Progressive Breakfast for December 13

Morning Message

People's Action To Host Presidential Candidate Forums

Progressive organizers will host a series of early-state candidate forums next year designed to ensure that 2020 presidential contenders address litmus-test issues for the left. People’s Action, a national network of progressive organizations, told POLITICO it will host the candidate events in three early nominating states — Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada — in September and October 2019. The forums — and a crush of similar events that other groups are likely to host — are an early sign of the pressures outside groups will attempt to place on a crowded Democratic primary field in the hopes of producing an ideologically palatable nominee. Ryan Greenwood, director of movement politics at People’s Action, said the group is formulating a list of “demands” surrounding health care, housing, the environment and other progressive causes. Local organizations affiliated with People’s Action hosted forums in Iowa and Nevada in 2016. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) attended both forums, while Hillary Clinton sent surrogates, including Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to Nevada. Booker is now a top-tier contender himself. But the candidate field in 2020 will be much larger than in 2016, and the progressive wing of the party has become more influential. The forums will be held on Sept. 21 in Des Moines, Iowa; Oct. 13 in Durham, N.H.; and Oct. 26 in Las Vegas, Nevada. People’s Action is organizing them on in partnership with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund, Rights & Democracy, New Hampshire Youth Movement and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada Action Fund.

House Passes $867b Farm Bill

House passes $867 billion farm bill, sending it to Trump. The Hill: “The House on Wednesday passed an $867 billion farm bill to help those in the agricultural industry, sending the legislation to President Trump for a signature. The measure easily passed the lower chamber by a 369-47 vote after overwhelmingly passing the Senate the previous day, capping off months of negotiations. The legislation expands farm subsidies and includes language legalizing hemp production. It also provides funding for farmers markets and programs for organic farmers, as well as authorizes funding for nutrition programs over the next five years. Much to the dismay of conservatives, an earlier provision aimed at placing stronger work requirements for food stamps was not included in the final legislation. The measure had received strong support from House Republicans and President Trump. Democrats strongly opposed the provision, arguing the change would be detrimental to the safety net relied upon by low-income earners.”

Pelosi Makes Deal To Lead House

Nancy Pelosi Cuts Deal With Democratic Rebels To Ensure Return To Speakership. NPR: “House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has very likely sewn up the support she needs to become speaker of the House next year when the new Congress is sworn in. In a deal struck with a group of House Democrats who had vowed to vote against the longtime Democratic leader in next month’s House speaker election, the California lawmaker agreed to term limits that would see her hold the post through 2022 at the latest. The agreement ensures Pelosi will easily have the 218 votes she needs to win the speakership on the House’s first ballot. ‘Over the summer, I made it clear that I see myself as a bridge to the next generation of leaders,’ Pelosi said in a statement Wednesday evening announcing the agreement, ‘a recognition of my continuing responsibility to mentor and advance new Members into positions of power and responsibility in the House Democratic Caucus.’ The term limits agreement, which still needs to be formalized by a vote of House Democrats, would limit caucus leaders to three terms, and a fourth term if two-thirds of the caucus agrees to it.”

GOP In Disarray As Shutdown Nears

GOP leaders still lack funding plan as shutdown looms. Politico: “Top House Republicans are at a standstill on exactly how to keep the government open next week amid mounting fears of a Christmastime shutdown on Capitol Hill. House GOP leaders couldn’t agree on a funding strategy — which involves billions of dollars for President Donald Trump’s border wall — in multiple rounds of talks Wednesday. The House is now poised to leave town Thursday for five days without offering a clue to how it would avoid a crippling funding lapse for roughly a dozen agencies. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has cautioned members that they may need to come back Monday and Tuesday for a last-minute session on funding bills. But even Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, the House GOP‘s spending chief, said Wednesday he was in the dark. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his deputies are discussing several hard-line spending tactics that would assert support for Trump’s $5 billion wall request. Those ideas, though, would do nothing to resolve the bitter standoff with Democrats that threatens a shutdown at midnight Dec. 21.”

Criminal Justice Reform Heads To Vote

McConnell finally allows criminal justice vote. NYT: “As early as Thursday, Mr. McConnell intends to bring up the popular legislation seen as an overdue corrective to overly harsh sentences enacted in the tough-on-crime 1980s and ’90s. Mr. McConnell was a hard sell on this bill, which seemed on its way to passage nearly three years ago. It drew extraordinary support from prominent advocates on the left and right as well as a bipartisan Senate coalition led by Mr. Grassley, a convert to sentencing reductions, and Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois. But at a private Senate Republican lunch in early 2016, Mr. McConnell revisited the case of Willie Horton, the furloughed Massachusetts inmate whose crimes while on release helped cost Michael Dukakis the presidency in 1988. To a law-and-order Republican like Mr. McConnell, the idea of letting offenders out early didn’t seem very orderly. His members were split on the merits. That President Barack Obama wanted the criminal justice overhaul as part of his own legacy didn’t help its chances with Mr. McConnell either. Mr. McConnell, who likes to note that the true power of the majority leader is to decide what hits the floor, chose not to bring up the measure before the 2016 election and it stalled.”

New NY AG Will Investigate Trumps

Incoming New York attorney general plans wide-ranging investigations of Trump and family. NBC: “New York Attorney Gen.-elect Letitia James says she plans to launch sweeping investigations into President Donald Trump, his family and “anyone” in his circle who may have violated the law once she settles into her new job next month. ‘We will use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well,’ James, a Democrat, told NBC News in her first extensive interview since she was elected last month. James campaigned on passing a bill to change New York’s double jeopardy laws with an eye on possible pardons coming out of the White House. James told NBC News she wants to be able to pursue state charges against anyone the president were to pardon over federal charges or convictions and whose alleged crimes took place in the state. Under current New York law, she might not be able to do that. ‘I think within the first 100 days this bill will be passed,’ she said, adding, ‘It is a priority because I have concerns with respect to the possibility that this administration might pardon some individuals who might face some criminal charges, but I do not want them to be immune from state charges.'”