WASHINGTON — Technically, today’s vote in the U.S. House of Representatives is over how Congress should proceed in the impeachment inquiry against President Trump — that is, the rules of the road for the public phase of the House’s inquiry.
But as a practical matter, this is essentially a test vote on impeachment itself.
How many Democrats break away from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Dems? (Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J., is definitely one.)
How many Republicans defect from Trump? (We aren’t expecting any, after Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich., left the party.)
Per NBC’s Alex Moe, the House is slated to begin debate on the resolution after 9:00 am ET, and debate will last an hour — 30 minutes for Democrats, 30 minutes for Republicans.
So what are the rules-of-the-road procedures the House is voting on?
“The eight-page resolution calls for public hearings and lays out their general format, and specifically permits staff counsels to question witnesses for periods of up to 45 minutes per side, Democrats and Republicans,” NBC’s Adam Edelman and Rebecca Shabad write.
More: “The resolution gives the minority the same rights to question witnesses that the majority has, ‘as has been true at every step of the inquiry,’ Democrats said in a fact sheet about the measure.”
And: “The measure also would allow the president or his counsel to participate in impeachment proceedings held by the House Judiciary Committee, which has the authority to advance articles of impeachment against the president.”
Impeachment inquiry update
Timothy Morrison, the National Security Council’s senior director for Europe and Russia, testifies in closed session today, per NBC’s Geoff Bennett.
Morrison, in fact, stepped down from his job a day before today’s testimony.
If you recall, Morrison’s name was mentioned multiple times by Bill Taylor, the Trump administration’s top diplomat in Ukraine, in his explosive testimony last week.
"During this same phone call I had with [National Security Council official Tim] Morrison, he went on to describe a conversation Ambassador Sondland had with Mr. Yermak [a top Ukrainian official] at Warsaw. Ambassador Sondland told Mr. Yermak that the security assistance money would not come until President Zelensky committed to pursue the Burisma investigation. I was alarmed by what Mr. Morrison told me about the Sondland-Yermak conversation."
"According to Mr. Morrison, President Trump told Ambassador Sondland that he was not asking for a ‘quid pro quo.’ But President Trump did insist that President Zelensky go to a microphone and say he is opening investigations of Biden and 2016 election interference, and that President Zelensky should want to do this himself."
GDP grew by just 1.9 percent in the 3rd quarter
In our update about significant news overshadowed by the impeachment inquiry, the Commerce Department reported yesterday that the U.S. economy grew at a 1.9 percent annual rate for the 3rd quarter.
It had been expected to be 1.6 percent.
As CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla flagged, here’s how Trump described 1.9% GDP in 2012: “Q1 GDP has just been revised down to 1.9% http://1.usa.gov/3hAL The economy is in deep trouble.”
And here’s how he described the economy yesterday less than an hour before the Commerce Department released the third-quarter GDP number: “The Greatest Economy in American History!”
2020 Vision: Kamala Harris’ last stand?
The good news for Kamala Harris’ campaign is that past presidential candidates given up for dead — John Kerry, John McCain — eventually won their party’s nomination.
The bad news is that Kerry and McCain are the exceptions, and most campaigns that undergo layoffs and restructuring never come back.
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NBC’s Deepa Shivaram and Vaughn Hillyard report the Harris campaign announced Wednesday that it’s laying off “several dozen” staffers; slashing pay for top officials and consultants; and moving New Hampshire, Nevada and California field staff to Iowa.
Bottom line: Harris is all-in in Iowa.
“In November, she will continue to spend significant time in Iowa, including spending Thanksgiving there, to meet caucus goers at town halls and in coffee shops, on farms and at dining room tables,” campaign manager Juan Rodriguez said in a memo. “She is determined to earn the support of every caucus goer she can in the next 96 days."
On the campaign trail today
It’s a relatively light day of activity on this Halloween: Bernie Sanders files his New Hampshire primary paperwork before holding a rally in Concord, N.H…. Pete Buttigieg also is in the Granite State, where he holds a town hall in Derry… Joe Biden is in Iowa, where he holds in a town hall in Fort Dodge… And Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar also stump in the Hawkeye State.
Dispatches from NBC’s embeds
After Kamala Harris’ team announced they’re restructuring the campaign to shift resources to Iowa, Harris told reporters in Iowa that she still considers herself a top-tier candidate. NBC’s Maura Barrett reports, “Harris told NBC she still considers herself a top-tier candidate, despite the several dozens of layoffs from her Baltimore HQ, reiterating that ‘it was never supposed to be easy’ but that she believes she has a path in Iowa. After repeated questions from reporters regarding her commitment to New Hampshire and Nevada considering the restructuring, Harris maintained ‘We are still committed to New Hampshire, I am still committed to Nevada. I am still committed to South Carolina. But we needed to make difficult decisions that's what campaigns require at this stage of the game.’”
Joe Biden took another swipe at Elizabeth Warren while campaigning in Iowa, per NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor. “It takes more than plans. You know, it takes someone with the proven ability to bring people together and to do the hard work of getting legislation passed,” Biden said. “I have a lot of really good people running for the nomination with me. But they say, ‘Yeah Joe did all that. He was able to bring, get major things done but those days are passed. Can't do it anymore.’ But folks, if we don't do it. We are in deep trouble.”
Talking policy with Benjy
As Elizabeth Warren continues her work on a plan to finance Medicare for All, a new report from a fiscal hawk group — the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget — highlights the scale of the challenge, NBC’s Benjy Sarlin observes.
According to the CRFB, funding a $30 trillion Medicare for All plan (which is in line with proponents’ broad cost estimates) would require some eye-popping taxes: A 32 percentage point payroll tax increase would cover it, or a 25 percent surtax on income, or doubling tax rates on both income and corporations.
There’s no way to finance it with taxes on the rich alone, something Bernie Sanders has acknowledged but Warren has danced around.
But the report also backs up Warren’s counterargument to this question. Medical expenses are so high that, even after major tax increases, the average family money would still save money overall from eliminating premiums and deductibles. And since premiums are a relatively fixed expense per person, while taxes go up with income, shifting to a tax-based financing system would mean higher-income Americans pay a bigger share of the total cost.
But the authors note the gains or losses could vary significantly from individual to individual, and you won’t know which side of the equation you’re on without knowing how it’s financed. Which brings us back to the original issue: The pressure on supporters to spell out how it’s financed.
Data Download: And the number of the day is … three out of four
That's how many qualifying polls Tulsi Gabbard has for the November debate after a USA Today/Suffolk poll yesterday found her at four percent support.
The Lid: Woke up
Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at former president Barack Obama's most recent comments about American politics.
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Former Trump adviser Tim Morrison is next in line to testify in the House impeachment probe.
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The Washington Post looks at ex-Rep Bob Livingston's role in the impeachment inquiry.
2020: Cash woes
Two big 2020 campaigns are trying to address their money woes.
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Katie Hill's resignation is putting a spotlight on generational divides.