The Hill's Morning Report — Harris brings her A game to Miami debate

The Hill's Morning Report — Harris brings her A game to Miami debate
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Thursday’s Democratic primary debate put a harsh light on former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenButtigieg campaign claims 'irregularities' in Nevada caucuses Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden More than 6 in 10 expect Trump to be reelected: poll MOREs vulnerabilities and showcased California Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisClyburn: Biden 'suffered' from not doing 'enough' in early debates Sanders is a risk, not a winner House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime MORE’s strengths.  

The exchanges in Miami drew the field closer to the center of Democratic platform on some issues than Wednesday’s debate and surfaced candidates’ willingness to gently ding Biden over his age and decades of Senate votes and compromises, which he struggled at times to explain.  


While Biden was largely untouched throughout the first hour, he was the recipient of incoming attacks from many of his competitors on a series of issues. But no one was as effective as Harris, who relentlessly bashed the former vice president over his past work with segregationist Dixiecrats and against busing. The attack from the California senator was teed up, evidenced by a tweet Harris’s team blasted out shortly after. 

Instead of backing down, Biden defended his record, pointing to his work as a public defender following Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Biden continued to defend himself after the debate, telling MSNBC’s Garrett Haake that Harris mischaracterized his position and work on busing. Biden also indicated that it’s frustrating to relitigate the past. 

“It should be about the future,” Biden said, pointing to overcrowding of prisons and voting rights. “We’re going at this backwards.” 

Some Biden supporters also seemed to lament the skirmish with Harris. One Biden backer told The Hill that while he doesn’t think the debate or the back-and-forth will reshape the campaign, it was not the former vice president’s best moment. 

The frustrating thing is that until that exchange with Kamala it was going perfectly fine,” the Biden supporter said. “I’m hanging my hat on the belief/hope that come next week the polling will be largely unchanged.”

“I wish he had answered the question better, but I don’t think this in any way fundamentally changes the race. I think he still is the solid frontrunner,” the supporter said. 

Following the debate, some of the former vice president’s surrogates and supporters came to his defense on Twitter, recognizing that Biden turned in a subpar performance. Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe Graham warned Pentagon chief about consequences of Africa policy: report Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump MORE (D-Del.) tweeted that Biden “fought for civil rights his entire career.” and retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey called Biden is “a leader” and policy “expert” who he conceded used some “bone head language” in Miami.

Throughout the night, Biden namechecked President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again.' Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden More than 6 in 10 expect Trump to be reelected: poll MORE and former President Obama, saying at one point that everyone “underestimate[s]” what the former president accomplished on climate change. He also slipped up when he said that the National Rifle Association is not the “enemy,” but rather that gun manufacturers are to blame for the lack of movement on gun control legislation. 


The battle with Biden wasn’t Harris’s only strong moment of the night. At one point as her fellow Democrats bickered on stage midway through the first hour about generational change in the party, Harris jumped in with the one-liner of the night. 

“Guys, you know what? America does not want to witness a food fight,” Harris said. “They wanna know how we’re gonna put on their table,” she added to loud applause.

The Thursday debate was the second in which a female candidate delivered a break-out performance. Harris prospered when it counted, as Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenPoll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden More than 6 in 10 expect Trump to be reelected: poll Sanders has wide leads in two of three battleground states: survey MORE (D-Mass.) did on Wednesday.  

In two hours, four candidates stood out on stage: Biden, Harris, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSchiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again.' Buttigieg campaign claims 'irregularities' in Nevada caucuses Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden MORE (I-Vt.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegButtigieg campaign claims 'irregularities' in Nevada caucuses Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden 9-year-old asks Buttigieg how to be strong and tell people he is gay too MORE. They managed to outpace six other aspirants in speaking time and engagement on the questions. Sanders stayed on message most of the night, playing many of the same hits he did during his 2016 bid about special interests and corporate greed.

Buttigieg played a key role in the health care debate in the opening hour, but he took a step back when he received the opening question of the second hour on the racial tensions that have embroiled South Bend in recent weeks after a police officer shot and killed an African American man. When asked why the racial composition of the city’s police force does not equal the percentage of African Americans in the city, he lamented that he “couldn't get it done.” 

The other debaters struggled to gain traction, including former tech entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangYang calls on someone to 'pull an Andrew Yang' and bow out of 2020 race Yang criticizes caucus voting method, says they don't encourage high voter turnout Nevada caucuses open with a few hiccups MORE; author Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonDemocrats: The road to kumbaya The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Pelosi take the gloves off; DNC wants Iowa recanvass Iowa and New Hampshire haters should think twice MORE who said she could defeat Trump with “love”; Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellRussian interference reports rock Capitol Hill California lawmakers mark Day of Remembrance for Japanese internment Chris Wallace: 'Just insane' Swalwell is talking impeaching Trump again MORE (D-Calif.); former Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperThe Hill's Campaign Report: What to watch for in Nevada Trump seeks to boost vulnerable GOP senator with Colorado rally Nonpartisan election forecaster moves Colorado Senate race to 'leans Democratic' MORE of Colorado; Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandNow is the time for a US data protection agency The Hill's Campaign Report: Warren up, Bloomberg down after brutal debate Ginsburg, accepting lifetime achievement award, urges working fathers to take an active role in kids' lives MORE (D-N.Y.), who repeatedly interrupted and talked over other candidates; and Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetNevada caucuses open with a few hiccups Overnight Energy: EPA moves to limit financial pressure on 'forever chemical' manufacturers | California sues Trump over water order| Buttigieg expands on climate plan Buttigieg expands on climate plan with new proposals MORE (D-Colo.), who trained most of his fire on Trump. 

The candidates who qualify under Democratic National Committee rules will next meet in Detroit on July 30 and July 31 for similar jousting to be moderated by CNN

The Hill: Biden falters in Democratic debate.

The Hill: Debate winners and losers.

The Washington Post: Transcript of the Thursday debate.

Dan Balz: Harris upstages Biden and Sanders with dominating performance.

The New York Times: Kamala Harris makes the case that Joe Biden should pass the torch to her.

David Brooks: Dems, please don’t drive me away.

National Review: Kamala’s killer instinct, Biden’s glass jaw, and Williamson’s mesmerizing lunacy.

South Bend Tribune: Buttigieg scores debate points, but eclipsed by Kamala Harris.



SUPREME COURT: Justices dealt an interim blow to the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the census in time for the 2020 survey, ruling as the court’s term ended on Thursday that the government did not provide adequate justification to seek the new data. 

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal wing of the court in sending the controversial matter back to the Commerce Department to come up with a rationale more persuasive than its stated commitment to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Those who oppose asking households about citizenship status maintain the question will have a chilling effect on the number and quality of responses and will wind up skewing a population survey that helps determine federal benefits and political representation over the span of a decade (The Hill). 

Describing a “mismatch” in the administration’s paper trail between the Commerce Department and the Department of Justice, Roberts wrote that “the VRA [Voting Rights Act] enforcement rationale — the sole stated reason — seems to have been contrived.”

President Trump expressed exasperation and tweeted from Japan that his administration is not giving up.

"I have asked the lawyers if they can delay the Census, no matter how long, until the United States Supreme Court is given additional information from which it can make a final and decisive decision on this very critical matter," Trump wrote, suggesting officials can provide another justification for satisfactory to the courts (The Hill).

"Can anyone really believe that as a great Country, we are not able the ask whether or not someone is a Citizen. Only in America!"

Under federal law, the census must begin next year on April 1. A former director of the Census Bureau told The Associated Press he believes Congress would have to change the law for the population count to be delayed, as the president suggested. 

Gerrymandering: Conservatives were happier about a ruling Thursday in another much-anticipated case about challenges to boundaries for states’ congressional districts. The court’s conservative majority ruled that federal courts have no role to play in the dispute over the practice known as partisan gerrymandering.

Voters and elected officials should be the arbiters of what is a political dispute, Roberts said in his opinion for the court. The decision could embolden political line-drawing for partisan gain when state lawmakers undertake the next round of redistricting following the 2020 census (The Associated Press). 

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), a leading proponent of redistricting reform, said he and his allies on the issue will “continue to fight” what he says is a “national scandal” (The Hill).

Former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderIf Roger Stone were a narco, he'd be in the clear Trump flexes pardon power with high-profile clemencies They forgot that under Trump, there are two sets of rules MORE, chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said in a statement that “history will not be kind” to the Roberts court because it “has undermined voting rights and core Democratic principles in America.” 

Richard L. Hasen: The Supreme Court’s green light to partisan gerrymandering will drag it down further into the mud.

Charles Lane: Progressives should be glad they lost the Supreme Court gerrymandering case. 

Leah Litman: The latest chapter in the Gorsuch-Kavanaugh saga is the most revealing yet.

Emily Bazelon: The Supreme Court isn’t as naive as Trump hoped.

Adam Liptak: After 14 years, Roberts takes charge. 

Michael Wines: Why the Supreme Court’s rulings on Thursday have profound implications for American politics. 

> High court vacancies: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSanders is a risk, not a winner Buttigieg sounds alarm after Sanders wins Nevada Where do we go from here? Conservation can show the way MORE (R-Ky.) said on Thursday that he would work with any Democratic president to get a hearing and a vote on a nominee to fill a potential Supreme Court vacancy. But the Senate majority leader said his conference would weigh the circumstances whenever a court seat is vacant. 

“A lot of it depends on the timing of the vacancy. Obviously if you have a vacancy in the first year of a term of a president, you’re not going to fail to fill that vacancy for a very lengthy period of time, no matter what the political composition is,” McConnell told reporters (The Hill). 

McConnell for a year prevented a confirmation hearing and Senate vote on former President Obama’s final nominee Judge Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandMitch McConnell may win the impeachment and lose the Senate The Trumpification of the federal courts Juan Williams: GOP are hypocrites on impeachment MORE, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The majority leader’s decision subsequently opened the door to Trump’s 2017 nomination of a conservative pick, Justice Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchNikki Haley hires Heritage Action chief to run her policy group First, we'll neuter all the judges Warren, Biden call for law to protect abortion rights MORE.





CONGRESS: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump's Intel moves spark Democratic fury Buttigieg sounds alarm after Sanders wins Nevada Russian interference reports rock Capitol Hill MORE (D-Calif.) did something Thursday that she hasn’t done much since she retook the gavel in January: She caved.  

Despite drum beats from the progressive wing of her party, Pelosi sided with the moderates and helped pass a clean version of the Senate’s $4.6 billion supplemental to address the crisis at the southern border after weeks of negotiations. 

As Juliegrace Brufke writes, the 305-102 vote marked a blow to Pelosi and liberal lawmakers who had demanded additional protections for migrant children, many of which were included in the House’s legislation. However with the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency responsible for caring for migrant children, on the verge of running out of funding to take care of migrants at the border and the likelihood that if the House didn’t pass the Senate bill, it would take at least 10 days to pass any bill due to the Fourth of July recess, the House passed the Senate’s version.

“We don’t need anyone, especially the U.S. Senate, to tell us what the needs are at the border,” Pelosi wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter to her conference. “The children come first. At the end of the day, we have to make sure that the resources needed to protect the children are available. Therefore, we will not engage in the same disrespectful behavior that the Senate did in ignoring our priorities. In order to get resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly pass the Senate bill.”

“As we pass the Senate bill, we will do so with a Battle Cry as to how we go forward to protect children in a way that truly honors their dignity and worth,” Pelosi wrote. 

Democrats voted in favor of the bill 129-95, while all but seven Republicans voted for it as well. Notably, seven members of leadership, six committee chairs and multiple key Pelosi allies all voted against the bill.

Trump is expected to sign the bill into law, something he wasn’t willing to do for the House version that was backed by the progressives. The Senate version passed the upper chamber on Wednesday 84-8.

Bottom line: This is a massive win for McConnell and House moderates, known also as the “front-liners,” who helped Democrats take back the House in November and one of their first opportunities where they’ve shown able to flex their muscle in the conference. It also comes at the expense of boisterous progressives who were on the short end of the stick Thursday and were not pleased about it. 

Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanDemocrats call on Pompeo to restore funding to Gaza USDA takes heat as Democrats seek probe into trade aid 2020 Democratic hopefuls focus on Iowa while making final pitches MORE (D-Wis.), a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, lit into the moderates over the push for the Senate bill and wondered on Twitter when the Problem Solvers Caucus had “become the Child Abuse Caucus.” The tweet was rebuked immediately by the moderates, with Rep. Max RoseMax RoseVulnerable Democrats fret over surging Sanders Rose, former FBI agent pen op-ed about the danger of global white nationalism: 'Terrorism is terrorism' MLB, Congress play hardball in fight over minor leagues MORE (D-N.Y.) confronting him on the House floor over it and telling reporters that Pocan made the comments “to get retweets.”



> Iran vote: The Senate is voting today on an amendment from a pair of Democratic senators to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would block the president from using funding to carry out military action against Iran unless he has congressional approval. The amendment would be added to the bill retroactively if it passes. 

According to Jordain Carney, the vote on the amendment, proposed by Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' Democratic senators ask FDA to ban device used to shock disabled students MORE (D-Va.) and Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Energy: EPA moves to limit financial pressure on 'forever chemical' manufacturers | California sues Trump over water order| Buttigieg expands on climate plan Now is our chance to turn the tide on ocean plastic pollution Buttigieg expands on climate plan with new proposals MORE (D-N.M.), comes amid heightened tension between the U.S. and Iran and the president’s decision this month to stop a military strike against the Iranians after the country shot down a U.S. drone. Democrats had threatened to block the NDAA bill unless they were granted a vote on the amendment.

Republicans are confident they will be able to beat back the vote given that it will need 60 votes to pass, meaning Democrats will have to pick off 13 Republicans to pass the amendment. 

“I don’t think it will get 60 votes,” Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeGOP chairman after Africa trip: US military drawdown would have 'real and lasting negative consequences' Overnight Energy: Controversial Trump adviser reportedly returning to EPA | Delta aims to be first carbon neutral airline | Dem senator gives EPA D-minus on 'forever chemicals' Architect of controversial EPA policies to return as chief of staff: report MORE (R-Okla.) told The Hill. “I think it will have all of the Democrats. Democrats are disciplined, Republicans aren’t, we know that. And we know also that there are going to be a few Republicans that will join.” 

Bottom line: Inhofe is right. There is no chance the amendment gets 60 votes. 

The Senate’s NDAA package provides $750 billion in total spending, including $642.5 billion in base budget for the Pentagon and $23.3 billion for the Department of Energy’s national security programs. It also gives $75.9 billion for the overseas contingency operations fund, an account that does not fall under budget cap restrictions. 

The Senate bill still must be reconciled with the House legislation, which stands at $733 billion. The House will take up their bill in July.  

The Senate opened the vote on the amendment at 5:02 a.m. and it is expected to remain open throughout the day so senators participating in Thursday night’s debate can return to Washington and take part.

> Former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan 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 is being represented by Jonathan Yarowsky, a former special counsel for President Clinton and former House Judiciary Committee general counsel, as he readies for his appearance on Capitol Hill on July 17. Yarowsky is a former colleague at WilmerHale, his former law firm, and a registered lobbyist (Politico).


Group of 20 summit & trade: Trump is eager for the Saturday sit-down planned with Chinese President Xi Jinping to try to revive trade negotiations that fell apart in May. The high-stakes discussion, which will take place on the sidelines of the G-20 gathering hosted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has been billed in world capitals as a positive sign, easing pressures in financial markets, although no detailed accord with China is expected anytime soon.

If Trump and Xi reboot negotiations, they could clear a path toward an eventual agreement to lift the tit-for-tat tariffs that raise prices for goods in both countries. But if the president emerges unsatisfied or empty-handed in Osaka after his meeting with Xi, the economic and political costs could be evident heading into an election year (The Hill). 

CNBC: Ahead of the Trump-Xi meeting, China is not budging.

The Wall Street Journal: Investors hope for trade progress.

The Associated Press: “Don’t meddle in the election,” Trump jokingly tells Putin.


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!


Past and current South Bend officials share responsibility for community’s failures, by Randy Kelly, opinion contributor, South Bend Tribune.

Trump should drain the G-20 swamp, by James Roberts, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Kim Wehle, a former assistant U.S. attorney and professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, to react to the Supreme Court term that ended Thursday, and presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardFive takeaways from new fundraising reports for 2020 Democrats Overnight Defense: GOP lawmaker takes unannounced trip to Syria | Taliban leader pens New York Times op-ed on peace talks | Cheney blasts paper for publishing op-ed GOP lawmaker makes unannounced trip to northeastern Syria MORE (D-Hawaii) offers a post-debate interview with host Krystal Ball at 9 a.m. ET at or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.

The House is out of session until July 9.  

The Senate early this morning continued final voting on the defense authorization bill before plans to recess until July 8.

The president is participating in the two-day G-20 summit. On Friday in Japan, the first day of the international gathering, Trump has met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinTrump's Intel moves spark Democratic fury Trump accuses Schiff of leaking information that Russia was helping Sanders Sanders is a risk, not a winner MORE and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.


NASA: Administrator Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick BridenstineThe real reason SpaceX hired former top NASA official Trump goes all in for NASA's Artemis return to the moon program House panel proposes NASA bill that would scrap the lunar base — or maybe not MORE announced Thursday that NASA will send a rotorcraft lander to Saturn’s largest moon. “Our next New Frontiers mission, Dragonfly, will explore Saturn’s largest moon, Titan,” he announced in a video posted to Twitter, adding that Titan is the place in the solar system most comparable to early Earth (The Hill).

State Watch: California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin Christopher NewsomTrump signs order diverting water to California farmers against state wishes California governor uses State of the State to highlight homelessness crisis California Gov. Gavin Newsom on the homeless: 'We own this issue' MORE (D) signed legislation on Thursday to suspend horse racing at the controversial Santa Anita Park racetrack where 30 horses have died in the past six months (The Hill). 

Capital gains: The White House is developing a plan to cut taxes by indexing capital gains to inflation in a move that would largely benefit the wealthy and may be done in a way that bypasses Congress. White House officials would like to move quickly to ensure the projected tax benefits take effect while Trump campaigns for reelection (Bloomberg).

Investigations: Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortFree Roger Stone Trump tweets test Attorney General Barr Maxine Waters blasts Trump as 'mafia boss' over Stone case MORE pleaded not guilty to state mortgage fraud charges in New York City on Thursday. The former Trump campaign chairman entered the plea at an arraignment in Manhattan while handcuffed and wearing a blue jail uniform. Manafort’s lawyer said that he plans to seek the dismissal of the charges, citing double jeopardy protections (The Associated Press).



And finally …    High-fives to this week’s Morning Report Quiz Winners! When it comes to trivia about presidential debates, The Hill has some expert readers.

Quiz winners this week are William Mattingly, Donna Nackers, Craig Pyron, Rick Dunham (playing along from his laptop in China), Merrilee Cox, Dolina Millar, Shin Inouye, Manley Glaubitz, Susan Widmer, Peter Delloro, Tim Aiken, Hazel Rosenblum-Sellers, Cam Fine, Heather Ciandella, Itillery, David Bond, William Chittam, Ron Domingues, Jack Barshay, Elizabeth Murphy, John Donato, Mike Purdy, Joe McCluskey, Rick Zimmer, Bob Fowler, Candi Cee, Rich Gruber, Patrick Kavanagh, Rick Mito, David Straney, Randall S. Patrick, Luther Berg, Dara Erinashley, Jerry Kovar, Peter John, Arne Hendry, Rose DeMarco, Rose DeMarco and Buzz Watkins. 

They knew that former President George H.W. Bush caused a stir during a town-hall style debate in 1992 when he checked his watch.

Immediately following the 1960 televised debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, radio listeners thought Nixon had won, but millions of TV viewers reacted unfavorably to Nixon’s five o’clock shadow and thin, sweaty appearance and gave the nod to Kennedy, the tanned, handsome senator.

Former Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen delivered one of the most effective and well-executed debate put-downs in modern politics against Dan Quayle when he said, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” 

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSchiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again.' The problem with Trump's Middle East peace plan Trump's Intel moves spark Democratic fury MORE wrote in her recent memoir about an uncomfortable debate moment when Donald Trump loomed behind her on stage in 2016: “Maybe I have overlearned the lesson of staying calm, biting my tongue, digging my fingernails into a clenched fist, smiling all the while, determined to present a composed face to the world.” 

During a town-hall-style debate with then-President Obama in 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyPaul Ryan says he disagrees with Romney's impeachment vote Progressives hope Nevada offers roadmap for pro-union 2020 victory Texas woman sentenced for illegal voting faces deportation after parole MORE got everyone’s attention when he boasted about having “binders full of women.”