The Hill’s Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday
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The House Judiciary Committee is on the verge of approving two impeachment indictments against President Trump today after the panel abruptly postponed a vote late Thursday to advance articles to the House floor.
The committee will resume work today after ending 12 hours of debate on Thursday night before any final votes occurred on articles alleging abuse of power and obstruction by the president. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) made the announcement shortly after 11 p.m., stunning and angering Republicans on the dais.
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the top GOP member on the panel, sputtered to reporters that the chairman had not consulted with Republican members and sought to shift the historic committee votes to daytime TV viewing. Votes had been expected to take place around midnight, allowing members to leave early for the weekend (The Hill).
“You chose not to consult the ranking member,” Collins said, looking at Nadler incredulously and adding that the move signaled the lack of trust between the two. “That was the most egregious violation of trust between a committee chairman and ranking member I think I’ve ever seen. … We thought we were going to do votes tonight. And then to do that right there shows that Chairman Nadler is zero, his staff is zero.”
Collins went on to call the impeachment markup a “kangaroo court” before panning the chairman during a scrum outside the hearing room. “The chairman’s integrity is gone,” he said, gesturing angrily.
The Associated Press: House panel delays historic Trump impeachment vote.
The Washington Post: Name-calling, insults and scandals dominate all-day impeachment hearing.
Leading up to the late-night decision to adjourn, Democrats and Republicans repeatedly clashed over the merits and process of the impeachment effort, headlined by repeated amendments offered by the Republicans that dragged the hearing on, frustrating Democrats on the panel. Among them were proposed changes to strike the obstruction of Congress charge and another attempting to include Hunter Biden’s name in the articles of impeachment (The Hill).
Democrats defended Nadler’s decision to delay the vote until after the committee resumes at 10 a.m., pointing to the transparency of doing so then rather than in the middle of the night when most Americans were asleep.
“We weren’t sure if they had more amendments, they wouldn’t tell us that,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.). “And what the chairman’s spirit was: we want to make sure we do this in the light of day. We don’t want to vote on such an important article, or articles, that matter to the American people [and] to this president, in the late of night.”
Despite the tiff between the two Judiciary Committee leaders, an impeachment vote before the full House is still expected to take place Wednesday, setting the stage for Trump to become the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.
A Wednesday vote on two articles of impeachment will be one of three big-ticket items the House will vote on before the Christmas break, along with a government spending package and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
The New York Times: For Trump, impeachment may be a political plus but also a personal humiliation.
Paul Kane: The latest guessing game: Figuring out Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) picks to prosecute impeachment trial.
As the House motors toward a vote, the Senate continues to lie in wait for a trial that is expected to start in January. According to CNN, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected to hold a vote to acquit the president, should he ultimately be impeached in the House, rather than move to dismiss any articles of impeachment sent from the lower chamber.
Citing two Republican senators, the outlet reported Thursday that the Senate GOP wants to have a vote for acquittal to try to clear the president of any wrongdoing stemming from his dealings with Ukraine rather than a majority vote to simply dismiss impeachment.
However, McConnell indicated to reporters that nothing is set in stone. As Alexander Bolton writes, any planning in the Senate is complicated by an inconsistency on the part of the president. Trump is conflicted, having expressed support for trying to defeat the assertions that he abused his power and obstructed Congress. At other moments, he has expressed interest in a drawn-out trial with multiple witnesses.
Most Republicans don’t want that kind of drama, but Democrats do. Ultimately, it will come down to a vote and three swing Republicans: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Mitt Romney (Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), none of whom has indicated how they lean in the context of a Senate trial. Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) are considered wild card votes.
One GOP senator said that if Democrats try to bring acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the floor, Republicans will counter fire with fire and call on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden to appear.
“It will be World War III,” said the Republican senator.
The Hill: McConnell, White House lawyer huddle on impeachment strategy.
The Hill: Vulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment.
The ongoing push, however, has emboldened the president’s 2020 efforts as his reelection team sees it as a political winner. Campaign manager Brad Parscale told reporters on Thursday that “every metric” the campaign tracks has seen an uptick thanks to impeachment (The Washington Post).
“This lit up our base, lit up the people that are supporters of the president. They’re frustrated, they’re upset, and that motivates voters,” Parscale said. “They have ignited a flame underneath them.”
LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS: It’s a miracle. After months of wrangling and just days before lawmakers hope to flee Washington for a Christmas break, they reached a deal in principle Thursday on 12 annual spending bills to fund the government and avert a shutdown by a Dec. 20 deadline.
Appropriators came together on a number of contentious issues, including how to fund Trump‘s proposed border wall. House leaders expect a vote early next week on measures that will be bundled into at least two packages. While lawmakers said the major sticking points had been buttoned up, the details were not expected to be made public until Monday (The Hill).
Lawmakers have received assurances that Trump will sign the legislation, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters that federal funding will not lapse next week if appropriations measures are not all finalized by midnight on Dec. 20. “Let me say in no uncertain terms, nobody wants to have a government shutdown,” he said.
Scott Wong and Cristina Marcos report that specific spending provisions are emerging in the must-pass legislation that are intended to boost the reelection prospects of vulnerable Democratic members of Congress.
> Drug prices: House Democrats on Thursday passed a sweeping measure aimed at lowering prescription drug prices, a step to fulfill a long-held pledge by the party to constituents who have complained about soaring costs for medications they can no longer afford.
The Democrats’ bill was greeted with sharp Republican resistance. The measure, which would allow the government to negotiate lower prices for drugs (currently barred by law), is viewed as a political shield for Democrats in 2020.
Trump, who campaigned to change Medicare to allow the government to negotiate drug prices, has issued a veto threat. Two Republicans voted with Democrats on Thursday: Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, both moderates in competitive races for reelection. No Democrats voted against the measure, which passed on a largely party-line vote of 230-192.
The drug pricing bill is expected to die in the GOP-led Senate, where a separate bipartisan measure, co-sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), has attracted second looks among Republicans worried about complaints from constituents that consumers have no recourse or leverage when drug companies decide to hike prices (The Hill).
NPR: What’s in the House bill approved by Democrats?
TRADE PROGRESS: When it comes to U.S.-China trade negotiations, the Trump administration prefers to keep hope alive.
The president in October announced that his administration was close to signing a “phase one” accord, and anonymous sources speaking to various major news organizations on Thursday again heralded progress ahead of a U.S.-imposed deadline on Sunday to raise tariffs on Chinese goods.
The United States has settled on final terms of a deal with Beijing, four people familiar with the negotiations told The New York Times. Similar headlines appeared at Bloomberg News and other business news outlets, which sent financial markets soaring on Thursday afternoon.
Trump met at the White House with senior advisers to discuss provisions of a partial agreement that would reduce by half the overall rate on tariffs he already levied on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods, according to reports. In return, China would commit to purchasing U.S. agricultural products along with other concessions.
The president is expected today to announce a delay or cancellation of new tariffs scheduled to take effect this weekend on $160 billion of consumer products from China.
“Getting VERY close to a BIG DEAL with China,” Trump tweeted on Thursday morning. “They want it, and so do we!”
Reuters: China remained silent early Friday folloqinf U.S. reports of new trade terms.
Both countries have previously signaled that negotiators were on the precipice of a significant pact, only to see those rounds of talks falter and collapse. Last week, Trump suggested it might be better for the United States to wait until after the 2020 election to finalize a trade deal with Beijing.
> U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade: Financial markets were also cheered this week with news that House Democrats and the Trump administration ironed out differences in the text of the hemispheric trade agreement to replace NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Pelosi announced this week that the House will vote on a revamped version of USMCA next week before leaving for Christmas, much to the delight of the White House, which has pushed, nudged and cajoled lawmakers to act this year.
Less thrilled with the idea of any White House concessions to House Democrats are some Republicans in the Senate, who grouse publicly and privately about specific provisions, being left on the sidelines, and the political optics of appearing to cave to the will of House progressives.
Some Senate Republicans on Thursday vented their frustration to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, with the knowledge that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will not schedule a vote to endorse the revamped USMCA until early next year, following an impeachment trial (The Hill).
GOP senators say they expect the votes are there for ratification of one of Trump’s key first-term priorities, but they made no secret they do not favor some changes and additions that are designed to attract Democratic support (The Hill).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: The first general election debate isn’t until the end of September and the Democratic nominee won’t be known for months. Nevertheless, the president is already weighing whether he will take part in any general election debates next fall as he prepares for his reelection battle.
According to The New York Times, Trump has discussed the possibility of skipping the debates, due largely to his lack of faith in the Commission on Presidential Debates, the organization that runs and produces the general election debates each year.
Advisers from the president’s reelection team declined to comment during a briefing with reporters on Thursday, with one senior adviser seeming “to wince at the question,” adding that they were not prepared to discuss the topic until 2020.
Of lesser concern are potential moderators for the debates, according to the report. In 2016, the affairs were moderated by NBC’s Lester Holt, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, ABC’s Martha Raddatz and Fox News’s Chris Wallace.
Bottom line: It’s hard to see the Trump campaign agreeing to any moderator from CNN, given the intense feud between the network and the president.
The Associated Press: Democratic candidates unite against Trump — and little else.
Politico: Trump shocks black voters — by trying to get their votes.
> Warren attacks: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) kept up her string of attacks on the 2020 field Thursday, targeting South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Biden for fundraising practices and “counting on Republican politicians having an epiphany,” respectively, during an address at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire.
Warren described Buttigieg as a candidate who “calls the people who raise a quarter million dollars for him his ‘National Investors Circle,’ and he offers them regular phone calls and special access. When a candidate brags about how beholden he feels to a group of wealthy investors, our democracy is in serious trouble.”
Lis Smith, a top Buttigieg aide, shot back at the Massachusetts Democrat, bashing her for furthering divisiveness in politics (The Hill).
John F. Harris: Why Warren’s drop in the polls is good news for her.
The Hill: Democrats set early state primary debates for 2020.
Also on the political scene … Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a letter from his doctor proclaiming that he is in “outstanding health” even though he is treated for a number of medical conditions, including an irregular heartbeat. “There are no medical concerns, present or looming, that would prevent him from serving as President of the United States,” said Dr. Stephen D. Sisson, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, about the 77-year-old (The Associated Press).
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At the legislative negotiating table, Republicans and Democrats finally act like adults, by Joshua Holt, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/35eMkru
Time’s Person of the Year is a strong voice for the entire planet, by Erik Molvar, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2LQrB5z
NEW STUDY: Nonpartisan Tax Foundation says more than 21,000 Americans will lose their jobs if Congress doesn’t repeal the medical device tax before Jan 1. Learn more about the looming tax on Americans’ health care.
WHERE AND WHEN
Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Bob Cusack, editor in chief of The Hill, for his weekly DeBrief segment; Lauren Maunus, policy and political coordinator for the Sunrise Movement, to discuss the organization’s 2020 presidential candidate scorecard; Joe Pesce, an astrophysicist for the National Science Foundation, to react to the discovery of a “monster” black hole. Coverage starts at 9 a.m. ET at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.
The House meets at noon.
The Senate convenes at 11:45 a.m. for a pro forma session, and will next meet on Monday at 3 p.m.
The president will host the president of Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benítez, for White House meetings. This evening, Trump and first lady Melania Trump speak to guests during a Christmas reception held on the State Floor.
Vice President Pence will travel to Indianapolis to participate in a political roundtable for Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb at 4:30 p.m. The vice president returns to Washington on Saturday.
Economic indicator: The Census Bureau releases its report on U.S. retail sales in November at 8:30 a.m.
The Federalist Society will host U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeffery Rosen at a Washington restaurant for a luncheon address at noon. Info HERE.
➔ United Kingdom: Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party on Thursday won a majority of seats in Britain’s Parliament — a decisive outcome to a Brexit-dominated election that should allow Johnson to fulfill his plan to take the U.K. out of the European Union next month. The dominance of Brexit as the issue for voters followed three years of national uncertainty and political debate. The election proved a disaster for left-wing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who immediately faced calls for his resignation (The Associated Press).
Trump tweeted his enthusiasm about the results: “Congratulations to Boris Johnson on his great WIN! Britain and the United States will now be free to strike a massive new Trade Deal after BREXIT. This deal has the potential to be far bigger and more lucrative than any deal that could be made with the E.U. Celebrate Boris!”
➔ NFL fraud charges: The Department of Justice (DOJ) charged 10 former NFL players on Thursday with defrauding a health care program for retired players of nearly $4 million. The players were hit with charges, filed in the Eastern District of Kentucky, of conspiracy to commit health care wire fraud, wire fraud and health care fraud following an FBI investigation. Headlining the group of players were former Washington Redskins stars Clinton Portis, who was charged with all three crimes, and Carlos Rogers (The Washington Post).
➔ Courts: A federal appeals court on Thursday grappled with a lawsuit against Trump that alleges he is violating domestic and foreign Emoluments Clauses in the Constitution. Fifteen judges on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals appeared sharply divided over whether to advance a case that accuses the president of illegally profiting from his hotel and other private businesses while in office (The Hill).
And finally … Congratulations to trivia masters who aced the Morning Report Quiz about the history of Time’s “Person of the Year” accolade. (A quick rewind of the magazine’s end-of-year covers over more than nine decades is HERE.)
Readers who knew their stuff and went 5/5: Patrick Kavanagh, Miles Powers, Candi Cee, John Donato, Steve Juarez, Phil Kirstein and Dalton Temple.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1932, 1934, 1941) graced Time’s annual cover three times. Winston Churchill (1941, 1949) and Ronald Reagan (1980, 1982) each captured the “Man of the Year” title twice while Pope John Paul II was Time’s choice in 1994.
Aviator Charles Lindbergh, who in 1927 became Time’s first “Man of the Year,” was also the youngest at age 25 — until Greta Thunberg this week.
Despite being named a finalist this year, Pelosi was never selected as Time’s top annual influencer.
None of the above. Every president from Franklin Roosevelt to date was selected for Time’s annual tribute cover. Exceptions before then: Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge.
The magazine changed its end-of-year tribute from “Man of the Year” (or “Woman of the Year”) to “Person of the Year” in 1999.