What to Know in Washington: 2020 Democrats Fight for Michigan

Democrats say they’ve got lots of answers for Michigan’s woes – automotive and agriculture sectors suffering from the trade war, racial economic inequalities, and a lack of affordable health care. But they face a skeptical audience when they arrive for this week’s debates.

Hillary Clinton in 2016 was the first Democratic presidential candidate to lose the state in 28 years, by a slim 11,000 votes. The party seems to understand it can’t take Michigan for granted this time around.

State and local officials want the candidates to know that they need to not just show up, but to show up with a clear message on key working-class issues like health care, trade and jobs. Even with the U.S. economy growing, plant closings in Michigan and Ohio have many factory workers on edge.

“The Democrats didn’t do a very good job of talking to working men and women,” Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)  said in an interview. “Voters will want to know that they will have a good job and that it’s secure and that they will have health care coverage.”

The Democrats are already heeding that advice, as many of them canvassed the region the week before the debate and telegraphed what they hope to convey during the debates tomorrow and Wednesday nights.

Nine of the candidates were at the NAACP annual convention in Detroit last week. Joe Biden earned the endorsement of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, in part by professing his friendship to the auto industry, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) talked about affordable urban housing. Beto O’Rourke went to Flint and talked about the city’s water crisis. Last week, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and two Michigan lawmakers unveiled the Water Justice Act, which would allocate $250 billion to ensure access to clean water.

Race will be a key issue in Detroit, which is 83% black. Education and health care are also on the list. But nothing tops the economy for importance among blue-collar voters, many of whom went for President Donald Trump in 2016 based on his promise to bring manufacturing jobs back from Mexico and China, Dingell said. Trump seized on the issue while Clinton talked more about creating green jobs to replace factory work. Read more from David Welch and Tyler Pager.

Harris Presidential Candidate Forum
Photographer: Anthony Lanzilote/Bloomberg
Harris speaks during a Presidential Candidate Forum at the 110th NAACP Annual Convention in Detroit on July 24.

Democrats Set to Unleash a Fight: Just weeks after the first 2020 debates saw Harris win attention by taking on front-runner Biden over school desegregation, the dynamic is swerving toward another confrontation. Most in the field of nearly two dozen contenders are expected to move away from measured tones and let the sparks fly this week in Detroit.

They really don’t have a choice, with the stakes unusually high so early in a nominating contest, Democratic strategists say. Biden in particular must triumph in Round Two after he seemed to wither under Harris’s assault, they say. And many lower-tier candidates need to garner some attention or get knocked out of the next debates in September – and maybe knocked out of the race — if they can’t meet rigid fundraising and voter-support requirements. Read more from Laura Litvan.

Movers & Shakeups

Trump Taps Ratcliffe to be Intelligence Chief: Trump said he plans to nominate a loyalist, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), as Director of National Intelligence, replacing Dan Coats, who he said would depart the office on Aug. 15. Trump announced the personnel changes on Twitter and said he’d name an acting director shortly. Ratcliffe’s nomination will be subject to approval by the Senate.

Coats repeatedly disagreed with Trump over major national security claims for over two years, and the imminent departure of the former Republican senator from Indiana has been talked about for several months. By contrast, Ratcliffe’s star is rising. The 53-year-old played a prominent role in last week’s House hearing featuring Robert Mueller, tearing into the former Special Counsel as having violated “every principle and the most sacred traditions” of prosecutors by including in his report “potential crimes that were not charged.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) suggested Democrats won’t look favorably at Ratcliffe’s nomination. “Rep. Ratcliffe was selected because he exhibited blind loyalty to President Trump with his demagogic questioning of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller,” Schumer said in a statement. “If Senate Republicans elevate such a partisan player to a position that requires intelligence expertise and non-partisanship, it would be a big mistake.” Read more from Justin Sink, Jennifer Epstein, and Bill Faries.

Trump vs. Democrats

Nadler Says Trump Deserves Impeachment: Trump deserves to be impeached, but the House Judiciary Committee is still investigating to determine whether to report resolutions to the full House, the panel’s chairman said. “He richly deserves impeachment. He has done many impeachable offenses. He’s violated the law six ways from Sunday,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” one of two TV appearances yesterday. “The question is: can we develop enough evidence to put before the American people? We’ve broken the logjam.”

Pressed on ABC’s “This Week” whether House Democrats are already pursuing a case, given his panel’s consideration of impeachment resolutions, Nadler repeated that the committee is still investigating whether to report those to the House or draft its own for the full body to consider. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has repeatedly said she wants to have the strongest possible case before pursuing impeachment proceedings. Read more from Mark Niquette and Sahil Kapur.

Trump Calls Cummings the ‘Racist’: Trump attacked a prominent black lawmaker, Elijah Cummings, on Twitter for a second day, while he and his acting chief of staff rebuffed suggestions from Democrats and others that his comments had been racist. “Elijah Cummings has failed badly!” Trump said of the House Oversight Committee chair yesterday, about seven hours after his final tweet along the same lines late Saturday night. He later called Cummings “racist.”

Cummings recently criticized Trump’s policies on the U.S.-Mexico border, calling the treatment of migrant children at detention facilities there “government sponsored child abuse,” and clashed with Trump’s acting Homeland Security chief during a hearing.

Trump returned to the topic this morning, tweeting: “Baltimore, under the leadership of Elijah Cummings, has the worst Crime Statistics in the Nation. 25 years of all talk, no action! So tired of listening to the same old Bull…Next, Reverend Al will show up to complain & protest. Nothing will get done for the people in need. Sad!” Read more from Ros Krasny.

Steyer Says Impeachment is Good Politics: Presidential contender Tom Steyer was an early proponent of impeachment, though he has usually justified the action on what he says are moral grounds. Speaking on NBC’s “Meet The Press” yesterday, he said advancing a case would mobilize young and disaffected voters who believe neither party is listening to them. “It will always be good politics to tell the truth, protect the Constitution and protect the American people,” the billionaire hedge fund manager said. Action would speak to the “tens o f millions of Americans who don’t vote, because they don’t believe in the system,” he said. Read more from Sahil Kapur.

Politics & Policy

Harris Offers ‘Medicare for All’ Plan: Kamala Harris rolled out a new “Medicare for All” plan today that preserves a role for private insurers, positioning herself between rivals Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden on a contentious issue in the 2020 Democratic presidential race. Under her proposal, Americans could opt for Medicare Advantage, a program that allows beneficiaries to get coverage from a private insurer. Harris’s plan would put all Americans into Medicare over a 10-year transition period while allowing the participation of private insurance plans under a set of rules.

Health care consistently ranks as a top issue for voters, particularly Democrats, and the 2020 debate illustrates a broader fight within the party. Sanders and Warren want to upend the system and create a single government-run insurance system. Biden, the former vice president under Barack Obama, wants a more modest approach that builds on Obamacare. The Harris plan seeks to appeal to both sides. Read more from Sahil Kapur.

Roby to Leave Congress: Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.), who was elected in 2010, is retiring, according to her campaign office. Her congressional district includes southeastern Alabama, including Dothan and part of Montgomery, and voted 65%-33% for Trump in 2016. She is the third House Republican this week to announce retirement plans. Roby suggested that Trump step aside from his campaign in 2016, saying he was an unacceptable candidate after a tape emerged of him boasting in 2005 about groping women. Even so, Trump endorsed Roby for re-election in June 2018, Kathleen Miller and Greg Giroux reports.

Trump’s Attack on ‘Squad’ Raises Their Numbers: Trump’s relentless attacks on four minority freshmen congresswomen have raised their national profiles—and their polling. A Fox News poll this week found Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) favorable ratings increased among registered voters nationally after the president told them to “go back” to where they’re from this month, even though both are U.S. citizens, and Ocasio-Cortez was born in the U.S. The number of voters who view Ocasio-Cortez favorably has increased from 26% to 39% since February, when Fox last polled on the question. Omar’s favorable numbers increased from 17% to 26% since April. Read more from Gregory Korte.

Puerto Rico Politics: Wanda Vazquez, Puerto Rico’s governor-in-waiting, said she doesn’t want the job, escalating a political crisis that has shaken the U.S. territory in recent weeks. In a Twitter post yesterday, Vazquez, who faces her own controversies, said she hoped that Governor Ricardo Rossello would nominate a different successor before he steps down Aug. 2. She is an ally of the outgoing governor and a member of his New Progressive Party. Her announcement raises pressure on Rossello, who has less than a week to nominate a new secretary of state, adding to Puerto Rico’s dysfunction and political chaos. Read more from Ezra Fieser and Michael Deibert.

Lobbying on Beneficial Ownership Soars: The American Bankers Association and Capital One are among the companies and advocacy groups ramping up lobbying on efforts to ensure new corporations and LLCs disclose their controlling parties upon formation. At least 57 entities lobbied during this year’s second quarter on either “beneficial ownership” reporting issues generally, or on related legislation, recent lobbying disclosures show. It’s a 111% uptick from the first quarter of this year, and a 147% spike from the second quarter of 2018 , according to a Bloomberg Law analysis of the filings. Jacob Rund has more.

What Else to Know Today

Sept. 11 Responder Funds: Trump today will participate in a signing ceremony at the White House at 10 a.m., where he will sign legislation that extends the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund through at least fiscal 2092. The Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) pays those who were hurt or killed as the result of the 2001 terrorist attacks or the debris removal operations that followed, as well as their families. For more on the measure, read the BGOV Bill Summary.

Ruling on DOD Funds to ‘Accelerate’ Wall Progress: The ruling that cleared the Trump administration to start using disputed Pentagon funds for fencing on the U.S.-Mexico border will “really accelerate” progress on the president’s wall project, the top Department of Homeland Security official said. Segments that have already been built are “providing significant new operational capability and helping us control some high-traffic areas of the border,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told Fox News yesterday.

A divided Supreme Court late Friday said Trump could start using $2.5 billion to construct more than 100 miles of fencing, the biggest step yet for the border wall Trump has promised since campaigning for president in 2016. The justices lifted a lower court freeze that was designed to block the spending while a lawsuit by the Sierra Club and another advocacy group went forward.

The court’s four liberal justices said they would have kept construction on hold. Those funds will “kind of double what we’re doing with the congressionally appropriated funding, which is going well,” McAleenan said. Some 54 miles of wall had already been built, he said. Read more from Greg Stohr and Ben Brody.

U.S.-China Trade Talks: Almost three months after their trade talks broke down in acrimony, Chinese and American negotiators meet again in Shanghai this week amid tempered expectations for breakthroughs in their year-long trade war. Two days of talks are scheduled to restart tomorrow after a truce reached by Trump and Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan, last month. Deep tensions remain, though, and recent days have brought mixed signals from both sides, with neither showing an urge to compromise. Read more.

Powell Tees Up First Fed Rate Cut in a Decade: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell probably will kick off his post-meeting press conference on Wednesday the same way he’s begun every one this year. The Fed, he’ll tell reporters, has “one over-arching goal: to sustain the economic expansion.’’ Behind that anodyne mission statement lies a grand ambition. Powell is effectively taking on a task that many of his inflation-wary predecessors shunned: extend the fruits of a growing economy to those who rarely benefit, from struggling African-American families to poor rural white people. Read more from Rich Miller and Craig Torres.

Iran Sees No ‘Sincerity’ in Pompeo’s Offer: Iran doesn’t think the U.S. is seeking talks or an agreement with the Islamic republic, Abbas Mousavi, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Tehran, said days after Secretary of State Michael Pompeo expressed willingness to travel to Tehran to address the Iranian people. This is a “defensive move” by American officials in response to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s recent trip to New York where he addressed the U.S. public, Mousavi said in comments aired live on state-run Press TV news channel. “Iran sees no sincerity” in Pompeo’s offer, he said.

Guatemala Deal to Limit Asylum Claims: The U.S. reached a deal with Guatemala to stop migrants from other parts of Central America from claiming asylum in the U.S., Trump said, and will instead force them to file a claim in Guatemala, a nation one refugee advocacy group said is neither safe nor able to handle the task. Trump on Friday said Guatemala would sign a “safe-third-country” agreement requiring migrants from neighbors such as Honduras and El Salvador to claim asylum in Guatemala instead of continuing to the U.S. border. Read more from Josh Wingrove.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com