Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report — House GOP watch: Budget, impeachment, McCarthy’s future

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The House returns from its summer recess next week, and the pressure is on Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to avoid a government shutdown — and wrangle his oft-fractious conference. 

The House has 11 legislative days to pass a stopgap measure before government funding runs out on Sept. 30, and McCarthy has increasingly been signaling he also intends to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Biden this fall, leaving Democrats and Senate Republicans uneasy. 

NOT MOVING FORWARD with an inquiry into Biden could be just as perilous for McCarthy’s grip on the Speaker’s gavel, as House conservatives are making renewed suggestions that a motion may be called for a floor vote on his speakership. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) told Axios he thinks a motion to vacate “[is] in the back of everybody’s mind … If somebody brings that it wouldn’t take much, you know, it just takes a couple of votes.” 

And, as The Hill’s Mychael Schnell reports, the divisions in Congress over impeachment and the possible shutdown could put the 18 Republicans defending their seats in districts President Biden won into a tight spot — forcing them to pick between risking blowback from their party or their voters back home.  

Bloomberg News: The threat of a government shutdown looms as Congress grasps for a deal. 

CBS News: What happens if there’s a government shutdown? 

Yahoo Finance: Why a likely government shutdown this fall “could be a threat” to the economy. 

The Hill: The Senate will move a spending “minibus” this week. 

OVER IN THE SENATE, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), 81, vowed Wednesday to keep his job at least through 2024 and to finish his seventh Senate term, which runs through 2026, despite recent health problems. The announcement came after calls from fellow conservatives to step down as Senate Republican leader (The Hill).  

Some, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), an eye doctor, challenged as “misinformation” and “clearly not accurate” a finding by Capitol Hill attending physician Brian Monahan’s that McConnell’s recent freeze-ups were possibly the result of dehydration. It’s also the explanation floated by the senator and his staff (The Hill).  

MEANWHILE, Ukraine will get another $1 billion in aid from the United States, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a surprise visit to Kyiv on Wednesday, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (CNBC). 

? 3 Things to Know Today: 

Hurricane Lee, churning through the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is expected to be an extremely dangerous, major storm by early Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday.  

The Georgia judge presiding over the election interference case against former President Trump and his allies said Wednesday that he was “very skeptical” of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s plan to put all 19 defendants on trial next month

Biden is en route to New Delhi, India, for the Group of 20 Summit


LEADING THE DAY 

➤ POLITICS 

© The Associated Press / Robert F. Bukaty | Former Vice President Mike Pence spoke Wednesday in New Hampshire and participated in a town hall at New England College in Henniker, N.H., during his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination. 

Former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday framed the GOP presidential primary as a battle between a brand of populism espoused by Trump and his “imitators,” and traditional Republican Party conservatism, The Hill’s Brett Samuels reports

Pence, who polls at about 5 percent among likely Republican primary voters as Trump dominates the race, was in New Hampshire trying to persuade voters that the boss he served for four years is unfit to return to the Oval Office because he flouted the Constitution. 

TAKING A SHOT AT TRUMP, he said populists are substituting limited government and traditional values for “an agenda stitched together by little else than personal grievances and performative outrage” (NBC News). 

The former vice president also participated in a SiriusXM town hall Wednesday with journalist moderators Julie Mason and Steve Scully. He will join NewsNation on Wednesday evening for a live town hall (NewsNation and The Hill are owned by Nexstar). 

UPSHOT: Pence has gained little traction with Christian conservatives, who largely back Trump. He champions Trump-Pence policies while distancing himself from the former president’s behavior, an awkward message that has attracted insufficient GOP voter or donor support compared with other contenders. Pence also defends as a badge of honesty his ceremonial certification of the Electoral College tally on Jan. 6, 2021, which earned plaudits from primary rivals also trying to defeat Trump, but not from enough voters who might be eyeing an alternative next year.   

2024 roundup: Some states are probing whether to try to keep Trump off 2024 ballots based on the 14th amendment and a clause about excluding insurrectionists. It’s no longer an academic discussion; a left-leaning watchdog group filed suit on Wednesday in Colorado (The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press)..… Trump told conservative podcast host Hugh Hewitt Wednesday that if called to testify in any of the four criminal cases in which he’s pleaded guilty, he’d take the stand (Politico). … The former president, who is 77 and favors golf as exercise, asserted that Biden’s “body is shot and his mind is worse” (The Hill). … Rep. George Santos’s (R-N.Y.) troubles with truth as an untested GOP candidate in New York were well known to his staff members in 2021 after they read a secret internal report detailing the candidate’s checkered past. Santos is seeking a second term while challenging federal wire fraud and theft charges (CBS News published excerpts from the “vulnerability report”). … Former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee — whose daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is the state’s governor following her White House stint as Trump’s spokeswoman — predicted that next year’s election will be the last to be “decided by ballots rather than bullets” if Trump is defeated because of his various legal battles (The Hill). … Joan Jett and Nikki Haley, Bruce Springsteen and Chris Christie, John Coltrane and Cornel West: Presidential candidates responded when Politico Magazine asked for their personal playlists. 


ZOOM IN 

TRUMP WORLD 

In Georgia on Wednesday, Judge Scott McAfee denied a request to separate defendant Kenneth Cheseboro’s case from that of defendant Sidney Powell, a Trump-aligned lawyer, as part of the 2020 election subversion prosecution brought by prosecutor Willis. His reasoning: unnecessary to achieve a fair trial. Prosecutors who want a joint trial with all 19 defendants as part of a racketeering case that includes Trump estimate it could take four months. McAfee expressed skepticism about Willis’s aim for a joint trial and did not issue a final ruling as to whether the other 17 co-defendants should be tried Oct. 23, when Cheseboro’s trial is scheduled to begin along with Powell (The Hill). 

TRUMP’S LEGAL WOES continued Wednesday. He was held liable in a second defamation case brought by writer E. Jean Carroll and faces a January trial to determine damages (CNN). … Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith on Tuesday told the court that Trump’s public comments and social media posts risk tainting a jury pool in the 2020 election prosecution, for which a trial date is set March 4, 2024 (The Associated Press). … After threats of prosecution, Mar-a-Lago IT worker Yuscil Taveras has agreed to cooperate in the government’s classified documents-retention case against Trump (CNN). … Trump was warned in advance by his lawyers after leaving office that the FBI would search Mar-a-Lago for White House documents if he did not comply with a federal subpoena to return them (ABC News). … Federal prosecutors began a trial Wednesday of former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro, charged with contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the Jan. 6 committee. They allege he acted “above the law.” Navarro says he’s not guilty and had executive protection from Trump (The Associated Press). 

IN NEWS WELCOMED BY REPUBLICANS, INCLUDING TRUMP, federal prosecutors will seek an indictment of Hunter Biden by Sept. 29 in his tax and firearms case (Reuters and The Guardian). The president has been mum about his son’s legal troubles. Hunter Biden and his lawyers initially believed they had worked out a plea deal that would end the prospect of future prosecution. The Justice Department switched gears amid withering external pressures, including from House Republicans and a pair of IRS whistleblowers, who alleged a two-tier system of justice to benefit the president’s offspring (The New York Times).    


➤ ADMINISTRATION 

© The Associated Press / Manish Swarup | The G20 sign in New Delhi, India, in August. 

The Biden administration, in an aggressive move on Wednesday that angered Republicans, canceled seven remaining oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Interior Department overturned sales held in the Trump administration and proposed stronger protections against development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (The Hill and The Associated Press). Alaska’s GOP governor immediately threatened to sue. 

Biden is set to travel to the Group of 20 summit in India today, where he’ll join a high-stakes meeting with other world leaders. Notably absent: Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is not scheduled to attend. Key sessions will include talks on climate change and banking reform — notably a focus on reforming the World Bank and urging other multilateral development banks to boost lending for climate change and infrastructure projects. From India, the president is scheduled to stop in Vietnam this weekend (Politico and Reuters). 

A congressional angle: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Axios he has urged Trump to support the mega-deal Biden is negotiating with Saudi Arabia, which could pave the way for a historic peace agreement between the kingdom and Israel. It is possible that Biden, who sent emissaries to Riyadh this week, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meet during the G20 gathering

On the U.S.’s radar: A potential military support deal between North Korea and Russia, which would likely further entrench the grinding war in Ukraine and bolster Pyongyang’s nuclear aims. As The Hill’s Brad Dress reports, North Korea is considering supplying Moscow with artillery rounds and rockets in return for critical technology and food, a deal that would keep Russian forces in the fight as they struggle in Ukraine and supply North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with crucial technology that could boost his efforts to develop more nuclear weapons. 

Vice President Harris is in the air this morning, returning from Jakarta, Indonesia, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit. On Wednesday she met with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the Philippines and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan (The Associated Press). 


ELSEWHERE 

INTERNATIONAL  

The residual impact of sanctions against Russia is deepening divisions among the G20 countries as world leaders and finance ministers meet this week in India. Fractures have come into the open between countries, and alliances are tightening among some nations that have long been resistant to the U.S.-led efforts to exact economic punishment on Moscow for its war in Ukraine

The United States and its allies among the Group of Seven major industrial nations insist that the sanctions and a price cap on Russian oil have been successful at restricting revenue for the Russian economy, even though it grew by 4.9 percent in the second quarter of 2023. Russia and China, meanwhile, have declared a “no limits” partnership of their own. Also likely to be seen at the G20 summit is the budding closeness of U.S.-India ties in light of a shared concern about China’s military and economic assertiveness (The Associated Press). 

The New York Times: Elections in Slovakia this month will be a test of European unity on Ukraine, and of Russia’s efforts to undermine it. The front-runner wants to halt arms shipments to Kyiv. 

The Washington Post: Romania finds suspected Russian drone fragments on its territory. 

Reuters: Blinken’s trip to Ukraine was overshadowed by a Russian attack that killed at least 17 people Wednesday. 

© The Associated Press / Brendan Smialowski | Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv on Wednesday. 


HEALTH & WELLBEING 

A new surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations — and first lady Jill Biden’s positive test — is putting a focus on the lingering risks of the coronavirus, particularly for an elderly political class in America. As The Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel reports, public health experts say there’s no greater risk today to an 80-year-old getting COVID-19 than there was a year or two ago, assuming people are vaccinated. A 70-year-old with no underlying conditions, as an example, is less at risk than a morbidly obese 35-year-old.  

But public health experts also say people — including Biden and other aging leaders — should take precautions by keeping up with the latest vaccinations and masking indoors in poorly ventilated areas. As the fall — and flu season — approaches, The Hill’s Nick Robertson breaks down what you need to know about a possible COVID-19 surge, and upticks in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) among children.  

Reuters: Moderna says its updated COVID-19 vaccine is effective against newer variants. 

The Washington Post: The unexpected reasons that extreme heat is so dangerous for those with schizophrenia. 

Politico: States are withholding cooling aid for the poor as the heat gets deadlier. 


OPINION 

Bernie Sanders goes all-in for Biden, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board

■ The Trump trials should grant America a lens into the federal courts, by John Kenneth White, opinion contributor, The Hill


WHERE AND WHEN 

The House will convene for a pro forma session on Friday at 1 p.m. Lawmakers return to Washington Sept. 11.  

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m.  

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. He is scheduled to depart Joint Base Andrews at 5:05 p.m. en route to Ramstein, Germany, where he will arrive for refueling Friday, then continue to New Delhi, India, to participate in the Group of 20 summit, returning to the U.S. next week after a stop in Vietnam.  

The vice president is in Jakarta, Indonesia, for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, which begins at 10:15 a.m. WIT at the Jakarta Convention Center. Harris will depart Indonesia at 3:50 p.m. WIT for Yokota Air Base in Japan. 

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is in New Delhi, India, to join with the president at the Group of 20 Summit. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra will hold a news conference at 12:15 p.m. to announce a proposed rule to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to the department’s programs and services. 

Economic indicator: The Labor Department will report on unemployment claims filed in the week ending Sept. 2. 


THE CLOSER 

© The Associated Press / Ross D. Franklin | In Phoenix this summer, Julia Marturano of The City of Phoenix Heat Response Program helped set up a public hydration station as temperatures soared to 119 degrees. 

Take Our Morning Report Quiz 

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! ?️ Alert to melting glaciers, hot-tub oceans and island infernos, we’re eager for some smart guesses about recent heat.  

Be sure to email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and kkarisch@thehill.com — please add “Quiz” to your subject line. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday. 

Citing data, what authority said this week that the months of June to August were Earth’s warmest such period since records began in 1940

  1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 
  1. Pope Francis 
  1. European Union Copernicus Climate Change Service 
  1. World Meteorological Organization 

Sea surface temperatures around which state this summer reached the highest levels on record since satellites began collecting ocean data? 

  1. Massachusetts 
  1. Alaska 
  1. Florida 
  1. Oregon 

What did scientists blame as the culprit behind recent extreme weather events? 

  1. El Niño 
  1. Greenhouse gases  
  1. Climate change deniers 
  1. All of the above 

Which city, accustomed to harsh temperatures in winter, set a daily record high of 102 degrees on Aug. 21? 

  1. Lincoln, Neb. 
  1. Fairbanks, Alaska 
  1. Missoula, Mont. 
  1. Cabot, Vt. 

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Tags Antony Blinken Chris Christie Cornel West Donald Trump E. Jean Carroll Fani Willis George Santos Jack Smith Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Mike Huckabee Mike Pence Mitch McConnell Nikki Haley Peter Navarro Rand Paul sarah huckabee sanders Tim Burchett Volodymyr Zelensky

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