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The Hill's Morning Report — Weekend forecast: A shutdown is very likely

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A government shutdown is looking inevitable as Congress heads into the weekend without a funding plan lined up. 

Ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline, GOP opponents of the Senate’s bipartisan stopgap bill — which the chamber voted 76-22 Thursday to advance — are seeking to drag out the process beyond Sunday. Critics of the measure want to delay a vote to give the House a chance to pass its own temporary funding bill, spearheaded by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), which would give conservatives in both chambers more leverage. 

Even with changes — like stripping out Ukraine aid and adding more border security funding — it’s unlikely the fractious House GOP conference would support the Senate bill, as House leaders have been unable to rally members around their own spending measures (The Hill and Politico). 

MCCARTHY IS PREPARING TO MOVE a House GOP-drafted short-term spending bill for a vote today, with funding levels that yesterday led Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to accuse the Speaker of going “back on his word” by abandoning the debt limit deal struck with the White House this summer. President Biden and McCarthy agreed in May to set the discretionary spending cap at $1.59 trillion, but the new House stopgap would be more in line with the $1.47 trillion spending top line demanded by members of the House Freedom Caucus (The Hill). 

At least six House Republicans — enough to sink a party-line vote, assuming full attendance — have publicly said they will oppose any kind of short-term funding measure as they demand the House continues work on regular full-year appropriations bills (The Hill).

THE SPEAKER IS NOW AT AN IMPASSE: Likely saddled with the political damage of a shutdown unless he turns to Democrats for help in passing a bipartisan bill, but in fear of losing his gavel if he works with Democrats and defies the small group of Republicans bringing the House to a standstill. Sources told The Washington Post that a contingent of far-right firebrands are plotting to force a vote that could remove McCarthy from the Speakership as early as next week. Though it’s unclear if the plan will move forward or if members are simply using it as a warning, some said removing McCarthy is “inevitable” and they are just calculating the right time to try to do it.

▪ The Hill: The House advanced legislation Thursday that provides $300 million in aid to Ukraine after GOP leaders stripped the funding from a Defense spending bill.

▪ The Hill: Republican moderates stymied McCarthy on agriculture and FDA bills.

▪ CNN: Tensions erupt between McCarthy and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) at closed-door House GOP meeting as shutdown nears.

▪ Politico: What does Gaetz want?

“BOY, THAT’S AWKWARD”: Rep. Jared Moskowitz’s (D-Fla.) response to testimony by witnesses at the first Republican impeachment inquiry into the president. Even as Republicans sought to convince the public of the need for an inquiry, GOP-invited witnesses at turns undercut their message, saying there was not currently enough evidence to back an impeachment resolution (The Hill). Meanwhile, a NBC News poll shows a majority of voters oppose the Biden impeachment hearings.


3 THINGS TO KNOW TODAY

▪ The government has begun notifying federal employees that a shutdown may be imminent. And it’s not just a shutdown — Congress has no plan for the Federal Aviation Administration either.

▪ Student loan payments resume Sunday. Here are five things borrowers should know.

▪ Embattled Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is digging in his heels, refusing to resign despite calls from many of his Democratic colleagues and telling reporters Monday that “prosecutors get it wrong sometimes.” 

Morning Report’s Alexis Simendinger is on leave.


LEADING THE DAY

© The Associated Press / Mark J. Terrill | No clear winner emerged at the second Republican presidential debate, held Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

The GOP’s rowdy second debate Wednesday night is being panned by many as pointless after no clear winner emerged from the fray of candidates battling to catch up to the absent frontrunner, former President Trump. Seven candidates took their podiums in Simi Valley, Calif., to try and stand out in the crowded field against a ticking clock as the 2024 race heats up. But as The Hill’s Caroline Vakil and Julia Mueller report, Fox News moderator Dana Perino even acknowledged the state of the contest, telling the White House hopefuls that “it’s now obvious that if you all stay in the race, former President Donald Trump wins the nomination.” 

Critics have weighed in by dismissing the California debate as being of little meaning and calling out candidates for small-scale clashes over topics like curtains. Trump’s campaign labeled the event “boring and inconsequential.”

“THE SILENCE IS DEAFENING”: Speaking in Arizona Thursday, Biden issued one of his most dire warnings yet that Trump and his allies are a menace to American democracy, declaring that the former president is more interested in personal power than upholding the nation’s core values and suggesting even mainstream Republicans are complicit. The president accused his predecessor and would-be successor of inciting violence, seeking unfettered power and plotting to undermine the Constitution if he returns to office for a second term.

“This is a dangerous notion, this president is above the law, no limits on power,” Biden said during the speech honoring the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a fierce Trump critic. “Trump says the Constitution gave him, quote, the right to do whatever he wants as president, end of quote. I never heard a president say that in jest. Not guided by the Constitution or by common service and decency toward our fellow Americans but by vengeance and vindictiveness.”

The direct attack on Trump marked a shift for Biden, who has spent months mostly talking up the benefits of his policies while ignoring the Republicans seeking to challenge him (The New York Times and The Associated Press).

2024 ROUNDUP

▪ The Trump campaign is calling on the Republican National Committee to “put an end” to future debates to “train our fire” on Biden.

▪ Echoing Trump, Vivek Ramaswamy calls for an end to birthright citizenship.

▪ Arizona Republican Kari Lake will announce her Senate run at an Oct. 10 rally, setting up a high-stakes, likely three-way race with incumbent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I) and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D).

“It’s the only thing he’s got left”: DeSantis’ rivals are trying to turn his Florida record against him.

▪ A Republican group that has spent $6 million on more than 40 anti-Trump ads finds little is working. Some ads even gave the former president a boost.

▪ Trump isn’t the union supporter he’s claiming to be.

▪ The United Auto Workers (UAW) union wants to emerge from its strike against Detroit’s three major automakers with at least a 30 percent pay raise, a drop from the initial proposal.


WHERE AND WHEN

The House convenes at 10 a.m. 

The Senate meets at 10 a.m. 

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief. He, Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff will travel to Arlington, Va., where Biden will speak at the Armed Forces Farewell Tribute in honor of the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Mark Milley, and participate in an Armed Forces Hail in honor of the incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Charles “C.Q.” Brown

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is hosting the U.S.-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue at the State Department, which will include a press briefing with Mexican Foreign Secretary Alicia Barcena, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Mexican Secretary of Economy Raquel Buenrostro and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

The White House press briefing is scheduled for 12:30 p.m., and will feature Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

🎂 The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum has moved up planned festivities for the former president’s 99th birthday to Saturday amid the possibility of a shutdown.


ZOOM IN

TRUMP WORLD

Trump’s New York civil fraud trial will proceed as planned Monday, after the state’s appellate division on Thursday denied a last-ditch legal effort to delay its start. The New York attorney general’s office, which brought the case against Trump, called Trump’s effort a “brazen and meritless attempt” to “usurp” the authority of Justice Arthur Engoron, the trial judge.

The appeals court’s order comes after Engoron found Trump liable for fraud Tuesday, ruling that New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) proved the core elements of her case against the former president and his businesses. Trump’s business empire was imperiled by the decision, which stripped some of the former president’s business licenses and raised the potential for him to lose control of some of his famed properties (The Hill).

James plans to call Trump and his adult sons to the stand during the trial, according to a list of witnesses her office has filed with the court. Trump is currently slated to be the government’s second-to-last witness (ABC News).

▪ The New York Times: Trump could lose Trump Tower (and other properties) in the fraud case.

▪ The Hill: Trump won’t try to move his Georgia charges to federal court.


ELSEWHERE

International Biden Xi 3

© The Associated Press / Alex Brandon | President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, in 2022.

INTERNATIONAL

Beijing and Washington are paving the way for Chinese leader Xi Jinping to visit the U.S., moving ahead with high-level official exchanges and taking other steps to improve the tone of their turbulent relations. Both sides are discussing a trip to Washington by Xi’s top economic-policy aide, Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng, who would be the most senior official to travel to the U.S. since Biden took office.Planning is also under-way for China’s top diplomat and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to visit Washington in October to prepare for a summit (The Wall Street Journal). 

▪ Vox: U.S.-China tensions are every country’s problem now.

▪ The Wall Street Journal: China is investing billions in a global disinformation campaign, the U.S. says. Fake authors, bot armies and lawsuits are among the tactics Beijing employs to reshape the information landscape.

Why did North Korea expel American soldier Pvt. Travis King rather than use him for its own purposes? Analysts told The New York Times he was probably considered more of a burden than an asset. Meanwhile, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for an exponential increase in production of nuclear weapons Thursday and for his country to play a larger role in a coalition of nations confronting the United States in a “new Cold War” (The Associated Press).

The Associated Press: NATO’s secretary-general met with Ukraine’s president to discuss the status of the war and needs of troops on Thursday.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

As drought tightens its grip in the Central U.S. and water levels on the Mississippi River plummet to near-record lows, a surge of saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico is pushing upstream, polluting drinking water for thousands of residents south of New Orleans.

With little prospect of rain in the future, officials are working to find solutions before the saltwater infiltrates treatment plants that serve tens of thousands more residents (CNN). The Hill’s Rachel Frazin breaks down four things to know about the saltwater intrusion.

▪ The New York Times: Want to spur green energy in Wyoming? Aim for the billionaires.

▪ Fortune: The Texas problem: All the workers who have the jobs for green energy are in fossil fuels and don’t want to move.

Environment NOLA Saltwater 4

© The Associated Press / Chris Granger, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate | The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is building an underwater sill in the Mississippi River to slow the flow of saltwater to New Orleans.

OPINION

Alarmed Republicans are preparing to draft Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, by Robert Costa, contributor, The Washington Post.

Fraud is gobbling up one-fifth of SNAP benefits; Congress must act to stop it, by Andrew McClenahan and Dawn Royal, opinion contributors, The Hill.

THE CLOSER

Closer Agnew 5

© The Associated Press / AP Photo | Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1969.

And finally … 👏👏👏 Congratulations to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners! We asked about politicians’ run-ins with the law and readers delivered!

Here’s who guessed and googled their way to a perfect 4/4: Ki Harvey, Mary Anne McEnery, Phil Kirstein, Richard Baznik, Randall Patrick, Lynn Gardner, Peter Sprofera, Terry Pflaumer, Luther Berg, John Ciorciari, Patrick Kavanagh, August Siemon, Pam Manges, Robert Bradley, Karlis Streips, Lou Tisler, Steve James and Jack Barshay.

They knew former Georgia Sen. Herman E. Talmadge’s (D) ex-wife testified that she got spending money in $100 bills from an old overcoat he’d stuffed with cash.

Menendez’s current legal troubles aren’t his first. After being indicted in 2015, the senator was acquitted in 2018 after the jury could not reach a verdict

President Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew, had his own legal scandal while in office, after prosecutors discovered he was taking kickbacks from contractors during his time as Baltimore County executive and governor of Maryland, which he continued to do as vice president.

The Congressional Post Office Scandal rocked Congress in the ’90s, when members and congressional staff were accused of a conspiracy to launder Post Office money through stamps and postal vouchers.

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