, but there is just over two weeks left for some campaigns to qualify for the debates, either by meeting a polling threshold by June 12 or by qualifying with the number of individual donors. The next few weeks are a sprint to the finish line as they try to clear hurdles to join crowded events on two consecutive nights.


According to The Hill’s whip list, 12 Democratic candidates have met both the polling and donor thresholds set by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), while six others have cleared the polling threshold. Five candidates are in a scramble to reach either requirement: Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes The Hill's Morning Report - Trump searches for backstops amid recession worries MORE (D-Colo.), New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Mayor de Blasio, the small business killer The Hill's Morning Report - Trump touts new immigration policy, backtracks on tax cuts MORE (D) and Rep. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur MoultonThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Moulton says Biden would make 'fantastic president' Moulton drops out of presidential race after struggling to gain traction MORE (D-Mass.), who joined the race recently.


Despite the expectation that more than 20 candidates will qualify for the debate stage, the number of invitations remains set at 20, with 10 candidates taking part on each night. DNC Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE told Jonathan Easley in a recent interview that candidates who find themselves shut out understood the requirements.


“We were very transparent because we wanted to give everybody ample time to qualify,” Perez said. “People have known the ground rules for some time and we’re not moving the goalposts in any way, shape or form.”


Perez added that the party will keep the same details in place for the second debates on July 30-31 in Detroit, with changes beyond the summer.


“We clearly have to adjust the thresholds, and if you look at history, that’s what has happened over time,” Perez said. “People have to demonstrate progress and those that do will stay on the debate stage. Those that don’t, won’t.”


The Hill: The Top 10 Democrats in the 2020 race.


The New York Times: De Blasio got their donations. Their votes for president? Not so much.


NBC News: Look over here! Democratic candidates struggle for recognition in outsize field.


As for one person who will take center stage at the debate, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Moulton says Biden would make 'fantastic president' MORE has stuck as the favorite for the nomination as he has been able to parry attacks across the board from 2020 candidates who are trying to knock him off his perch as the front-runner.


As Amie Parnes reports, Biden holds a 17-point lead and holds advantages in each of the early primary states, including a commanding advantage in South Carolina. While his national lead has slimmed slightly, he has shown a Teflon-like quality to survive criticism lobbed against him.


“I think this month has proven that it’s not just name recognition,” said one longtime Biden ally and friend. “People just like Joe Biden. And Democrats right now really want to beat President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE, and he is uniquely qualified for this moment.”


One other state where Biden leads is Nevada, which is lining up to be the wild card of the 2020 Democratic primary. As Jonathan Easley reports:


The Silver State, which is third in line to vote in the 2020 nominating process, has largely been ignored by the candidates in the rush to lavish attention on Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.


So far, only seven of the 24 Democrats running for president have paid staff on the ground in Nevada, making it anyone’s ball game and a potential launching pad for a dark horse candidate trying to break out from the pack.

“It’s a wide-open race,” said Molly Forgey, the communications director for the Nevada Democratic Party. “Nevada is a real wild card and there are any number of reasons to believe any of the candidates could do well here.”


The New York Times: How Democrats are, and aren’t, challenging the Trump economic record.


Politico: Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Keystone XL Pipeline gets nod from Nebraska Supreme Court MORE' (I-Vt.) extreme makeover.


The Washington Post: New York Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate Gillibrand unveils mental health plan MORE’s presidential campaign problem: A crowded niche.





WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: While President Trump’s four-day trip to Japan was filled with glitz and glamor and focused intently on his relationship with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the policy fallout remains to be seen as the two were on opposite sides of the spectrum on issues concerning trade and North Korea. (The Associated Press).


Thus far, a strong personal relationship between the two world leaders has not translated to trade policy. Trump continued to threaten Abe with auto import tariffs that could cripple the Japanese economy if no deal is reached in six months.


"When I talk about a security threat, I talk about a balance sheet," Trump said at Monday's press conference in Tokyo, adding that there is an “unbelievably large” trade imbalance between the two nations.





On North Korea, Trump tossed cold water on Japanese qualms that the short-range missile tests were of concern.


“No, I’m not. I am personally not,” Trump said when asked if he was bothered by the tests. Abe, on the other hand, said the tests were “of great regret.”


CNBC: Trump says he expects trade gap with Japan to be “straightened out rapidly.”


Politico:  Trump finds himself increasingly alone on North Korea.


The Hill: Trump Defense Department nominee expected to face tense confirmation.


NBC News: Trump's ban on Chinese telecom giant Huawei could cut off rural Americans' cell service.


> Trump is quick to tout the positive economic news out of the United States, but his escalating trade war with China threatens to undo the positive economic effects from the GOP’s tax-cut law and harm his reelection chances in 2020.


As Niv Elis reports, Trump has regularly singled out the booming economy as the main reason for potential electoral success, including the U.S.’s 3.6 percent unemployment rate and the effects from the tax law. But economists argue that his latest tariffs are all but canceling out the effects of the tax cuts for everyone but the wealthiest American families. An additional round of tariffs Trump has threatened in hopes of securing a trade deal with China could tip the scales altogether.


The Hill: Brazilian firm draws scrutiny on Trump farm aid.

Steve Rattner: The economy is Trump’s formidable tailwind.


> Advocates are vowing to fight the Trump administration's attempt to roll back transgender health protections.


The proposed rule unveiled Friday by the Department of Health and Human Services would rewrite Obama era nondiscrimination law that prohibited health discrimination based on sex, and it faced immediate backlash from patient and transgender advocate groups, which signaled they are gearing up for a protracted court fight (The Hill).  


“The ACLU refuses to allow the Trump administration to try to drag us backwards and roll back these essential, life-saving protections against discrimination,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union.


CONGRESS & INVESTIGATIONS: There is an emerging gulf between the views of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMoulton drops out of presidential race after struggling to gain traction Conservatives push Trump tariff relief over payroll tax cuts Democrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence MORE (D-Calif.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerPoll: Majority wants Trump out, but not through impeachment Second Democrat representing Trump district backs impeachment GOP memo deflects some gun questions to 'violence from the left' MORE (D-N.Y.) on launching impeachment proceedings against the president.


Daylight is growing between the two high-profile House Democrats over how best to combat the Trump administration as they stonewall congressional subpoenas on a regular basis. As Scott Wong and Olivia Beavers report, Nadler has pushed leadership privately to begin an impeachment inquiry and a contempt vote against Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces Correctional officers subpoenaed in Epstein investigation: report Nadler asks other House chairs to provide records that would help panel in making impeachment decision MORE following the Memorial Day recess, both of which committee members are pushing for.





Pelosi, however, is still preaching caution and is not sure that Democrats have swayed public opinion enough to move forward with these calls. The Speaker is also pointing to a string of court victories over the Trump administration and business entities, bolstering Democrats’ arguments that the law is on their side as they methodically probe the president.


The Hill: Seven key allies for Pelosi on impeachment.


Dan Balz: For Pelosi, the biggest test awaits: Impeach or not impeach?


> As the issue of impeaching the president continues to be a weekly topic in the House, one group is not taking as strong of a stand on the impeachment issue: Senate Democrats.


According to Alexander Bolton, Senate Democrats are taking a much softer line on impeachment than House lawmakers. Even Democrats who are running for president, such as Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisGabbard hits DNC over poll criteria for debates The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Gabbard, Steyer inch toward making third Democratic debate MORE (D-Calif.), say they're not putting any pressure on Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJewish Democratic congresswoman and veteran blasts Trump's 'disloyalty' comments Schumer says Trump encouraging anti-Semites Saagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? MORE (D-N.Y.) to take a more aggressive stance on impeachment. Schumer has declined to go as far as Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashLawmakers blast Trump as Israel bars door to Tlaib and Omar House Democrats targeting six more Trump districts for 2020 Sanford headed to New Hampshire amid talk of challenge to Trump MORE (R-Mich.) in characterizing Trump's actions as "impeachable conduct."


Senate Democrats who see an uphill battle to retaking the Senate majority see impeachment proceedings as something that would make it tougher to win competitive races next year.


Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are ready to silence all impeachment chatter. In addition to their 53-47 majority, they also have the power to set the rules and ensure the briefest of trials. They say that any trial would be given the bare minimum amount of floor time (The Hill).


“Why on earth would we give a platform to something that I judge as a purely political exercise?” said Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe United States broken patent system is getting worse Gun reform groups to pressure GOP senators with rallies in all 50 states To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies MORE (R-N.C.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We have to perform our constitutional duty, but if people think that we’re going to try and create a theater that could give you the perception that this is a matter that rises to the level of Watergate, that’s nonsense.”


> Faced by the dearth of women in their conference, House Republicans are amping up their efforts to recruit more women to run in 2020.


As Juliegrace Brufke writes, House Republicans are beefing up their push to increase the number of House GOP women from 13 — down from 23 in the 115th Congress. According to Rep. Susan BrooksSusan Wiant BrooksHouse Democrats target 2020 GOP incumbents in new ad The House Republicans and Democrats not seeking reelection in 2020 Mellman: Is the DCCC in successful chaos? MORE (R-Ind.), the recruitment chairwoman for the House GOP’s campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has already spoken to 157 women interested in running in 2020, with 42 having declared their candidacies.


“The road back to the majority is through the suburbs, and the road through the suburbs is going to be with strong female candidates,” NRCC Chairman Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerDemocrat running for Will Hurd's seat raises over million in first 100 days of campaign The House Republicans and Democrats not seeking reelection in 2020 Cook Political Report moves TX-23 from Toss Up to Lean Democratic after Hurd retirement MORE (R-Minn.) told The Hill. “And we're going to have it.”


Emmer added he’s met with a number of potential candidates, including New York State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who is running for the Staten Island seat currently occupied by freshman Rep. Max RoseMax RoseAssault weapons ban picks up steam in Congress The 11 House Dems from Trump districts who support assault weapons ban Pelosi backers feel vindicated after tumultuous stretch MORE (D-N.Y.). He also pointed to Iowa state Rep. Ashley Hinson, who is running against first-term Rep. Abby FinkenauerAbby Lea FinkenauerLobbying world Finish the work of building a renewable fuels industry GOP scores procedural win by securing more funding to enforce Iran sanctions MORE (D-Iowa), as another candidate to watch out for on the 2020 scene.


Politico: 'Ghosted': GOP abandons female House hopeful despite talk of electing women.

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!


Merit, not nepotism, should guide our immigration law, by Dale L. Wilcox, opinion contributor, The Hill.


To 'preserve and protect' does not include pardoning war crimes, David M. Crane, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features Shihoko Goto, the deputy director for geoeconomics at the Wilson Center, to discuss the president’s trip to Japan, and Jim Sciutto, CNN national security correspondent, to talk about his new book, “The Shadow War.”


The House is out until June 4.


The Senate returns to work on June 3.


The president and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpEl Paso, Dayton hospitals deny Trump claim of doctors leaving OR to meet him The Hill's Morning Report: How will Trump be received at G-7? Ex-Melania Trump adviser raised concerns of excessive inauguration spending weeks before events: CNN MORE return from Tokyo. They are expected to land at Joint Base Andrews at 2:15 p.m.


Vice President Pence has no official events on his schedule today.


Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Putin orders response to US missile test The Hill's Morning Report: How will Trump be received at G-7? MORE speaks to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York at 5:30 p.m., and he speaks at 6:30 p.m. to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), also in New York.


European Union elections: Centrists will no longer be in the majority in the European Parliament as the center-right and center-left blocs (the center-right European People’s Party and the center-left Socialist and Democrats) will take 326 of the 751 seats (CNBC). Among those who made gains are the left-leaning Greens, who came in fourth with 69 seats, an uptick from only 17 seats five years ago in the last election (The Associated Press). The most important takeaways from the European Parliament elections (The New York Times).


Mountain climbing: “It was like a zoo,” said Arizona physician Ed Dohring, who summited Mount Everest this month. An unruly, overcrowded Mount Everest has produced one of the deadliest climbing seasons on record (The New York Times). ... How Mount Everest’s popularity turned fatal (The Washington Post).


Jeopardy! Like clockwork, James Holzhauer kept up his winning ways Monday night, piling up $130,222 on Memorial Day and stretching his winning streak to 28 games. Overall, the professional sports bettor has won $2,195,557 during his stretch on the game show. Holzhauer correctly answered all three Daily Double clues and bet $58,000 in Final Jeopardy en route to his latest win. The total was just shy of his one-day total of $131,127, set on April 9. Holzhauer is now just over $325,000 away from overtaking Ken Jennings’s total during his 74-day streak (USA Today).


And finally …  on a somber note, Bill Buckner, a longtime first baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and, most notably, the Boston Red Sox, passed away Monday at the age of 69 after a bout with dementia. Infamously, while playing for Boston, Buckner allowed a ball go through his legs in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium, handing the game and ultimately the series to the Mets, setting off a strained relationship with the city of Boston for more than two decades.


Buckner retired four years later following a 22-year career, but was remembered most for the error. Nearly two decades after he retired, he returned to Fenway Park to be honored and throw out the ceremonial first pitch.