The Hill's Morning Report - Congress returns: What to expect

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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. 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!



Congress returns to Washington today after the August recess with a lengthy agenda on its hands in the coming weeks as lawmakers look ahead to averting a government shutdown and potentially taking action on gun violence legislation, among other items. 

 

The most immediate pressing matter facing Congress is on the spending side as it braces for a three-week sprint to avoid the second government shutdown of the year after the 35-day squabble over wall funding that ended in late January. 

 

House Democrats are moving forward with their plan to punt the fight until later in the fall. House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOvernight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 House to vote next week on sweeping bill to lower drug prices Congress races to beat deadline on shutdown MORE (D-Md.) announced plans to put a clean stopgap funding bill on the floor the week of Sept. 16. The bill is expected to run through the week before Thanksgiving, but it could be a mini-slog, as lawmakers will have to reach an agreement with the administration on border restrictions, as Jordain Carney reports.

 

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, will start marking up bills next week and want to get at least one package to Trump’s desk this month, even though Democrats say there isn’t time to do so. 

 

On top of spending, Democrats have a more broad issue to deal with: how to keep the focus on their agenda in Congress as multiple House committees continue to investigate the president and his connections and the 2020 Democratic primary consumes most of the oxygen. 

 

As Cristina Marcos writes, Democrats face a growing dilemma about how to keep a focus on their agenda amid an escalating series of investigations of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments MORE and as support for impeachment grows within the party. While the support has grown, especially over the past two months, one area where it has not is with those in swing districts who handed Democrats the majority in November, many of whom are focused on other issues, such as the party’s agenda. 

 

Nevertheless, House Democrats have shown no signs of slowing down their investigative efforts, including the decision to open a series of new investigative fronts in recent weeks on payments to women alleging affairs with the president, Trump's promotion of his own hotels for government use and the president's alleged promise of pardons related to his immigration agenda, all under the ever-expanding impeachment umbrella.

 

Democrats also remain vocal about election security, and they continue to hammer Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocratic challenger to Joni Ernst releases ad depicting her as firing gun at him Senate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days The case for censuring, and not impeaching, Donald Trump MORE (R-Ky.) for his decision not to bring legislation to the floor on the issue. Senate and House Democrats are pushing to have legislation brought to the floor on the issues, but Republicans remain hesitant. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants House, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Why a second Trump term and a Democratic Congress could be a nightmare scenario for the GOP MORE (D-N.Y.) and Hoyer sent letters to their colleagues on Thursday detailing their goals on the issue over the coming months.

 

“We must continue our push to protect our elections at the federal, state, and local levels, especially in the upcoming Senate appropriations process,” Schumer wrote (The Hill). 

 

Lastly, lawmakers are expected to tackle gun violence in some form. Congressional Democrats continue to call for Senate Republicans to bring up the background checks bill the House passed in February. McConnell is not expected to consider the legislation. However, public support on background checks remains high and has only risen since the pair of mass shootings in early August in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, with a third shooting in West Texas taking place just over a week ago. 

 

The Hill: Crenshaw-AOC battle puts spotlight on lending guns to a friend.

 

The Washington Post: Trump to visit Baltimore Thursday, a city he called a ‘rodent infested mess.’

 

The Washington Post: Freshman Rep. Susan WildSusan WildOvernight Health Care: Democratic group to only endorse AG candidates who back abortion rights | Protect Our Care launches seven-figure ad buy to boost vulnerable Dems | California sues Juul Group launches seven-figure ad buy boosting vulnerable Democrats on drug prices Overnight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite MORE (D-Pa.) turns grief from partner’s suicide into a new purpose.

 

 

 





LEADING THE DAY

WHITE HOUSE/ADMINISTRATION: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoReport: Pompeo had secret meeting with GOP donors in London The shifting impeachment positions of Jonathan Turley The Hill's Morning Report - Dem dilemma on articles of impeachment MORE defended the president’s recently abandoned decision to invite Taliban leadership along with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to talks at Camp David as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized the initial invitation. 

 

Pompeo pulled a “full Ginsburg” on Sunday morning, appearing on all five Sunday shows, where he backed the president’s move, saying that the invite was a political risk as Trump looks for a deal to bring down the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan. However, the president has since recalled Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S.’s lead negotiator, and negotiations are currently dead (The Hill). 

 

We're looking for more than words on paper. We're looking for real delivered commitment, and the Taliban demonstrated either that they weren't willing to or couldn't live up to the commitment they needed to make to reduce violence there," Pompeo said on "Fox News Sunday." 

 

Pompeo also supported the move by citing the history of negotiations at Camp David, noting that many “bad actors” have come through the presidential retreat for talks. However, some lawmakers pointed to other history at Camp David as they lambasted the president’s initial call.

 

“Camp David is where America’s leaders met to plan our response after al Qaeda, supported by the Taliban, killed 3000 Americans on 9/11,” said Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran Cruz, Graham and Cheney call on Trump to end all nuclear waivers for Iran Pompeo: US ending sanctions waiver for site where Iran resumed uranium enrichment MORE (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 House Republican, in a tweet. “No member of the Taliban should set foot there. Ever.”

 

The president said that he nixed the meeting after the Taliban claimed credit for last week’s deadly attack in Kabul, which killed 11 civilians and a U.S. service member. The Taliban also claimed a suicide bombing on Tuesday in Kabul that killed at least 16 people and wounded more than 100 (The Washington Post).

 

The Associated Press: Plan for Taliban meeting latest bold Trump gamble to unravel.

 

 

 

 

> Trump battles Dems: After a rough-and-tumble August recess, the White House is forced to do battle with House Democrats as they prepare to unleash new fronts in their investigations of the president and to battle over other legislative issues, including guns.  

 

As Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels write, Trump entered the August recess from a point of strength but has squandered momentum during a month that saw deep questions raised about his handling of the economy and the ongoing trade war with China. Underlying those issues are continued worries of a possible recession during an election year. 

 

The White House has also been forced to contend with a handful of controversies that have distracted from the administration’s agenda. Among those are the president’s accusations that Jews who vote Democrat are “disloyal,” his cancellation of a trip to Denmark after its leaders shot down the possibility of the U.S. purchasing Greenland, and his never-ending battle with the media over his assertion that Alabama was in the path of Hurricane Dorian, even as the storm was hitting the Carolinas. 

 

Reuters: International Atomic Energy Agency found uranium traces at Iran “atomic warehouse.”

 

Politico: Air Force leaders order probe of Trump resort stays.



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IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Another Republican has announced a primary bid against the president. This time, it’s former Rep. Mark SanfordMark SanfordThe Hill's Campaign Report: Late bids surprise 2020 Democratic field Michigan GOP attempting to have Trump be only Republican candidate on ballot Weld files to run in GOP presidential primary in New Hampshire MORE (R-S.C.), who became the third Republican to primary the president despite staring at the ultimate David and Goliath situation. 

 

Sanford, the former South Carolina governor and House Freedom Caucus member made his announcement on “Fox News Sunday,” pointing to the need for a focus on the rising national debt and deficit spending. 

 

“I’m here to tell you now that I am going to get in,” Sanford said. “I think we need to have a conversation on what it means to be a Republican … As a Republican Party, we have lost our way.”

 

Sanford has long been a thorn in the side of Trump, having opposed him during the GOP primary and continuing to criticize him throughout his first two years in office before Trump came out in support of his primary challenger hours prior to the polls closing. Sanford lost the primary (The Hill). 

 

As for Trump, his campaign not only has 2020 in view, but also seems to have the long game in view. Speaking to a convention of GOP delegates in Indian Wells, Calif., on Saturday, Brad ParscaleBradley (Brad) James ParscaleMORE, the president’s campaign manager, opined that Trump and his family will be a “dynasty” for the GOP (The Associated Press). 

 

“The Trumps will be a dynasty that will last for decades, propelling the Republican Party into a new party,” Parscale said. “One that will adapt to changing cultures. One must continue to adapt while keeping the conservative values that we believe in.”

 

Parscale’s comments raised eyebrows among some Republicans over the weekend who question the chances of a dynasty. One GOP strategist argued that while the president will remain relevant well into the future, many remain skeptical of the possibility of a Trump dynasty.

 

“Win or lose next year, Donald Trump will be a force in American politics as long as he’s capable of sending a tweet. But Americans are inherently skeptical of political dynasties since they run counter to our democracy,” the strategist said. “Plus none of the Trump kids have shown their father's panache, raw political instincts or communications skills in the era of social media that will be necessary for any successful political candidate in the years ahead.”

 

CBS News: Republicans in three states cancel presidential nominating contests for 2020.

 

The New York Times: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump to hold campaign rally in Michigan Castro hits fundraising threshold for December debate Buttigieg: Harris 'deserves to be under anybody's consideration' for vice president MORE (D-Mass.) stands out at New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention.

 

The New York Times: How Warren raised big money before she denounced big money.

 

The Washington Post: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump to hold campaign rally in Michigan Castro hits fundraising threshold for December debate Buttigieg draws fresh scrutiny, attacks in sprint to Iowa MORE and Warren, longtime frenemies, will finally meet in a debate chasing the biggest prize of all.

 

 

 

 

> North Carolina special: Republicans are in scramble mode ahead of a key special election in North Carolina and are trying to avoid a potentially embarrassing loss in a race that could give off hints of what might lie ahead electorally for the GOP and Democrats.

 

Internal polls of the race in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District show Republican Dan Bishop and Democrat Dan McCready in a dead heat, but — just like 2018 — Republican officials and strategists are privately griping that Democrats have an edge in voter enthusiasm. 

 

More than anything, Republicans are banking on Monday night’s visit to the district by the president to rally voters to the polls to deny Democrats yet another victory in a contested House race and send Bishop to Washington (The Hill).

 

> GOP down ballot: For the second campaign cycle in a row, House Republicans are facing a wave of retirements that threaten their prospects at the ballot box and could be a blow to their push to retake the House in 2020.

 

15 House Republicans have announced this cycle that they are retiring, resigning or running for other offices, including eight since the summer recess began in late July, some of whom would have faced a tough battle for reelection. However, most are in safe GOP seats, meaning that those departing are possibly doing so because of Trump era fatigue or not wanting to serve in the minority for years to come (The Hill). 

 

“The most likely outcome is a status quo election for the House. And that certainly influences people’s decision [to retire], whether they think they can regain the majority or not,” said former Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloRepublicans can't exploit the left's climate extremism without a better idea Progressive Latino group launches first incumbent protection campaign The Memo: Bad polls for Trump shake GOP MORE (R-Fla.), one of two dozen Republicans who lost reelection bids during the 2018 midterms

 

“For sure, some of those members who retired, [staying in the minority] was a factor in their thinking,” he added.

 

On the Senate side, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGiffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick Push to investigate Bidens sets up potential for Senate turf war Pressure grows on House GOP leaders to hold line ahead of impeachment trial MORE (R-Texas) is facing his toughest reelection test next year as Texas becomes a more competitive state for Democrats, particularly in suburban areas that almost propelled former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) into the Senate last year. 

 

Unlike past cycles, Republicans are being forced to pay attention to the Lone Star State as Texas Democrats go all out to win the party’s first statewide election in 25 years, including the launch of a multi million-dollar war room to deliver data and messaging to define Cornyn as a lackey of the president (The Hill). 

 

“He’s a much stronger candidate than [Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrade deal talks expand as Congress debates tech legal shield Sanders meets with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred Cruz knocks Chick-fil-A over past donation: It has 'lost its way' MORE (R-Texas)], and in any other year, he’d be untouchable, he’d have it in walk,” said Bill Miller, a GOP lobbyist and consultant in Austin. “This year, because of Trump, it’s a different dynamic. The Democrats will have a bloody primary, and that’s not the best way to take on an incumbent, but they’re hoping for magic at the top of the ticket. Cornyn is strong, but he’s vulnerable.”

 

Paul Kane: Reps. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyTrump escalates fight over tax on tech giants Sanders's Massachusetts state director 'moves on' from campaign Senate Democrat's bill would allow sanctions for 'egregious' actions causing climate change MORE III (D-Mass.), Cheney consider their choices in the call of familial ambition.

 

Reuters: Tom SteyerThomas (Tom) Fahr SteyerCastro hits fundraising threshold for December debate The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi says House will move forward with impeachment Booker: Primary voters 'being denied' their candidates of choice MORE clears hurdle to join Democratic debate in October.



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

Pardon power is not meant for securing bribes, by Kim Wehle, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2kp6AEJ 

 

US-China trade war risks becoming a currency war — with greater damage, by Robert D. Hormats, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2lKwKSh 



WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Zachary Fryer-Biggs, national security reporter for The Center for Public Integrity, to discuss his latest story on killer robots;  Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, to talk about his impromptu trip to Hong Kong over Labor Day weekend; and Paul Steinhauser, a New Hampshire-based political reporter, for a recap of the New Hampshire Democratic Party convention. Find Hill.TV programming at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m.

 

Congress returns to Washington today after the August recess. The House opens for business at 2 p.m., and the Senate convenes at 3 p.m.

 

The president presents the Medal of Valor and Heroic Commendations at 11 a.m. In the afternoon, he travels to Fayetteville, N.C. for a campaign rally in support of Bishop ahead of Tuesday’s special election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. The rally starts at 7 p.m.

 

The Hill hosts the next installment in the Leadership in Action series on Tuesday at 1777 F Street NW. We will be joined by Reps. Buddy CarterEarl (Buddy) Leroy CarterRepublicans storm closed-door hearing to protest impeachment inquiry Mass shootings have hit 158 House districts so far this year Polling director: Young voters swayed by health care, economy, gun control MORE (R-Ga.), John Curtis (R-Utah) and Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellHillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Virginia moves to suspend Medicaid work rules | Powerful House panel sets 'Medicare for All' hearing | Hospitals sue over Trump price rule | FDA official grilled on vaping policy House passes anti-robocall bill 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



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ELSEWHERE

Hurricane Dorian: Canada became the latest country to deal with Hurricane Dorian as hundreds of thousands in Halifax and Newfoundland lost power when the storm slowed but continued to cause problems over the weekend. No deaths were reported in Canada from the hurricane after it was responsible for at least 50 deaths in the Bahamas, U.S. and elsewhere (The Associated Press) ... Meanwhile, the Bahamas is trying to pick up the pieces a week after the storm caused widespread devastation throughout the islands. Hundreds of people are clamoring for seats on flights and cruise ships as they seek help in the aid effort in the aftermath of the storm (The Associated Press).

 

Hong Kong: Demonstrations continued over the weekend as protestors rallied outside the U.S. Consulate and pleaded for Trump to help “liberate” the city. “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” demonstrators shouted before handing over petitions at the consulate. “Resist Beijing. Liberate Hong Kong.” Police responded to the demonstrations by firing tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd (Reuters). 

 

Vaping: Health officials are trying to figure out the causation of severe lung disease in some e-cigarette users. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday it was investigating 450 possible cases of lung disease tied to vaping, including five deaths. The Hill’s Jessie Hellmann lays out five things you need to know about the deadly vaping illnesses (The Hill).

 

 

 



THE CLOSER

And finally …  a public service announcement for all those in the DMV regions: The Metro reopened six stations this morning after more than three months of track work south of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Braddock Road, King Street–Old Town, Eisenhower Avenue, Huntington, Van Dorn Street and Franconia–Springfield, are all set to operate on a normal schedule, although Metro said it would be taking no chances and would have shuttles ready in case there were any issues. 

 

“Right now, everything looks good for Monday,” Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said, adding that he was “excited and nervous” for the reopening of the stations. 

 

According to Wiedefeld, Metro’s work has been focused on repairing deteriorating platforms, along with “all the other things we could do while we’re out there,” including  track work and upgrades to stations. 

 

These are not the final fixes coming to the Metro system by any stretch of the imagination. Next summer, Metro will shut down tracks along the Orange Line west of Ballston and the Green Line north of Fort Totten (WTOP).