Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Altria – Political crosscurrents persist for Biden, Dems

A sign depicting a facemask is seen outside a voting center for the California gubernatorial recall election
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                         Presented by Altria

A sign depicting a facemask is seen outside a voting center for the California gubernatorial recall election



Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Monday! Happy Indigenous Peoples Day (Columbus Day)! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths as of this morning: 713,350.


As of this morning, 65.3 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 56.4 percent is fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker.

In little more than a year, Americans will vote in what is expected to be a referendum on President Biden and the Democrats who narrowly control Congress. That reality is center stage in conversations about policy and strategy in Washington, approaches to the pandemic and the U.S. economy, and the excitement and anxiety about the next presidential contest.


House Democrats who face tough reelections in 2022 say they’re determined this fall to lock up any legislative wins that can woo supporters. The Hill’s Scott Wong and Mike Lillis report that while the history of off-year elections does not bode well for Democrats next year, House moderates are stampeding to enact new spending for roads, bridges, ports and broadband, which they see as broadly popular with constituents. Their more liberal colleagues have a dramatically different midterm wish list they vow to deliver.


At almost every turn, Biden is pinned down by crosscurrents, including the administration’s own miscues, divisions within his party and determined, practiced GOP opposition. The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes in his Memo that it’s possible to imagine political triumph or political doom for the party in power next year, whether on the economy, the pandemic or competency in governance. The president’s job approval rating has plunged below 40 percent, an ominous thumbs-down, particularly from independent voters (The Hill).


If Democrats are sweating, so are Republicans — for a different reason. Former President Trump is a divisive presence who dominates the political party he adopted as a successful candidate and rebranded as a one-term president. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports that a significant number of Senate Republicans would be relieved, even thrilled, if Trump stayed out of the 2024 election, or at least kept his personal campaign objectives under wraps through the midterms. They were agitated last week to see Trump criticize Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) approach to the debt ceiling and his delight in stirring unease in the Senate GOP conference.


One GOP senator labeled Trump “a clinical narcissist,” while another said simply, “I prefer calm.”


Nonetheless, Republicans at large see a Trump 2024 bid for the White House as a near certainty (The Hill). The former president’s Saturday political rally in Iowa turned up the temperature for another bid, despite Trump’s reticence about officially announcing his intentions. Trump’s fan base remains unshakeable, a reality that Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) (pictured below) conceded on Saturday when he accepted Trump’s endorsement as the 88-year-old seeks reelection to an eighth term.


“I was born at night, but not last night,” Grassley said following Trump’s announcement. “So, if I didn’t accept the endorsement of a person that’s got 91 percent of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn’t be too smart. I’m smart enough to accept that endorsement” (Des Moines Register).


In February following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Grassley opposed Trump’s second impeachment but sharply chided him for continuing “to argue that the election had been stolen even though the courts didn’t back up his claims. He belittled and harassed elected officials across the country to get his way. He encouraged his own, loyal vice president, Mike Pence, to take extraordinary and unconstitutional actions during the Electoral College count. … There’s no doubt in my mind that President Trump’s language was extreme, aggressive and irresponsible.”



Former President Donald Trump smiles as Sen Chuck Grassley (R-IA) speaks during a rally



MSNBC: Trump’s 2024 political play.


With their eyes on the midterm contests, few prominent Republican candidates or potential candidates are interested in publicly criticizing Trump, as his hold on their party is so potent.


House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who is working closely with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to try to put Republicans in control of the House, on Sunday went to some lengths under questioning from “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace to dodge questions about whether he believes last year’s presidential election was stolen from Trump (The Hill).


Pence, who is organizing, would like to run for president in 2024 but has a Trump problem and an uncertain path to the nomination, reports The Hill’s Brett Samuels.


The former vice president is not the only conservative with higher ambitions who recognizes that Trump’s base is loud, energized and wedded to its hero’s commands. The bottom line: 44 percent of Republicans say they want Trump to run again, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center. Asked whether their party should accept politicians who openly criticize the 45th president, 63 percent said no (The New York Times).


Dan Balz, The Washington Post: A decade of partisan conflict has turned Wisconsin into two states in one — deeply red vs. deeply blue.



A truck with a 'Trump 2024' flag


Altria’s companies are leading the way in moving adult smokers away from cigarettes – by taking action to transition millions towards potentially less harmful choices. Learn how at


CONGRESS: The fight surrounding the work of the Jan. 6 select committee is expected to rage on this week as lawmakers push for depositions, documents and other information while dealing with a Trump-directed stonewalling by key players involved in the lead up to the Capitol riot.


Tentatively, four key figures who were recently served subpoenas are slated to sit for depositions: Stephen Bannon and Kash Patel, the former chief of staff to the acting Secretary of Defense, on Thursday, and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and top Trump aide Dan Scavino on Friday. However, those remain in flux after an attorney for Trump last week directed them not to turn over any documents to investigators and the former president said he would attempt to assert executive privilege to Congress and likely through the courts.


The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch details all of the comings and goings in the battle between the two sides. The committee is examining a Stop the Steal rally near the White House hours before the Capitol was ransacked by pro-Trump protesters and, specifically, the rally’s organizers.


One subpoena targeted Ali Alexander, a longtime GOP political operative and an organizer of the rally. The subpoena details how Alexander’s organization, One Nation Under God, applied for a permit on the Capitol grounds for Jan. 6. and coordinated with others organizing the rally near the White House.


The question of executive privilege is also under a microscope. Although Trump is trying to invoke it while out of office, House investigators say they are optimistic it is a delay tactic rather than a legal precedent or hurdle for continued inquiry.


“Executive privilege applies to a sitting president, not former presidents, because the focus is on the national security interests of the country. It’s a very limited doctrinal privilege,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told reporters last month. “Even if the court were to weigh the public’s overwhelming interest in getting at the truth of events, versus the interest in national security, in this case both factors are on the side of disclosure.”


> Debt drama: Ahead of the Tuesday vote in the House to raise the debt limit through Dec. 3, lawmakers are sick of the near-annual wrestling match to increase the nation’s borrowing authority, with some prepared to hand off those responsibilities.


Support for taking the issue out of Congress’s hands gained some influential supporters in recent days, including House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Last week, Yarmuth joined Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) to introduce a bill that would transfer the authority to raise the debt limit from Congress to the Treasury secretary.


Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lauded it as an “excellent idea,” but indicated that the focus is on tomorrow’s vote and the looming winter brawl to raise it once again (The Hill).


The Hill: Yellen on invoking 14th Amendment to ignore debt limit: “We shouldn’t ever be in that position.”


Jordain Carney, The Hill: Democrats set up chaotic end-of-year stretch.


The Associated Press: Fall will test leaders’ ability to keep Congress on rails.


Democrats are also facing a rough-and-tumble stretch for the future of the Biden agenda and the Build Back Better social-spending package.


The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda takes an in-depth look at the internal fights in crafting the package, including on prescription drug pricing — a way Democrats have planned to pay for the bill — expanding Medicaid and spending big to combat climate change.


The New York Times: Major climate action at stake in fight over twin bills pending in Congress.


The Hill: Biden faces pressure to pass infrastructure bills before climate.


CBS News poll: What’s in Democrats’ Build Back Better plan? A lot of Americans don’t know.


The Washington Post: Liberal Democrats have become the mainstream of the party and less willing to compromise with dwindling moderates.


More in Congress: The Hill’s Peter Sullivan details the latest discussions among House and Senate Democratic leaders about possible changes to a major bill to lower drug prices, with a goal of securing the backing of moderates. … Democrats’ immigration hopes have sputtered in Congress and waned under the Biden administration’s policies as visas expire and the number of resettled refugees welcomed to the United States plunges, according to unhappy pro-immigration advocates (The Hill). … Democrats’ support for electric vehicles has sparked intense lobbying (The Hill).


ADMINISTRATION: The Justice Department on Sunday said 42-year-old U.S. Navy nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebbe and his wife, Diana Toebbe, were arrested on Saturday in West Virginia and charged with violating the Atomic Energy Act by selling secrets about nuclear submarines to an undercover FBI agent who posed as an operative for a foreign country. According to prosecutors, Jonathan Toebbe sent a package of restricted data to an unidentified country in 2020 and later began selling secrets for tens of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency to an undercover FBI agent posing as a foreign official. The Toebbes are scheduled to appear in a West Virginia federal court on Tuesday (Reuters, The Associated Press).



A scene viewed from a periscope of a US-made Guppy class submarine



> Supporters of the Abraham Accords, normalization agreements between Israel and majority-Muslim countries announced more than a year ago during the Trump administration, believe the current team in the White House is missing a key bipartisan opening with Congress, reports The Hill’s Laura Kelly. They say success is possible in the Middle East, including strides to benefit Palestinians.


> U.S. policy toward Haiti is in turmoil, reports The Hill’s Rafael Bernal. The Biden administration faces a daunting task to disentangle itself from traditional interlocutors in Haiti’s political establishment without triggering further instability in the impoverished, ravaged country. “I think the risk of changing governments in a country like Haiti makes us nervous, to be honest with you,” said ambassador Daniel Foote, the former special envoy to Haiti who resigned last month over the administration’s repatriations of Haitian nationals.


The Hill: The Environmental Protection Agency is closer to unveiling a plan for tackling forever chemicals.

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! 


Democrats, you’re in danger, by Charles M. Blow, columnist, The New York Times.


Scalise still can’t break the grip of Trump’s lies, by James Downie, digital opinions editor, The Washington Post.

Altria’s companies are leading the way in moving adult smokers away from cigarettes – by taking action to transition millions towards potentially less harmful choices. Learn how at


The House meets Tuesday at 3 p.m. The Rules Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday at 1 p.m. to consider a bill to raise the debt limit by $480 billion ahead of a vote by the full House.


The Senate meets at noon on Tuesday for a pro forma session.


The president will return to the White House at 4:20 p.m. after a weekend in Wilmington, Del.


INVITATIONS: The Hill’s Virtually Live team hosts events all this week with lawmakers and experts. On TUESDAY at 1 p.m., join “Cybersecurity Summit.” Information is HERE. On WEDNESDAY at 1 p.m.,  be part of “Kidney Disease and the Road to Saving Lives,” with details HERE. On THURSDAY, join the “Diversity and Inclusion Summit,” with registration HERE.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.


➔ CORONAVIRUS: Merck early this morning applied to the Food and Drug Administration to grant emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 antiviral pill, molnupiravir, the first treatment that would win authorization that does not warrant an injection. A decision by the FDA is expected within weeks. (The Associated Press). … Is the delta surge the last COVID-19 wave the U.S. will have to endure? That’s a question health experts are split on as the country enters the colder months, with the holiday season right around the corner. COVID-19 cases are on the downswing, but experts remain worried by two key issues: that tens of millions Americans remain unvaccinated and the virus’s unpredictability (The Hill). … Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that vaccine mandates for elementary school children are likely “a long way off” as there remains a dearth of data for kids and the vaccine (The Hill). … Health experts are indicating that if you are fully vaccinated and have already had COVID-19, getting a booster shot at this point is unnecessary (The Wall Street Journal).



Families visit a pop-up COVID-19 vaccine site and block party



➔ NOBEL PRIZE: Three economists in the United States, David Card, Joshua Angrist and Guido Imbens, won the Nobel Prize in economic sciences this morning in Stockholm for their work focused on “drawing conclusions from unintended experiments.” Here’s a list of other 2021 award winners.


➔ PANDORA PAPERS, THE UPSHOT: If you didn’t have time last week to absorb details revealed in a major collaborative journalistic investigation about world leaders’ extraordinary efforts at tax avoidance, contortions to keep their investments and purchases secret and various personal business dealings offshore, The Hill’s Aris Folley boiled it all down to five basic takeaways.


➔ TECH: Facebook announced on Sunday that it will introduce new features to “nudge” teens away from harmful content on the platform and take occasional breaks from using Instagram. Nick Clegg, the company’s vice president for global affairs, laid out the new plans during Sunday show appearances. “We are constantly iterating in order to improve our products,” Clegg told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We cannot, with a wave of the wand, make everyone’s life perfect. What we can do is improve our products so that our products are as safe and as enjoyable to use” (Reuters).


And finally … Iowa’s Caleb Sinnwell, 14, this week will receive a U.S. Army Certificate of Achievement for his school project about the Ghost Army of World War II. The eighth-grader’s website, “Ghost Army: Deceptive Communications and the Power of Illusion,” won first place and $1,000 in June as part of a National History Day competition. Army Maj. Ashley Holzmann, a psychological operations officer and commander from Fort Jackson, S.C., will be on hand in Iowa on Tuesday to give Sinnwell his commendation (Des Moines Register).


Separately, Sinnwell is making headway while lobbying senators, including Grassley, to enact a 2015 bill that cleared the House and is making its way through the Senate. The measure would green-light a Congressional Gold Medal to honor the Ghost Army, credited with saving more than 30,000 lives during the war using deception, including inflatable tanks and artillery, sound effects, radio trickery and impersonations that fooled German forces in Europe.


“I have a long military history in my family,” the middle schooler explained when asked about his inspiration for a project that took him more than 10 months to finish. “I wanted to find a military topic that not very many people had heard of. My teacher, Ms. (Suzy) Turner, suggested the Ghost Army. After seeing a video about it, it seemed like a good match.”



Caleb Sinnwell, a student at Nashua-Plainfield Middle School, made it to the National History Day competition for the second time in a row — and this time, he bagged the prize.


Tags Chris Wallace Chuck Grassley Donald Trump Jamie Raskin Janet Yellen Joe Biden John Yarmuth Kevin McCarthy Mark Meadows Mike Pence Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Steve Scalise

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