The Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck

 

 

 

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.



Democrats will make their first appearance on the debate stage this week as part of a two-night extravaganza in Miami that will serve as one of the first major moments of the 2020 campaign and could be a make or break moment for some candidates as they try to make a name for themselves with voters.

 

The sprawling field of White House aspirants got some practice on stage — with matching blue T-shirts —  in South Carolina during an annual weekend fish fry hosted by House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who says he’s neutral in the presidential race.

 

While 20 candidates will take the stage on Wednesday and Thursday, all eyes are on former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenMomentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Trump expects to nominate woman to replace Ginsburg next week Video of Lindsey Graham arguing against nominating a Supreme Court justice in an election year goes viral MORE, who has come under fire from rivals and other candidates in recent weeks for multiple reasons but has maintained his frontrunner status.

 

Biden attended the fish fry in South Carolina, but this will be his first political debate since he faced off against former vice presidential challenger Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanKenosha will be a good bellwether in 2020 At indoor rally, Pence says election runs through Wisconsin Juan Williams: Breaking down the debates MORE (R) in 2012 when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyMomentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Toobin: McConnell engaging in 'greatest act of hypocrisy in American political history' with Ginsburg replacement vote The Memo: Court battle explodes across tense election landscape MORE, now the junior senator from Utah, was at the top of the ticket trying to defeat former President Obama.

 

Democrats are wondering how Biden will handle his current status. As Niall Stanage writes, controversies over hot-button issues such as race and abortion have put a small dent in his campaign. Responses on both topics have left many Democrats dissatisfied and have sparked fresh questions about his judgment and about how long he can maintain pole position in the Democratic field.

 

Underneath Biden, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersNYT editorial board remembers Ginsburg: She 'will forever have two legacies' Two GOP governors urge Republicans to hold off on Supreme Court nominee Sanders knocks McConnell: He's going against Ginsburg's 'dying wishes' MORE (I-Vt.) is embroiled in a battle with Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden's fiscal program: What is the likely market impact? Warren, Schumer introduce plan for next president to cancel ,000 in student debt The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Don't expect a government check anytime soon MORE (D-Mass.), who has found herself in the ascendant in recent polls, including some showing that she has surpassed Sanders in some instances. Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris honors Ginsburg, visits Supreme Court The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump and Biden vie for Minnesota | Early voting begins in four states | Blue state GOP governors back Susan Collins Kamala Harris: Black Americans have been 'disproportionately harmed' by Trump MORE (D-Calif.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBipartisan praise pours in after Ginsburg's death Bogeymen of the far left deserve a place in any Biden administration Overnight Defense: Woodward book causes new firestorm | Book says Trump lashed out at generals, told Woodward about secret weapons system | US withdrawing thousands of troops from Iraq MORE (D) are trying to show that their best days are ahead of them and not in the rearview mirror as both have seen their poll numbers become stagnant over the past month.

 

For other candidates, they view this as the time to make their move, as almost everyone else has found it tough to crack 4 percent support in early states or nationally.

 

The Hill: 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the first Democratic showdown.

 

NBC News: Biden’s soft spots exposed, but Democratic rivals strike only glancing blows.

 

As tensions bubble to the surface and candidate-on-candidate sniping becomes commonplace in the primary, some Democrats are worried that the race is turning into a redux of 2016 when the back-and-forth between supporters of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonJeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Momentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day Warning signs flash for Lindsey Graham in South Carolina MORE and Sanders became so bitter that supporters of the Vermont democratic socialist sat on the sidelines instead of supporting Clinton as the party’s nominee.

 

According to Amie Parnes, Democrats are concerned that it could help President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally MORE in a general election fight, as it did in 2016.

 

"Democrats will beat Donald Trump by making this a referendum on Donald Trump. But if they tear each other apart between now and the convention, they risk depressing their own turnout," said opinion contributor to The Hill and former Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump, Biden intensify battleground focus as 2020 race tightens Biden allies express confidence as convention begins The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden closes in on vice presidential pick MORE (N.Y.), who twice served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

 

"They’ve got the most polarizing and unpopular Republican president in history, and it’s just political malpractice to be firing at each other instead of targeting him,” Israel added.

 

Paul Kane: Clyburn’s fish fry draws the Democratic hopefuls and illustrates a concern.

 

Although Democrats see warning signs there, they are also trying to focus on other issues that plagued them in recent campaign cycles. Among them is turning out Hispanic voters in Florida, as activists are launching an aggressive effort to court the state’s fastest-growing voting bloc.

 

Trying to avoid a repeat of their high-profile losses in 2018, activists are diving headfirst into the community this cycle and are doing so earlier than they have in the past. As Max Greenwood reports, the goals are to mobilize dozens of organizers in the state and to fine-tune Spanish-language outreach.

 

Republicans, meanwhile, are making their own push, including this week, as Vice President Pence is scheduled to campaign in Miami on Tuesday ahead of the Wednesday debate.

 

Elsewhere on the 2020 Democratic scene, the field of candidates unexpectedly grew to 25 on Sunday as former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), a retired two-star Navy Admiral, announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination.

 

A run by Sestak, who most recently lost two Senate bids in Pennsylvania, came out of left field not only to national Democrats, but also to Pennsylvania party goers. Two Pennsylvania Democrats told The Hill that they were completely blindsided by the news, with one saying that “0.0” people had any idea this was coming.

 

Additionally, the former suburban Philadelphia lawmaker is not well-liked among the party’s higher-ups in the state and has been known throughout the years as a difficult boss on Capitol Hill and as a nuisance to the party. As T.J. Rooney, a former Pennsylvania Democratic Party chairman, put it, Sestak is running a race no one asked for.

 

“Joe Sestak embodies some people in politics who are absolutely forgotten, but obviously not gone,” Rooney told The Hill on Sunday. “If you were a delusional, self-important gasbag and you have nothing better to do, you’d run for president. It's sad because it dumbs down an already overcrowded group to begin with."

 

“What people in Pennsylvania, Dems in Pennsylvania are talking about is who can win Pennsylvania, because if you can win Pennsylvania, you can win the presidency, and this guy has proven twice that he cannot win Pennsylvania,” Rooney said. “It's typical of this guy. It's just so, so Sestak. It's a ‘Sestak.’ He's become an adjective.”

 

The Washington Post: Black voters are cutting Biden some slack — for now.

 

The Associated Press: New phase in presidential race tests Dem aggression.

 

CNN: Buttigieg confronts leadership test in impassioned South Bend town hall.

 

The Washington Post: Harris, eyeing a prime debate opportunity, is still looking for a political niche.

 

 

 



LEADING THE DAY

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: After ordering and then pulling back military strikes against Iran last week, Trump this week is being pressed to clarify U.S. policy toward Iran and whether the administration has international partners backing its list of goals and decisions.

 

Trump has been praised as well as assailed for his last-minute decision to call off missile strikes against Iran on Thursday night, later explaining that he was uncomfortable with the U.S. military estimate of 150 Iranian casualties.

 

Among stated objectives Trump has described since 2017:

  • United States will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
  • Administration withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
  • Administration says regime change in Iran is not U.S. policy.
  • Iran must end support for terrorist organizations in the Middle East and hostilities with Israel.
  • U.S. does not want a war with Iran.
  • U.S. supports economic sanctions to pressure the Iranian government.
  • U.S. military strikes should be proportional when Iranian casualties are a risk.
  • Administration supports the people of Iran.

 

Two Trump advisers who are the most hawkish about Iran traveled to the Middle East over the weekend. National security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonDiplomacy with China is good for America The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep DOJ launches probe into Bolton book for possible classified information disclosures MORE was in Israel, and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Sunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Trump steps up Iran fight in final election stretch MORE departed on Sunday for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to discuss escalating tensions. The secretary arrived in Jeddah today (The Associated Press).

 

Trump and Pompeo say there are no U.S. preconditions for future talks with Iran (The Associated Press and The Hill).

 

Bolton, who was in Jerusalem on Sunday for a previously planned meeting with Israel and Russia, warned that Iran should not “mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness,” adding that Iran does not have a “hunting license in the Middle East.”

 

Tehran has said it will breach the international cap set on its uranium enrichment on Thursday, and it dismissed the threat of new U.S. sanctions, planned by the Trump administration (The Wall Street Journal).

 

Trump is eager for cyber and other unconventional military options that can damage Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and urging U.S. intelligence and military experts to come up with new mechanisms to counter Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf region (The New York Times). Last week, U.S. Cyber Command conducted online attacks against an Iranian intelligence group that American officials believe helped plan this month’s attacks against oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz (The New York Times).

 

 

 

 

> Middle East peace plan: As tensions with Iran escalate, the Trump administration’s long-awaited blueprint for Middle East peace is set to be unveiled by White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerAbraham Accords: New hope for peace in Middle East Tenants in Kushner building file lawsuit alleging dangerous living conditions Trump hosts Israel, UAE, Bahrain for historic signing MORE at a conference in Bahrain on Tuesday and Wednesday. The plan calls for a $50 billion global investment fund to bolster the Palestinian and neighboring Arab economies and has attracted plenty of naysayers (Reuters). Palestinians rejected it, arguing they were cut out of the process (NBC News). White House document is HERE.

          

> Saudi Arabia: Trump, during an interview broadcast on Sunday with NBC News, said the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have been investigated enough without involving the FBI, and he repeated that the United States will not stop selling weapons systems to Saudi Arabia. A United Nations investigator recently said there is “credible evidence” that could implicate Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Khashoggi’s death. Salman has denied involvement (The Hill).   

 

> North Korea: Trump, eager to restart denuclearization talks with North Korea that failed in February, sent Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnSatellite images indicate North Korea preparing for massive military parade South Korea warns of underwater missile test launch by North Korea Trump says he didn't share classified information following Woodward book MORE a letter, according to state media in Pyongyang. Pompeo confirmed the communication on Sunday, saying “I’m hopeful that this will provide a good foundation” for starting “important discussions with the North Koreans” (The New York Times and Reuters). The president will visit South Korea for two days this weekend following the Group of 20 economic summit in Osaka, Japan. Trump, who is considering a visit to the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday (Reuters).

 

> Immigration: Trump said the federal government is doing a “fantastic” job under tough circumstances to deal with migrant children whose detention and treatment has come under repeated and harsh criticism (The Hill). PBS’s NewsHour reported on “inhumane conditions” for migrant children at one U.S. facility.

 

The president extended by two weeks his administration’s launch of deportation sweeps to round up undocumented migrants living in major U.S. cities, saying the additional time allows congressional Democrats to develop legislative solutions along with GOP lawmakers. NBC News reported the administration halted the raids because plans by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) leaked. The raids were set to begin on Sunday and many cities vowed not to cooperate (Reuters). Members of Congress on Sunday expressed skepticism that legislation to toughen controls on asylum-seekers would be passed in two weeks. Democratic lawmakers favor work toward comprehensive immigration changes, seen as a near-impossibility to enact before 2020 (The Wall Street Journal).

 

> Trade: U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerWhiskey, workers and friends caught in the trade dispute crossfire GOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 MORE knows how to work effectively with Congress using deference, directness and consultation, lawmakers say (The Hill).

 

> Environmental Protection Agency: State attorneys general and environmental groups are gearing up for what could be a precedent-setting legal battle with the Trump administration over a rulemaking unveiled during the Obama administration to curb greenhouse gases at power plants (The Hill).

 

> DOJ vs. intel community: Attorney General William BarrBill BarrMichigan resident puts toilet on front lawn with sign 'Place mail in ballots here' Barr says Ginsburg 'leaves a towering legacy' Republicans call for DOJ to prosecute Netflix executives for releasing 'Cuties' MORE is probing the intelligence assessment that Russia sought to help Trump win the 2016 election. The intelligence community is concerned that Barr may dispute a significant U.S. intelligence finding embraced by the CIA, FBI, the director of National Intelligence, the National Security Agency, special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE, and lawmakers on the House and Senate Intelligence committees (The Wall Street Journal).

 

> Pentagon: Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper today spends his first day leading the Defense Department, which is the nation’s largest employer, with more than 860,000 civilian employees and more than 1.4 million active-duty military personnel. Trump plans to nominate Esper to fill the Cabinet post permanently in the wake of former acting Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanHouse Armed Services chairman expresses confidence in Esper amid aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis Boeing pleads for bailout under weight of coronavirus, 737 fallout Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January MORE’s resignation last week (The Hill).



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CONGRESS: Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) members are growing concerned that their influence could wane after Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) leaves the House after next year and are pushing to make sure one of the top spots in leadership is held by a lawmaker from the caucus.

 

Luján, who is running for Senate to replace Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallLWCF modernization: Restoring the promise OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' Senate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency MORE (D-N.M.), is the No. 4 House Democrat, creating a void that is alarming to CHC members. Although leadership elections are more than a year away, talk is already emerging that Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassPatients are dying unnecessarily from organ donation policy failures Hispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Bogeymen of the far left deserve a place in any Biden administration MORE (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, will run to replace Luján.

 

One Democratic lawmaker said they could see Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoHispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Senators call on Pentagon to reinstate funding for Stars and Stripes newspaper Hispanic Caucus campaign chief to mount leadership bid MORE (D-Ariz.), the first vice chair of the CHC, Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) or Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarRep. Robin Kelly enters race for Democratic caucus vice chair Pelosi seeks to put pressure on GOP in COVID-19 relief battle Races heat up for House leadership posts MORE (D-Calif.) as potential contenders. Another lawmaker floated Rep. Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroHispanic Caucus members embark on 'virtual bus tour' with Biden campaign Hispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Democratic lawmakers call for an investigation into allegations of medical neglect at Georgia ICE facility MORE (D-Texas), the current CHC chairman (The Hill).

 

 

 

 

> The president’s request for more border funding is running into another stumbling block on Capitol Hill.

 

Lawmakers had hoped to get a bill to Trump's desk before leaving for the July Fourth recess, but both chambers appear ready to take up competing bills, a move that will kick the fight over the president's border money into next month.

 

The two bills largely align on the $4.5 billion funding level, but differ on a number of key provisions, such as funding for ICE and the Defense Department (The Hill).

 

> Senate Republicans want former Freedom Caucus member Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyMick Mulvaney to start hedge fund Fauci says positive White House task force reports don't always match what he hears on the ground Bottom line MORE sidelined in the budget negotiations and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinLawmakers fear voter backlash over failure to reach COVID-19 relief deal United Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid House Democrats plan to unveil bill next week to avert shutdown MORE to take the lead for the White House as Congress readies to leave for the July Fourth recess and only 16 legislative days stand between them and the six-week-long August recess.

 

Already, Mnuchin is playing a bigger role as GOP frustration with Mulvaney mounts, but the former South Carolina lawmaker is still in the room. While he didn't talk much at the last meeting, some GOP senators believe he has an iron grip on the White House position, which opposes a two-year spending deal (The Hill).



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



OPINION

Trump-Haley in 2020, by Andrew Stein, former president of the New York City Council, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/2RykYX3

 

Joe Biden teaches the country an important lesson on compromise, by Douglas SchoenDouglas SchoenSunday shows - Focus shifts to Judiciary impeachment hearing Bloomberg pollster: Candidate's campaign will focus on climate change, guns, education and income inequality Ukraine scandal shows that foreign influence is a bipartisan affair MORE, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/31RVhpm



WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Trita Parsi, the founder of the National Iranian American Council, to discuss the ongoing conflict with Iran, and Nate Snyder, a senior adviser at Cambridge Global and a former senior counterterrorism official at the Department of Homeland Security, to talk about 5G at 9 a.m. ET at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.

 

The House convenes at noon.

 

The Senate returns at 3 p.m. and resumes consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2020.

 

The president has his picture taken with this year’s presidential scholars at 11 a.m. He has lunch with Vice President Pence at 12:30 p.m. Trump will sign an executive order at 3 p.m. focused on transparency about health care prices and quality.

 

The Hill invites you to the “Future of Healthcare Summit” on Wednesday to discuss some of tomorrow’s biggest questions in health care with policymakers, health officials and industry leaders. Speakers include Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyCoushatta tribe begins long road to recovery after Hurricane Laura Senators offer disaster tax relief bill Bottom line MORE (R-La.); Dr. Amy Abernethy from the Food and Drug Administration; Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, who advised the Obama administration during enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; and Steve Papermaster, the CEO of Nano Vision. The event happens at Long View Gallery in Washington, D.C. To RSVP, take a look HERE.



ELSEWHERE

Supreme Court: The Supreme Court is set to hand down its much-anticipated decision on whether the Trump administration can include a citizenship question on the 2020 census (The Hill). The court has 12 cases remaining to decide this term, with some rulings expected today (Reuters).

 

State Watch: Spotlight Colorado: The Democratic presidential debates this week include a former boss and a former employee. Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' Senate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency Next crisis, keep people working and give them raises MORE (D-Colo.) got his start in politics as chief of staff to then-Denver Mayor John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperGardner on court vacancy: Country needs to mourn Ginsburg 'before the politics begin' Vulnerable GOP incumbents embrace filling Supreme Court seat this year GOP campaign director: 'There's no doubt that Republicans will control the Senate' MORE, both of whom are running as long shots for the Democratic presidential nomination. On Thursday, the two men share a crowded debate stage (The Hill).

 

Mars: NASA last week detected high amounts of methane gas on Mars, leading to animated scientific discussion about possible life on the red planet (The New York Times).

 

 

 



THE CLOSER

And finally … Mac and Chessie are the names chosen for two bottlenose dolphins living in the Potomac River.

 

A public contest organized by the Potomac Conservancy and the Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project resulted in monikers that improved on the impersonal-sounding “D1 and D2.”

 

More than 1,000 dolphins have been sighted in the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay, and they’re building families. As the river becomes less polluted thanks to environmental efforts, the dolphins have been seen upriver close to the Harry Nice Bridge, which spans the Potomac connecting Virginia and Maryland. In the 1880s, dolphins were seen even farther up-river in Alexandra, Va., according to the conservancy (WTOP).