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Good morning! Four more days until the South Carolina primary … seven more days until Super Tuesday … 252 days until Election Day!
The Democratic primary field will convene on a debate stage for the 10th time tonight as Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Pelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill top line higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war MORE (I-Vt.) comes under fire while trying to capture the Democratic nomination.
With two wins in his pocket and hurricane-level gusts of wind at his back, Sanders is the front-runner. A win in South Carolina and a convincing performance on Super Tuesday would defy the centrist wing of the Democratic Party as it works to stop Sanders while boasting that a moderate nominee could defeat President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE.
Sanders is under renewed scrutiny for remarks he made to “60 Minutes” on Sunday when he suggested it was “unfair to simply say everything is bad” under the rule of late Cuban leader Fidel Castro. His rivals howled, and so did some key Democratic lawmakers, including members of Congress from South Florida who represent thousands of Cuban Americans (The Hill).
Socialism, communism and dictators may emerge as debate topics tonight in Charleston, S.C., when seven contenders make their closing national arguments before primary voters in 14 states are heard. Former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergWithout drastic changes, Democrats are on track to lose big in 2022 Bidens, former presidents mark 9/11 anniversary The tragedy of 9/11 — an inflection point in American history MORE expects new pummeling after his rocky debate performance in Nevada. But Sanders knows he’s the night’s target.
The New York Times: Tonight’s Democratic debate: Everyone vs. Bernie Sanders.
Niall Stanage: The Memo: Democratic rivals have seven days to stop Sanders.
NBC News: 5 things to watch in the South Carolina debate: Will Biden's firewall hold?
Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks GOP Rep. Cawthorn likens vaccine mandates to 'modern-day segregation' MORE, who is facing a do-or-die contest on Saturday, has gone on the attack in recent days against the democratic socialist from Vermont. In a new ad released Monday, Biden accused Sanders of attempting to undermine former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDems punch back over GOP holdup of Biden SBA nominee Biden congratulates Trudeau for winning third term as Canadian prime minister Republicans have moral and financial reasons to oppose raising the debt ceiling MORE’s reelection in 2012 by threatening a primary challenge (The Hill).
“When it comes to building on Barack Obama’s legacy, Bernie Sanders just can’t be trusted,” the Biden campaign ad says (Politico).
In surveys, Biden continues to lead in the Palmetto State. According to new surveys released Monday by NBC News and Marist College and PublicPolicyPolling, the former VP tops Sanders by 4 and 15 points, respectively.
While some candidates have spent time meeting voters in Super Tuesday states this week, Biden planted himself in South Carolina to fortify his claim that he’s the candidate best able to win the support of African Americans and minority voters. If he wins on Saturday, Biden’s first primary victory as a presidential candidate would give him the opening he needs to fight on.
The New York Times: Sanders says he’ll attract a wave of new voters. It hasn’t happened.
Gerald F. Seib: Four debate questions Bernie Sanders could be asked.
The Washington Post: As other campaigns go national, Biden is laser-focused on South Carolina.
The Hill: Sanders seeks to capitalize on Nevada in Texas, California.
As Sanders continues to pace the field, Democrats who are desperate to thwart his momentum are heaping pressure on some candidates to drop out to help the party unite around a single contender. According to reporting by Max Greenwood and Amie Parnes, the nudges are aimed at Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThis week: Democrats face mounting headaches Klobuchar: 'It is evil to make it deliberately hard for people to vote' Democrats push to shield election workers from violent threats MORE (D-Minn.) and Tom SteyerTom SteyerOvernight Energy: 'Eye of fire,' Exxon lobbyist's comments fuel renewed attacks on oil industry | Celebrities push Biden to oppose controversial Minnesota pipeline | More than 75 companies ask Congress to pass clean electricity standard Celebrities push Biden to oppose controversial Minnesota pipeline Six things to watch as California heads for recall election MORE. They both struggled mightily in Nevada and do not have clear paths to the nomination.
They are not alone. Some Democrats are questioning whether former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegDOJ sues to block JetBlue-American Airlines partnership On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Pelosi plows full speed ahead on jam-packed agenda Blumenthal calls on Buttigieg to investigate American Airlines-JetBlue partnership MORE has a realistic trajectory, even as he competes with Sanders for the lead as measured by delegates captured to date. He notched top finishes in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary but has struggled to gain traction among minority voters. Calls will begin to be heard for Biden to exit the race if he loses to Sanders in South Carolina, and even his surrogates suggest his third bid for the White House will be over if he performs poorly in the states that vote March 3, which Democrats see as a national primary.
“I think sooner rather than later, a bunch of these candidates are going to have to understand that they don’t have a viable path to the nomination and need to get behind someone,” said Rufus Gifford, the finance director for Obama’s 2012 bid, a Biden supporter.
The Hill: GOP casts Sanders as 2020 boogeyman.
The Hill: At CNN town hall, Sanders defends Castro comments despite Dem backlash.
The Hill: Sanders releases list of how to pay for his proposals.
CNN: Bloomberg says at a private event says Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase Five questions and answers about the debt ceiling fight Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE would have done a better job than Obama if elected in 2012.
LEADING THE DAY
WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The president was halfway around the world in India during the early morning hours there when he tweeted reassurances as global financial markets sagged.
The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Monday suffered their biggest one-day percentage losses in two years on worries the spread of the coronavirus beyond China and into Europe signals more prolonged uncertainty for global production, supply chains, sales, trade, travel and employment. Investors sold riskier assets and rushed to traditionally safer bets such as gold and U.S. Treasuries (Reuters).
“The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA,” Trump tweeted. “We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
The administration on Monday sent Congress a request for $1.25 billion in emergency funding to address the coronavirus outbreak, to be combined with $535 million in reprogrammed Ebola funds and other already appropriated resources. The White House budget office said the needed funds would cover vaccines, treatment and protective equipment (The Associated Press). A total of 53 Americans confirmed to have been infected with the virus have been or are being treated in the United States, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data.
The president faces a challenge to balance COVID-19 risks with responses (The Hill). The administration set up a coronavirus task force in late January in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and implemented a quarantine process for Americans returning from China and travel restrictions to mitigate the spread of the virus. A White House spokesman told reporters that Trump continues to be briefed on the situation daily (The Hill).
WHO, the global health organization, on Monday described “deeply concerning” spikes in COVID-19 cases in Italy, Iran and South Korea. U.S. public health officials and infectious disease experts acknowledge the virus may spread beyond current containment efforts in the United States but have continued to reassure the public that the risks of infection remain low.
The virus has killed 2,704 people worldwide since December, most of them in China, and infected at least 80,289 people, according to the latest information.
The Associated Press: Airline, cruise stocks pummeled on fear of the spreading virus.
The Associated Press: Asian shares today extend losses after Monday’s financial markets swoon.
Reuters: South Korea, nearing 900 cases of the virus today, says it will test mass numbers of people for infection.
The Associated Press: World health officials say COVID-19 has the potential to be a pandemic but isn’t one yet.
The Associated Press: The United States and South Korea may cut back on joint military exercises because of the virus.
The Miami Herald: How one Florida patient’s worry about coronavirus collided with his “junk” health insurance and produced a whopping emergency room bill for the flu, plus new insurance hurdles.
Other administration news: New rules promulgated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services took effect on Monday to disqualify people from acquiring green cards if they use certain government benefits. Around the country, fearful immigrants, including citizens and legal residents, have dropped social services to which they or their children may be entitled because they worry they might be deported. Advocates for immigrant rights demonstrated against the new restrictions in numerous cities and urged people to seek legal advice to sort out the federal changes. A 5-4 Supreme Court vote Friday was a win for Trump on the “public charge rule” as justices lifted a final injunction covering Illinois (The Associated Press). … Extraditions of criminal suspects from Mexico to the United States soar under Trump (The New York Times) … Legal immigration fell 11 percent under Trump policies, based on 2018 data. The trend is expected to accelerate through 2021 (The New York Times).
Trump wraps up two days in India: Today, Trump held meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expressed optimism about an eventual trade deal between the two countries, but was not specific. “The last two days were amazing in every sense of the word,” Trump said as he and Modi briefly addressed reporters after the first of their two meetings. The president described the trip as “unforgettable,” “extraordinary” and an expression of “love” (The Associated Press). The president on Monday received a warm welcome in India, where he announced a $3 billion defense deal and toured the Taj Mahal at sunset. He and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpFormer aide sees Melania Trump as 'the doomed French queen': book If another 9/11 happened in a divided 2021, could national unity be achieved again? Former Trump aide Stephanie Grisham planning book: report MORE fly back to Washington today (The Hill).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
CONGRESS: National intelligence: Senate Republicans have been handed some new headaches following Trump's temporary appointment of Richard Grenell to serve as acting director of national intelligence (DNI). Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam Emboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes NC Republican primary key test of Trump's sway MORE (R-N.C.) released a statement praising the work of former acting DNI Joseph MaguireJoseph MaguireJudge dismisses Nunes's defamation suit against Washington Post Retired Navy admiral behind bin Laden raid says he voted for Biden Congressional Democrats request FBI briefing on foreign election interference efforts MORE and his deputy, Andrew Hallman, while omitting reference to Grenell. Especially concerning among some lawmakers was Grenell's hiring of Kashyap Patel, a former key aide to Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesLIVE COVERAGE: Ways and Means begins Day 2 on .5T package Biden faces unfinished mission of evacuating Americans Nunes sues MSNBC, alleging Rachel Maddow defamed him MORE (R-Calif.), who will have a mandate to sideline or jettison officials viewed as disloyal to Trump, according to reports. Because Grenell says he is not a candidate to be nominated to permanently serve as DNI, senators have limited leverage over his management (The Hill).
> Tech & Congress: The Transportation Security Agency is barring employees from using the popular video app TikTok following criticism from Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerLouisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in McConnell signals Senate GOP will oppose combined debt ceiling-funding bill MORE (D-N.Y.) and other China hawks in Congress who raised national security concerns (The Hill).
> Sweet thank-yous: And speaking of Schumer, the New Yorker on Sunday acknowledged a report that he spent more than $8,600 on cheesecake in less than 10 years, saying it is his "guilty pleasure" and that he frequently rewards supporters with gifts created by a famed New York restaurant (The New York Post). The senator's PAC, Friends of Schumer, paid Junior's Cheesecake in New York for "supporter acknowledgments" in amounts ranging from $46 to $516.45 (CNN).
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
The fringes are absorbing the parties. That’s dangerous, by Charles Lane, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/39Vu08G
Bernie’s Cuba illiteracy, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board. https://on.wsj.com/2veb863
The new wealth test for immigrants is un-American, by Catherine S. Ramírez, opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2VhnqFg
WHERE AND WHEN
The House returns to legislative work at 2 p.m. following the Presidents Day recess. Lawmakers will debate five Veterans Affairs measures.
The Senate resumes work on nominations at 10 a.m. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar will testify at 10 a.m. to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee about the president’s fiscal 2021 budget request for HHS. He is expected to respond to questions about U.S. preparedness and response to the coronavirus as a public health issue.
The president and the first lady are returning from India today.
Vice President Pence speaks to a gathering organized by the Michigan Farm Bureau in Lansing, Mich., at 12:45 p.m. After flying to Troy, Mich., the vice president will headline a reelection event at 5 p.m. and return to Washington.
Attorney General William BarrBill BarrWoodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China Barr-Durham investigation again fails to produce a main event Virginia governor's race enters new phase as early voting begins MORE will attend the weekly Senate GOP luncheon today in the Capitol. That conversation should be lively.
Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Richard Clarida will speak at 3 p.m. about the U.S. economic outlook and monetary policy at the annual policy conference of the National Association for Business Economics in Washington. Investors are listening carefully following market jitters and global worries about the effects of the coronavirus contagion.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget hosts a “2020 Better Budget Process Summit: Building Momentum for Meaningful Reform” from 1:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill (registration is HERE). Speakers include Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziWhat Republicans should demand in exchange for raising the debt ceiling Senate votes to end debate on T infrastructure bill The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by AT&T - Biden celebrates monstrous jobs report MORE (R-Wyo.) along with Sens. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Afghan evacuation still frustrates GOP senators seek to block dishonorable discharges for unvaccinated troops DHS chief 'horrified' by images at border MORE (R-Okla.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats draw red lines in spending fight What Republicans should demand in exchange for raising the debt ceiling Climate hawks pressure Biden to replace Fed chair MORE (D-R.I.). Budget experts Bill Hoagland from the Bipartisan Policy Center, Laura Blessing from Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute, and Bill Dauster of the University of Pennsylvania will join summit host Maya MacGuineas for a deep-dive discussion about “reforming our broken budget process.”
The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) annual governmental affairs conference at the Washington Convention Center today features speakers Nikki HaleyNikki HaleyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems attempt to tie government funding, Ida relief to debt limit Poll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field Harris to hold fundraiser for McAuliffe ahead of Virginia governor's race MORE, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Trump and former governor of South Carolina; Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerProtecting the outdoors: Three cheers for America's best idea Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Biden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program MORE (R-Colo.); Reps. Patrick McHenryPatrick Timothy McHenryLobbying world Eviction ruling puts new pressure on Congress Roughly 90 percent of federal rental aid still untapped: Treasury MORE (R-N.C.) and Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanOvernight Defense & National Security — Congress begins Afghanistan grilling US says about 1,500 citizens remain in Afghanistan How Congress can advance peace with North Korea MORE (D-Calif.), both members of the House Financial Services Committee; and David Plouffe, who steered campaigns for former President Obama.
The Hoover Institution will host “The Human Prosperity Project on Socialism and Free-Market Capitalism” from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in downtown Washington. Information/RSVP: email@example.com.
You’re invited to The Hill’s newsmaker event:
➤ America's Opioid Epidemic: Lessons Learned & A Way Forward, on Wednesday in Washington, explores access to treatment for opioid addiction and recovery issues with Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Rep. David JoyceDavid JoyceBipartisan lawmakers highlight COVID-19 impact on mental health, addiction The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats await Manchin decision on voting rights bill Porter urges increased budget for children's National Parks program MORE (R-Ohio) and Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoManchin puts foot down on key climate provision in spending bill House Democrats outline plan for transition to clean electricity The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Final countdown: Senate inches toward last infrastructure vote MORE (D-N.Y.). RSVP today!
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➔ Courts: Following accusations of sexual assault spanning decades that launched the #MeToo movement and ended the Hollywood career of disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein, a jury in New York on Monday found him guilty on counts of rape and sexual assault. On three other charges, jurors found Weinstein, 67, not guilty. He was immediately jailed and faces a prison sentence of up to 29 years (The Associated Press). Weinstein also faces civil lawsuits and prosecution in Los Angeles (Los Angeles Times). … The Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in a legal battle about whether federal law authorizes the U.S. Forest Service to allow a gas pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail. The ruling could determine if the $8 billion pipeline project moves forward (The Hill). … The justices on Monday agreed to hear a religious rights dispute involving the city of Philadelphia’s refusal to place children for foster care with a Catholic agency that bars same-sex couples from serving as foster parents (Reuters).
➔ Justice: As WikiLeaks founder Julian AssangeJulian Paul Assange Chelsea Manning tests positive for COVID-19 UK court allows US to expand Assange extradition appeal Mexico's domestic-minded foreign policy could alienate the US MORE’s extradition hearing in London began on Monday, a British judge heard conflicting portraits that described either a truth-telling journalist or a reckless criminal (The Associated Press). Assange, 48, is fighting extradition to stand trial in the United States on charges of violating the Espionage Act, arguing he would not receive a fair trial (The Washington Post). The United States argues that Assange put lives at risk with his decision in 2010 to make public or publish thousands of classified military documents and diplomatic cables via the online WikiLeaks site (NBC News).
➔ Celebration of life: Vanessa Bryant eulogized her husband, the late Kobe Bryant, and her daughter Gianna Bryant at a memorial service before 20,000 at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Monday. Speaking through tears, she labeled the former Los Angeles Lakers star "the MVP of girl dads" and said that it was fitting that he died alongside Gianna, saying they had to be “together.” Vanessa Bryant led the memorial ceremony, which also featured speeches from Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant’s former teammate, and a performance by Beyoncé (ESPN). On Monday, Vanessa Bryant also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter operator, saying that the company failed “to use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft” (Los Angeles Times).
And finally … Who says Washington power brokers don’t work across the aisle anymore? If you don’t immediately recognize this fun couple spotted in the posh Cafe Milano in the nation’s capital on Monday night Trump’s U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerBob LighthizerBiden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Whiskey, workers and friends caught in the trade dispute crossfire GOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' MORE and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka enjoyed some after-dinner Cohiba cigars and bonhomie among other VIP diners. The two men have been friends for more than 30 years and celebrated their shared contributions to the new NAFTA, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement initiated by Trump and recently ratified by Congress, reports The Hill’s editor-at-large Steve Clemons, who filed to the Morning Report, played paparazzi and apparently enjoyed a delicious meal.