The Hill's Morning Report — The wall problem confronting Dems and the latest on Dorian

The Hill's Morning Report — The wall problem confronting Dems and the latest on Dorian
© Getty Images

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Thursday! Our newsletter gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Al Weaver is holding down the fort for the week while Alexis Simendinger is on vacation. Find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and CLICK HERE to subscribe!


Hurricane Dorian regained strength overnight as it creeps up the U.S. coastline, becoming a Category 3 storm once again as it started to batter the Carolinas, leaving tens of thousands without power already as the area deals with “life-threatening” storm surge and flash flooding. 

“Life-threatening storm surge and dangerous winds are expected along portions of the coasts of South Carolina and North Carolina, and portions of southeast Virginia and the southern Chesapeake Bay, regardless of the exact track of Dorian’s center,” the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in a Thursday morning update. “Water levels could rise well in advance of the arrival of strong winds … Flash flooding will become increasingly likely across the eastern Carolinas. There is a high risk of flash flooding over coastal sections of the Carolinas where life-threatening flash flooding is expected.” 

According to the NHC, Dorian is expected to move close to the South Carolina coast through the day before moving “near or over” the coast of North Carolina tonight and Friday. Maximum sustained winds are near 115 mph, with higher gusts expected.

The Associated Press reported early Thursday that in South Carolina, over 20,700 in Charleston County and over 6,800 in Beaufort County were already without power. In a Wednesday press release, Duke Energy said it expected the storm to cause 700,000 outages in the Carolinas and that it brought in resources from across 23 states and Canada to respond “as soon as it was safe to do so.”

In total, over 800,000 South Carolina residents were ordered to evacuate and Charleston Airport closed on Wednesday afternoon in anticipation of the storm. 

In the Bahamas, the death toll rose to 20 as residents returned to survey the devastation left behind by the slow-moving hurricane that wreaked havoc there for more than a day and a half, with the possibility high that more casualties will be announced in the coming days. Of the 20 deaths, 17 were reported in the Abacos and three were reported in Grand Bahama (The Washington Post).

“We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history,” Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said at a press conference. “We can expect more deaths to be recorded. This is just preliminary information.”

Reports suggest that of the 400,000 Bahamas residents, tens of thousands will need help getting back on their feet in the form of food and other support tools (Reuters). 

The Bahamian government sent hundreds of first responders, marines, doctors, nurses and other workers across the islands as they try to help victims with their recovery and examine what work needs to be done in the future (The Associated Press). 

“Right now there are just a lot of unknowns,” Parliament member Iram Lewis said. “We need help.”


Throughout the day, President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice says it will recommend Trump veto FISA bill Fauci: Nominating conventions may be able to go on as planned Poll: Biden leads Trump by 11 points nationally MORE tweeted about the looming threat of Hurricane Dorian on the U.S., including an appearance in the Oval Office where it appeared he was using a manually altered chart showing the storm to be heading in the direction of Alabama, which is not in the pathway of the storm. 

Trump told reporters later in the day that he didn’t know anything about the changed map, but was adamant that original forecasts called for Alabama to be impacted by the hurricane.   

“We got lucky in Florida. Very, very lucky indeed," Trump told reporters. "We had actually, our original chart was that it was going to be hitting Florida directly” (The Hill).

Politico: Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former NIC Director Greg Treverton rips US response; WHO warns of 'immediate second peak' if countries reopen too quickly This week: Surveillance fight sets early test for House's proxy voting Overwhelming majority of publicly traded firms have not returned small-business loans: review MORE (R-Fla.), Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottJuan Williams: Justice Thomas seizes his moment in the Trump era The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden seeks to tamp down controversy over remarks about black support African American figures slam Biden on 'you ain't black' comments MORE (R-S.C.) ask Trump to waive visa requirements for Bahamians.



CONGRESS: Democrats officially have themselves a wall problem.

In the wake of news that Trump is diverting $3.6 billion in military funds to build a border wall, Democrats are running short on possible legislative responses after a federal judge gave the Trump administration the go-ahead to use emergency powers to make use of the funding.

Pressing the issue runs the risk of derailing government funding legislation that Congress needs to pass by Oct. 1 to avert another shutdown. While Democrats have vowed not to backfill the military construction accounts being tapped by the Pentagon for wall construction, standing firm would give the president an opening to blame them for reduced funding for military projects. And Democrats know that trying to add stringent language about the wall to any funding bills this month could increase the odds of another shutdown (The Hill).

> Guns: As members of Congress seek a legislative solution following three mass shootings, major corporations are filling the void and have taken it upon themselves to halt the sale of some guns and large amounts of ammunition.

Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, introduced new gun policies, saying it would no longer sell certain types of ammunition and requesting that customers do not openly carry guns in its stores, a move that earned a response from the National Rifle Association. Kroger, another mega-retailer, quickly followed Walmart’s lead and urged its customers against open carrying at the grocery chain.  

The two recent moves follow one from Dick's Sporting Goods, which stopped gun sales in 17 percent of its stores. Pro-gun critics warned that the sporting goods giant would face a boycott from gun enthusiasts. However, the retailer reported better than expected earnings last week. 

Anti-gun groups are now setting their sights higher. SumOfUs, a progressive group, is pressuring Visa to report excessive, erratic gun and ammo purchases to the FBI. However, Visa's CEO says the company won’t play ball and will not regulate what consumers can and cannot buy (The Hill).

The Associated Press: Texas governor resists calls for quick votes after shooting.

The Hill: Former Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidNevada congressman admits to affair after relationship divulged on podcast Overnight Energy: 600K clean energy jobs lost during pandemic, report finds | Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife | Energy Dept. to buy 1M barrels of oil Bottom line MORE (D-Nev.) predicts Senate will nix legislative filibuster. 

The Hill: Push on “surprise” medical bills hits new roadblocks.



> Retirements: Rep. Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerLobbying world House Judiciary Committee calls on Bezos to testify as part of antitrust probe GOP, Democratic senators call for more assistance to local media in coronavirus stimulus MORE (R-Wis.), the second most senior House member after Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungHillicon Valley: Apple, Google launch virus tracing system | Republican says panel should no longer use Zoom | Lawmakers introduce bill to expand telehealth House lawmakers introduce bipartisan bill to expand telehealth services Campaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis MORE (R-Alaska), announced Wednesday that he will retire from Congress at the end of his term and exit after 42 years in the lower chamber. 

Sensenbrenner is the 16th Republican set to leave the House by the end of the term. He is also the second Wisconsin Republican to announce their exit from the House, after Rep. Sean DuffySean DuffyMcCarthy blasts Pelosi's comments on Trump's weight Overnight Health Care: Trump says testing may be 'overrated' | Ousted official warns national virus plan needed | NIH begins studying drug combo touted by Trump Trump hails Wisconsin court overturning governor's stay-at-home order MORE revealed that he will resign his House seat on Sept. 23 to focus on his family and prepare to welcome his ninth child in October.

“When I began my public service in 1968, I said I would know when it was time to step back. After careful consideration, I have determined at the completion of this term, my 21st term in Congress, it will be that time," Sensenbrenner said in a statement (The Hill).

On the Democratic side, Rep. Susan DavisSusan Carol DavisWarren announces slate of endorsements including Wendy Davis and Cornyn challenger Hegar Warren exits, and our hopes for a woman president once again are dashed Ocasio-Cortez says candidate she backed in Texas Democratic primary 'came closer than anyone imagined' MORE (Calif.) announced Wednesday that she will not seek reelection for her congressional seat in 2020. Davis, 75, has represented San Diego since winning her seat in 2000.  

California’s 53rd Congressional District is likely to remain in Democratic control. She is the fourth Democrat to announce that they will not run for reelection along with Reps. David Loebsack (Iowa), José Serrano (D-N.Y.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), who is running for the Senate (The Hill).  


POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: A new poll in Wisconsin, a key 2020 swing state, shows a pair of Democratic presidential candidates leading the president in general election matchups.

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenProsecutor investigating whether Tara Reade gave false testimony as expert witness Poll: Biden leads Trump by 11 points nationally George Floyd's sister says Minneapolis officers should be charged with murder MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersProgressives raise alarm over letting lobbying groups access PPP funds Loeffler runs ad tying Doug Collins to Pelosi, Sanders, Biden Hillicon Valley: Tech companies lead way on WFH forever | States and counties plead for cybersecurity assistance | Trump weighing anti-conservative bias panel MORE (I-Vt.) hold solid leads over Trump in hypothetical general election matchups, according to a new Marquette University Law School poll released on Wednesday. Biden leads Trump by a 9-point margin (51 percent to 42 percent), while Sanders leads by 4 points (48 percent to 44 percent). Trump also is tied with Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenPress: Susan Rice would be ready to step in as POTUS Pentagon charts its own course on COVID-19, risking Trump's ire Warren to host high-dollar fundraiser for Biden MORE (D-Mass.) and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisCalifornia 25 and COVID-19 Press: Susan Rice would be ready to step in as POTUS Trump retweets personal attacks on Clinton, Pelosi, Abrams MORE (D-Calif.). 

In the Wisconsin Democratic primary, Biden also holds a lead, with 28 percent naming him as their first choice. Sanders sits in second with 20 percent, with Warren in third at 17 percent.  

Sanders won Wisconsin the 2016 Democratic primary race with 56 percent of the vote (The Hill).

The Washington Post: Biden mocks gaffes to Stephen ColbertStephen Tyrone ColbertBiden answers daughter's phone call, eats ice cream during interview with Colbert Biden to give virtual interview with Colbert on Thursday Jimmy Kimmel mocks Pence delivery of PPE MORE: “The reason I came on the Jimmy KimmelJames (Jimmy) Christian KimmelBiden to give virtual interview with Colbert on Thursday Jimmy Kimmel: 'I was wrong' to share deceptive Pence video Scarborough apologizes to Pence, Cruz after heated Twitter feud MORE show is …”

Gabby Orr, Politico: Trump’s fall: More rallies, more promises, more Dem attacks.



> 2020 exit?: The Democratic presidential field could be dwindling once again in the coming weeks ahead of the October debate.

New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioWoman loses her job after viral video shows her calling police on black birdwatcher in Central Park Woman apologizes after video goes viral of her calling police on black birdwatcher in Central Park De Blasio: 2 million people in New York City face food insecurity amid pandemic MORE (D) indicated Wednesday that if he does not qualify for the series of debates on Oct. 15 and 16, he will likely shutter his bid for the Democratic nomination. If he misses the October debate, it will be the second in a row he has been absent from after failing to qualify for the Sept. 12 affair in Houston.

“I think the logical thing to say is I’m going to go and try and make the October debates and if I can, that’s a good reason to keep going forward, and if I can’t, I think it’s really tough to conceive of continuing,” de Blasio said. 

10 Democratic presidential candidates are slated to participate in the Sept. 12 debate after hitting polling and fundraising requirements laid out by the Democratic National Committee. Four Democratic candidates ended their bids in the weeks leading up to the deadline to qualify for the September debate, knowing they would be on the outside looking in. 

The same polling and fundraising prerequisites apply for the October debate, meaning multiple candidates who did not qualify for the September debate could be included then. Among them are Tom SteyerTom SteyerBloomberg wages war on COVID-19, but will he abandon his war on coal? Overnight Energy: 600K clean energy jobs lost during pandemic, report finds | Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife | Energy Dept. to buy 1M barrels of oil Ocasio-Cortez, Schiff team up to boost youth voter turnout MORE and Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardIt's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process 125 lawmakers urge Trump administration to support National Guard troops amid pandemic Biden wins all-mail Kansas primary MORE (D-Hawaii), who both reached the fundraising criteria but need one poll and two polls with 2 percent support, respectively, to qualify (The New York Times). 

The New York Times: 5 Takeaways from the Democrats’ climate town hall.

Elsewhere in the 2020 universe Scarlett Johansson announced Wednesday that she is supporting Warren for the 2020 Democratic nod. In an interview, she argued that Warren is a candidate who is “thoughtful and progressive but realistic” (The Hollywood Reporter) …  Kansas State Treasurer Jake LaTurner announced Wednesday that he is dropping his Senate bid and will primary Rep. Steve WatkinsSteven (Steve) Charles WatkinsHispanic Caucus campaign arm endorses Topeka mayor for Congress The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pushed for her ouster The Hill's Morning Report — The wall problem confronting Dems and the latest on Dorian MORE (R-Kan.) for his House seat. Former Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) called on LaTurner to run against Watkins as rumors swirl about his possible resignation, which Watkins has refuted repeatedly (The Hill).


ADMINISTRATION: Vice President Pence’s office is seeking to contain the backlash to his decision to stay at a property owned by the president during a two-day visit to Ireland. 

The typically conflict averse Pence set off Democrats and ethics watchdogs by staying for two nights at Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg, despite it being on the opposite side of the island from Dublin, where he met with Irish leaders on Tuesday. 

The vice president’s office attempted to distance Trump from the decision-making process surrounding the stay, but the move alarmed critics already convinced Trump has used the presidency to bolster his business. However, Marc Short, the vice president’s chief of staff, told reporters on the trip that Trump suggested they stay at his hotel, with the VP’s press office backtracking later (The Hill).

As for Trump, he said that he had “no involvement” in Pence’s stay at the hotel in Doonbeg.

"I had no involvement, other than it’s a great place," Trump told reporters on Wednesday.

"I heard he was going there, but it wasn’t my idea for Mike to go there," he said. "Mike went there because his family’s there. That’s my understanding of it."

The Associated Press: Peaceful Iceland amazed by weapons for Pence’s security. 

The Hill: China, U.S. agree to meet in October for trade talks.



> Opioids: The Trump administration is awarding state and local governments nearly $2 billion in grants in a renewed push fight the ongoing opioid crisis.  

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the grants will come in just north of $1.8 billion in funding secured from Congress last year. The Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration is granting $932 million to states and some U.S. territories to help provide treatment and help with recovery on the local level.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is spending $900 million over three years to help state and local governments better track overdose data. In the first year, $301 million will be spent in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

“These funds will be delivered to the communities where their help is most needed,” Trump said on Wednesday. 

“So many lives are stopped cold by drugs,” Trump said. “Whether it’s death or just a ruined life. In many cases you have just a ruined life because of drugs. They never recover” (USA Today).

Elsewhere in the administration … Former White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE is planning to write a book about his time in the White House but not before the president leaves office. According to a report, Kelly told Trump he would hold his plan to release a book as long as the president didn’t train his fire on him (CNN).

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!



Enemy missiles are a mounting worry — so why isn't Washington reacting? By Stephen Blank, opinion contributor, The Hill. 

Joe Biden's record — not his gaffes — is dooming his campaign, by Max Burns, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Anthony ScaramucciAnthony ScaramucciThe Memo: Fauci at odds with Trump on virus The Memo: Speculation grows about Fauci's future Well-wishes pour in across media for Chris Cuomo after coronavirus diagnosis MORE, founder of SkyBridge Capital and former White House communications director, on how he’s flipped his support against the president; Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiBossie, Lewandowski warned Trump he was in trouble in 2020: report House panel releases long-awaited transcripts from Russia probe Hillicon Valley — Presented by Facebook — FCC fines mobile carriers 0M for selling user data | Twitter verified fake 2020 candidate | Dems press DHS to complete election security report | Reddit chief calls TikTok spyware MORE, former campaign manager for Trump, to discuss his possible New Hampshire Senate bid; and Michael Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, to react to CNN’s climate change town hall. Find Hill.TV programming at or on YouTube at 10 a.m.

The House and Senate return to Washington on Sept. 9. 

The president meets with General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra at 1:45 p.m. He will present the Presidential Medal of Freedom to NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West at 4:30 p.m.

Pence is in London and will participate in a bilateral meeting with Boris Johnson at 12:45 p.m. local time. Pence and second lady Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Crowds return during Memorial Day weekend Trump marks Memorial Day at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Fort McHenry OVERNIGHT ENERGY: New documents show EPA rolled back mileage standards despite staff, WH concerns | Land management bureau grants 75 royalty rate cuts for oil and gas | EPA employees allege leadership interference with science in watchdog survey MORE will attend the Lord Mayor’s International Trade Dinner at 6:55 p.m., and will depart London to fly back to Washington at 9 p.m. 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoGrassley: White House 'failed to address' if there was a 'good reason' for IG firings Overnight Defense: Pentagon watchdog sidelined by Trump resigns | Plan would reportedly bring troops in Afghanistan back by Election Day | Third service member dies from COVID-19 Ex-Pompeo staffers asked to sign letter against 'smear campaign' MORE will meet with Guatemalan President-elect Alejandro Giammattei at the State Department at 1 p.m. 

The Hill hosts the next installment in the Leadership in Action series next Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 1777 F Street NW. We will be joined by Reps. Buddy CarterEarl (Buddy) Leroy CarterLoeffler works to gain traction with conservatives amid Collins primary bid Republicans came to the table on climate this year Republicans storm closed-door hearing to protest impeachment inquiry MORE (R-Ga.), John Curtis (R-Utah) and Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Coal company sues EPA over power plant pollution regulation | Automakers fight effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards | EPA watchdog may probe agency's response to California water issues Automakers fight effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards We owe front-line workers a debt of gratitude for their courage and compassion MORE (D-Mich.) to take the political pulse of the country's young voters and discuss what issues matter most as we approach the 2020 cycle. RSVP HERE.


Brexit: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was dealt yet another blow Wednesday as Parliament blocked his push to set a new election in mid-October as they continue to block his efforts to execute Brexit without a deal on Oct. 31. Johnson fell more than 130 votes short of triggering an election that would allow him to repeal the bill interfering with his plan to execute Brexit at the end of October (Reuters).  

Hong Kong: Hong Kong Leader Carrie Lam said Thursday that she was not pressured by mainland China into withdrawing an extradition bill that had sparked protests across the territory, and that it was her attempt to lower tensions. Protesters still have a list of other demands and have vowed to continue their demonstrations, though the extradition bill was the driving force behind the protests that started in June. Lam, however, says that her government will not and cannot accede to the other demands laid out by the protesters (The Associated Press).

Vatican: Pope FrancisPope FrancisPope calls for cooperation on coronavirus vaccine development, international sharing The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump, Congress close to deal on new coronavirus bill Pope calls for inequalities to be abolished after 'time of trial' MORE said on Wednesday that it is an “honor” to be criticized by conservative Catholics in the U.S. while on a lengthy flight from Rome to Maputo, Mozambique, as he kicks off  a week-long tour of Africa.   

“For me it's an honor they attack me, the Americans,” Francis told a French journalist when he was handed a book by the same journalist titled “Comment L'Amérique Veut Changer de Pape” or “How America Wants to Change the Pope.” Included in the book are criticisms from conservative Catholics against Francis over his past remarks on immigration and climate change (CBS News).


And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by tonight’s kickoff of the NFL season, we’re eager for some smart guesses about NFL history and current events

Email your responses to, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday. 

The New England Patriots won their sixth Super Bowl title in February with their defeat of the Los Angeles Rams. How many Super Bowls has New England appeared in overall? 

  1.     7
  2.     9
  3.     11
  4.     12


The Chicago Bears unveiled a statue outside Soldier Field on Tuesday of which former legendary player ahead of their Thursday opener versus the Green Bay Packers? 

  1.     Walter Payton
  2.     Gale Sayers
  3.     Mike Ditka 
  4.     Jay Cutler


The Dallas Cowboys announced Wednesday that they reached a contract extension with which key player and NFL rushing champion ahead of Week 1?

  1.     Amari Cooper
  2.     Dak Prescott
  3.     Melvin Gordon
  4.     Ezekiel Elliott


New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is the only player to win six Super Bowl rings. Who is the only other NFL player to have won five Super Bowl rings?

  1.     Charles Haley
  2.     Lynn Swann
  3.     Adam Vinatieri
  4.     Jerry Rice