The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same

The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same
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Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris to host virtual Hollywood campaign event co-chaired by Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling Trump plans to accept Republican nomination from White House lawn US seizes four vessels loaded with Iranian fuel MORE turned in a mostly reassuring debate performance on Thursday night in Houston as he fended off attacks on health care and his age, maintaining his pole position in the Democratic primary field. 

Biden was the center of the debate from start as he, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenChris Wallace: Trump struggling with attacks on 'shape-shifter' Harris Markey riffs on JFK quote in new ad touting progressive bona fides Howard Kurtz: Kamala Harris 'getting walk on water coverage' by media after VP pick MORE (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersChris Wallace: Trump struggling with attacks on 'shape-shifter' Harris Kamala Harris: The outreach Latinos need Biden and Harris seen as more moderate than Trump and Pence: poll MORE (I-Vt.) engaged in an extended back-and-forth about health care and how to provide affordable coverage to more Americans. Biden continued to defend the Obama era, seeking to preserve and build on the Affordable Care Act with a public option as Warren and Sanders made their respective cases for a “Medicare for All” system. 

The back-and-forth, broadcast by ABC News and Univision, came to a head when Biden jabbed at Sanders for being a “socialist” after the Vermont independent argued that corporations would help employees with costs, based on what workers would pay into the system.

The Hill: Biden slams Sanders over health care: ‘For a socialist, you got a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do.’

In the most testy exchange, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro made an ageist attack against the former vice president when he accused him of “forgetting” details of his health care plan. He wrongfully accused Biden of saying his plan would not automatically enroll people in his public health care option. When Biden told the former San Antonio mayor that he was wrong, Castro dug in. 

"You just said that two minutes ago, you just said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?,” Castro said, repeating the charge seconds later. 

Democrats roundly panned Castro for the failed attack. Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the move a “disqualifier,” with others also offering a harsh assessment.

“It was cringeworthy. Ugliest moment in all of the debates,” said one Democratic source.

Castro claimed after the debate that he wasn’t attacking Biden’s age at 76, arguing it was an exchange about health care. 

The Hill: Castro accuses Biden of forgetting health care details, not fulfilling Obama’s legacy.

The Hill: Biden grapples with Obama questions during debate.

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerOn The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden, Harris make first public appearance as running mates Booker hits back at Trump tweet, mocks misspelling of name MORE (D-N.J.) told CNN that Castro had some “really legitimate concerns” about the former vice president.

“I think that we are at a tough point right now, because there’s a lot of people concerned about Joe Biden’s ability to carry the ball all the way across the end line without fumbling, and I think that Castro had some really legitimate concerns about, can he be someone in a long, grueling campaign that can get the ball over the line, and he has every right to call that out,” Booker said. 

Warren and Sanders also offered up solid performances that are unlikely to harm them in their bids for the nomination. The two continued to push progressive messages, railing against corruption, but also not making any major missteps during the three-hour affair.  

“Fundamentally, I don’t think anything changes after this,” said former Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampCentrists, progressives rally around Harris pick for VP 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama MORE (D-N.D.) while appearing on ABC News’ post-debate coverage.  

The Hill: Five takeaways from a three-hour debate.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharElection security advocates see strong ally in Harris The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - The choice: Biden-Harris vs. Trump-Pence California Democrats back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup MORE (D-Minn.), who has struggled during her presidential campaign to break through in polling and performance, found opportunities on Thursday night to calmly score points without skewering other Democrats on the stage. From her opening statement about sensible problem-solving to her detailed action plan to tackle climate change, if elected president, Klobuchar came prepared to deliver a message about evolution rather than revolution in a post-Trump America.  

Klobuchar, who spoke for a total of 10 and a half minutes (7 minutes less than Biden), said she would rejoin the Paris Climate Accord on Day 1 and went on to list her environmental plans for her first week in office, if she’s elected, embracing Obama-era policies she said she could put in place using executive action. 

“You can do all that without Congress, which is good,” she said.

The Hill: Klobuchar outlines climate plan for first week in office.

Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris to host virtual Hollywood campaign event co-chaired by Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling Democrats hammer Trump for entertaining false birther theory about Harris Hillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations MORE (D-Calif.), in contrast, who has lost some of the traction she gained with potential voters after clashing with Biden over race during the first Democratic debate, sought to throttle the president on Thursday night, using more than 13 minutes of speaking time to try to focus on Trump. Several of her attempts at humor, including an eyebrow-raising put-down about Trump’s anatomy, dissolved into her own laughter, and in response to specific questions, some answers became anecdotes and talking points about policy problems rather than detailed policy solutions.

Klobuchar and Harris both fielded pointed questions from the moderators suggesting their records as prosecutors in their respective states did not fulfill progressive expectations. Both rapidly moved on after offering short responses.  

The Hill: In a candidate-by-candidate analysis, who came out on top? 

On the Republican side, President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE spent the evening delivering counterprogramming with an address to the annual House GOP retreat in Baltimore. Trump, who had told reporters earlier in the day he’d record the debate and watch it as a “rerun,” arrived on stage at 8:01 p.m. and delivered a montage of his greatest hits. 

“We will make America stronger and safer and prouder and greater than ever before. You are a terrific group, and I know almost all of you — I like most of you, I know all of you," he said with a laugh, adding “the best is yet to come” as he closed (The Hill).

Reminder: The next Democratic primary debate takes place on Oct. 15 and possibly Oct. 16 in Ohio. Republican presidential primary challengers William WeldWilliam (Bill) WeldVermont governor, running for reelection, won't campaign or raise money The Hill's Campaign Report: Amash moves toward Libertarian presidential bid Libertarians view Amash as potential 2020 game changer for party MORE, a former Massachusetts governor, and former Illinois Rep. Joe WalshJoe WalshTucker Carlson responds to guest correcting pronunciation of Kamala Harris's name: 'So what?' Bottom line ABC's Whoopi Goldberg to headline Biden fundraiser with Sen. Tammy Duckworth MORE, are expected to debate as part of an event hosted in New York by Business Insider on Sept. 24. The Trump campaign said the president will not participate, calling it “pointless.” Former South Carolina Gov. and former Rep. Mark SanfordMark SanfordCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama The Memo: Can the Never Trumpers succeed? MORE (R) also has been invited (The Hill). 

The Associated Press: Fiery exchanges Thursday night over the costs of health care.

Reuters: Biden clashes with Warren, Sanders on health care during debate.

The Washington Post: Democratic candidates in free-for-all over health care, immigration and foreign policy.

The Associated Press: Fact Check: Claims from the Democratic debate. 

The New York Times: Fact-checking the Democratic debate.

Dan Balz: Biden delivered the debate performance he needed, despite occasional missteps.

Frank Bruni: Up, up, up with Elizabeth Warren.

Benjamin Wallace-Wells: Are the Democratic presidential debates working? 

Margaret Sullivan: Three hours? 10 candidates? Isn’t this all (a lot) too much?







CONGRESS: House Democrats took their most concrete step yet in their impeachment push on Thursday as the House Judiciary Committee voted to expand the panel’s investigative powers as they look to shore up their case against the president. 

While the vote does not launch the party’s formal impeachment process, it marks the first time a Democratic panel has voted on language that explicitly lays out how the party’s ongoing investigations into alleged presidential misconduct could lead to drafting impeachment articles, as Mike Lillis and Olivia Beavers write

The vote went down along party lines, 24-17. 

The move comes as Democrats try to clean up their messaging on impeachment. The party has been dogged in recent weeks by questions wondering if their ongoing impeachment push is an actual effort to impeach the president, which House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBy questioning Barr, Democrats unmasked their policy of betrayal Chris Wallace: Barr hearing 'an embarrassment' for Democrats: 'Just wanted to excoriate him' Apple posts blowout third quarter MORE (D-N.Y.) referred to during the two hour hearing. 

“This committee is engaged in an investigation that will allow us to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment with respect to President Trump,” he said. “Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation. There is no legal difference between these terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature.”

The investigative push will also heat up next week as Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - Mask mandates, restrictions issued as COVID-19 spreads Trump shakes up campaign leadership, demotes Parscale Trump World boils over as campaign hits skids MORE, Trump’s former campaign manager, is slated to appear before the panel to testify (The Hill). 

Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSusan Collins asks postmaster general to address delays of 'critically needed mail' Trump says he'd sign bill funding USPS but won't seek changes to help mail voting On The Money: Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief agreement | Weekly jobless claims fall below 1 million for first time since March | Trump says no Post Office funding means Democrats 'can't have universal mail-in voting' MORE (D-Calif.) dismissed concerns about Democrats muddling their message on impeachment, blaming the media for the perceived confusion. She also framed the panel’s impeachment vote as simply a continuation of investigations and said for the umpteenth time that they will “follow the facts.” 

"Legislate, investigate, litigate. That's the path that we've been on, and that's the path we continue to be on," Pelosi said during her weekly press briefing in the Capitol.

"They understand that impeachment is a very divisive measure, but if we have to go there, we'll have to go there. But we can't go there unless we have the facts, and we will follow the facts ... and make our decision when we're ready” (The Hill). 

The Associated Press: Is it impeachment if Speaker Pelosi doesn’t say so?

Politico: “My time is growing near”: Rep. John LewisJohn LewisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Harris launch Trump offensive in first joint appearance More than 50 Confederate monuments have been removed since Floyd's death: report Trump rips Bill Maher as 'exhausted, gaunt and weak' MORE (D-Ga.) dangles impeachment announcement.

The New York Times: For military personnel, Trump’s Turnberry Hotel is “better than a tent” — and part of House Democrats’ investigations.



> Spending stumbles: The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved its annual defense spending bill on a 16-15 party-line vote, despite Democratic objections over the president’s border wall.   

The split vote raises questions for the Senate’s ability to pass spending legislation — which must also be reconciled with the Democratic-controlled House — ahead of a Sept. 30 funding deadline. Otherwise, a stopgap spending bill — a continuing resolution (CR) — will need to pass ahead of the deadline.

"Funding an ineffective, failed campaign promise, which the president promised Mexico would pay for, is not a priority of the American people and should not be the priority of this committee,” said Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing Vermont has a chance to show how bipartisanship can tackle systemic racism MORE (D-Vt.), the panel’s ranking member.  

Democrats objected to the fact that the bill did not explicitly block Trump from raiding defense funds and redirecting them toward building the wall under the auspices of a national emergency. The Supreme Court gave the president the go-ahead to use the funds in late July (The Hill). 

Meanwhile, lawmakers are preparing to ignore the president’s request to loosen restrictions on border wall funding as part of a possible short-term spending deal. The ask was included in the Trump administration’s 21-page wish list for a continuing resolution.  

Congressional Republicans have made clear that they support the administration’s funding request, which would let the administration use money to build border barriers outside the Rio Grande Valley Sector. However, they’ve warned that they don’t expect the stopgap measure to include language granting the White House request for construction beyond the Rio Grande area.

“Hopefully they can work out a deal where there’s maximum flexibility for the president when it comes to money for the wall, but I’m sure the Democrats will push hard back against that,” said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump plans to accept Republican nomination from White House lawn Hillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations Republican senators call on FTC to investigate TikTok over data collection concerns MORE (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican.      

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynEnough legal games — we need to unleash American energy Three pros and three cons to Biden picking Harris The Hill's 12:30 Report - Speculation over Biden's running mate announcement MORE (R-Texas), who is seeking reelection next year, warned that “the administration asks for it, but the Democrats don’t have to give it.”


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WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump, speaking to reporters on Thursday, said he has 15 candidates to ponder who could lead the White House National Security Council. “Everybody wants it badly, as you can imagine. And we’ll probably next week sometime make that decision,” he said. 

The president described the job John BoltonJohn BoltonThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Speculation over Biden's running mate announcement Ex-Trump adviser, impeachment witness Fiona Hill gets book deal Hannity's first book in 10 years debuts at No. 1 on Amazon MORE abruptly left this week (as the administration’s third national security adviser) as “great because it’s a lot of fun to work with Donald Trump...because I make all the decisions.”

> China: Beijing is expected to resume purchases of American farm goods, Trump said on Thursday, and China confirmed that its companies are inquiring about buying agricultural products. These moves signal that both governments are trying to ease tensions that have damaged the bilateral relationship. 

The president’s announcement followed a day of cooling trade frictions, in which China announced that it would grant some limited exemptions to its tariffs for American products, and Trump responded by announcing a two-week delay in the United States’ next tariff hike to Oct. 15.

“It is expected that China will be buying large amounts of our agricultural products!” Trump tweeted Thursday (The New York Times).  

> Guns: Michael Williams is a top aide to White House acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyFauci says positive White House task force reports don't always match what he hears on the ground Bottom line White House, Senate GOP clash over testing funds MORE, and is helping to shape the president’s policy options on guns. He’s also a former attorney for the National Rifle Association and previously worked for the American Suppressor Association, which represents gun silencer manufacturers and dealers (Vice). In the wake of recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Trump is weighing the pros and cons of endorsing a bipartisan measure currently in draft form in the Senate, which members of both parties have said depends on the president’s endorsement for potential momentum (Politico). 

Asked on Thursday whether he would support expanded background checks this year, Trump told reporters, “I think so,” but offered a political qualifier as a heat shield.

“It depends really on the Democrats. It depends on whether or not the Democrats want to take your guns away, because it’s a possibility that this is just a ploy to take your guns away,” he said. “If it’s meaningful, we’ll make a deal. If this is a movement by the Democrats to take your guns away, then it’s never gonna happen." 

The Hill: Conservatives offer a stark warning to Trump, GOP on background checks.


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!



The Afghan negotiations — echoes from the past, by James Pardew, opinion contributor, The Hill. 

Killer climate: More Americans are dying from extreme heat, by Georges C. Benjamin, opinion contributor, The Hill.



Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Hill.TV’s Jamal Simmons and Cenk Uygur, host & founder of The Young Turks, live from Houston for reaction to Thursday’s debate; and Terren Klein co-founder and CEO of College Pulse, for debate reaction from millennials. Find Hill.TV programming at or on YouTube at 10 a.m.

The House meets at 9 a.m. for a pro forma session.

The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. on Monday.

The president will meet with Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Harris launch Trump offensive in first joint appearance Overnight Defense: Trump reportedly considering replacing Esper after election | FBI, Air Force investigating after helicopter shot at in Virginia | Watchdog says UK envoy made inappropriate comments on religion, race, sex Trump eyes replacing Esper after election: reports MORE at 3:30 p.m.

Vice President Pence will travel to Baltimore today to deliver remarks at noon at the annual House Republican Conference retreat. He’ll return to Washington later today.

Economic indicators: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on U.S. import and export price indexes at 8:30 a.m. The U.S. Census Bureau reports advance monthly sales for retail and food services for August at 8:30 a.m. 

Hill.TV host Krystal Ball will be a roundtable guest tonight on Real Time with Bill MaherWilliam (Bill) MaherTrump rips Bill Maher as 'exhausted, gaunt and weak' Bill Maher delivers mock eulogy for Trump Bari Weiss rips cancel culture as 'social murder' on Bill Maher show MORE on HBO at 10 p.m.


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Generic drugs: Egads, this article grabbed our attention on Thursday. Carcinogens have tainted the generic drugs taken by patients in the United States because of a flawed Federal Drug Administration quality-control system tasked to ensure the safety of generic medications taken by 90 percent of Americans. The FDA checks less than 1 percent of drugs for impurities or potency before letting them into the country. Generics receive less federal scrutiny from the start. At least 80 percent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients used for all drugs are made in Chinese and Indian factories that U.S. pharmaceutical companies never have to identify to patients, using raw materials whose sources the pharmaceutical companies don’t know much about. Surveillance inspections of overseas factories have declined since 2016 and the FDA is under pressure to get more generics to market more quickly (Bloomberg Businessweek).

Bahamas: Following the destructive wrath of Hurricane Dorian, Bahamians look for their loved ones as an estimated 1,300 people remain missing and the death toll rises (The Associated Press). 

Media and Facebook: Facebook is trying to counter “news deserts” in U.S. communities with its second promotion of a tool that exposes users to more local news and information. The social media giant said Thursday it is expanding its “Today In” service to 6,000 cities and towns across the United States, up from 400 in its previous effort. Launched in early 2018, the service lets Facebook users opt into local news and information from local organizations, for example, to receive missing-person alerts, local election results, road closure information and crime reports (The Associated Press). 

Milky Way: For the first time, scientists detected water in the atmosphere of an Earth-like planet orbiting a distant star, evidence that a key ingredient for life exists beyond our solar system, according to a study published this week. Water vapor was found in the atmosphere of K2-18b, one of hundreds of “super-Earths” — worlds ranging in size between Earth and Neptune — documented in a growing new field of astronomy devoted to the exploration of so-called exoplanets elsewhere in the Milky Way galaxy.

More than 4,000 exoplanets of all types and sizes have been detected (Reuters). 




And finally … Congratulations to Morning Report quiz winners! This week’s 18th anniversary of 9/11 reminded us that readers retain keen memories about events triggered by the 2001 terror attacks.  

Kudos to these quiz masters: William Chittam, Phil Kirstein, Donna Nackers, Manley Glaubitz, Tim Aiken, Mike Axelrod, Karl Schlenker, Dawn Fortenberry, David E. Letostak, Lorraine Lindberg, Fred Muzin, former U.S. Ambassador to Greece Thomas J. Miller, Larry Charles, Linda Halverson, Caitlin Musselman, Margaret Gainer, R. Milton Howell III, Randall S. Patrick, Candi Cee, Jerry Lentz, Luther Berg, Eileen Lavine, Greg Stetson, Ki Harvey, Ricca Sloane, William Mattingly, Dara Umberger, Sandy Sycafoose, Shin Inouye, Jerry Kovar, Patrick Kavanagh, reader “sm dem,” Steve Jenning, Elizabeth Murphy, Jack Barshay, Bob (“RS843”), Melanie King, John Hayden, Buzz Watkins, Rosemarie Soriano, Norm Roberts, Douglas Prasher and Rich Gruber. 

They knew that former President George W. Bush learned about the ongoing terror attacks when Andrew Card, his White House chief of staff, whispered the news in the president’s ear during a school event in Florida.

Osama bin Laden masterminded the 9/11 attacks with al Qaeda lieutenants but was never indicted. He remained on the FBI’s Most Wanted list until May 2, 2011, when U.S. special forces captured and killed him in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  

At 9:42 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Command Center made history by ordering the closure of U.S. airspace, grounding all commercial air traffic as a precaution because of fears that terrorists still controlled planes in the air.

The attacks of 9/11 triggered a cascade of U.S. federal responses, but the list of actions did not include the creation of an escape pod on Air Force One

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of bin Laden’s deputies, was captured in 2003 in Pakistan and is still imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, where he faces a military tribunal in January 2021.