IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

McConnell Throws in the Towel on DHS Fight. But Will the House Go Along?

McConnell's strategy is getting complicated by Republicans and Democrats.
Image: Senate Legislators Address The Media After Their Weekly Policy Luncheons
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 24: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) listens during a news briefing after the weekly Senate Republican Policy Luncheon February 24, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Senate Republicans held its weekly luncheon to discuss GOP agenda. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)Alex Wong / Getty Images

As House Republicans meet at 9:00 am ET, here’s where we stand in the battle over funding for the Department of Homeland Security. One, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has essentially thrown in the towel by saying he’s ready to consider a “clean” DHS bill -- that is, without the riders rolling back President Obama’s executive actions. Two, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is trying to make things difficult for Republicans, explaining that BEFORE they support the clean DHS bill, House Speaker John Boehner must promise this same vote on the House floor. And three, House Republicans are divided on how to proceed. As Roll Call puts it, “do they want to put legislation on the floor that would certainly pass and save the agency from a shutdown, but would surely be carried by Democrats and likely fall well short of the so-called ‘Hastert Rule,’ where the majority of the majority party secures a bill’s success?” More Roll Call: “Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said he thinks Boehner could not survive such a move politically… On the flip side, some House Republicans are questioning if the Republican Party as a whole could weather the political storm of opposing a “clean” DHS spending bill. ‘I don’t see how it’s helpful for us to risk a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security,’ said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma.”

The details you need to know

NBC’s Frank Thorp has more on the Senate state of play in the DHS funding standoff:

-- According to a Senate GOP leadership aide, the clean DHS bill would actually be an amendment to the House-passed DHS bill, simply because appropriations bill must originate in the House.

-- Senate Democrats would have to agree to move to the House-passed bill, so they could amend it with clean funding bill, either by unanimously doing so (which would likely be tough), or by getting the 60 votes needed to move on to the bill. Reid and Senate Democrats say they are not ready to agree to that until they speak to Boehner and get assurances that he'll pass a clean bill.

-- The vote to curtail President Obama's executive action related to immigration from November of 2014, (which is commonly known as the Collins Plan since Sen Susan Collin (R-ME) introduced it), will be a separate procedural vote on Friday with a 60-vote threshold. At the moment, that measure will have no bearing on funding for DHS.

-- GOP leadership aides are fuming at Senate Democrats for now saying they will object to bringing up a clean bill before they talk to Boehner, saying they are moving the goal posts after weeks, if not months, of calls for an immediate vote on a clean funding bill.

Obama holds immigration-themed town hall in Miami

At 3:45 pm ET in Miami, President Obama participates in an immigration-themed town hall Telemundo townhall hosted by MSNBC’s/Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart. The town hall airs on MSNBC at 8:00 pm ET and on Telemundo at 7:00 pm ET. The New York Times sets the stage: “President Obama, thwarted by a federal court from carrying out pieces of his immigration directive and barraged daily by congressional Republicans trying to gut or defund it, is in many ways frozen in place on his attempt to wield presidential authority to reshape the immigration system. So Mr. Obama is taking his message on the road, using a trip to Miami on Wednesday to exact a political price from Republicans for their opposition to his immigration policy and to consolidate gains he has made with Hispanics since announcing executive actions to shield millions of unauthorized immigrants from deportation.”

Obama vetoes Keystone legislation. But don’t forget: He could STILL approve the pipeline

President Obama yesterday issued the third veto of his presidency, stiff-arming the Keystone pipeline legislation that Congress passed earlier this year. It’s unlikely that Congress has the two-thirds majorities in both chambers to override Obama’s veto. Yet largely lost in yesterday’s back-and-forth over Obama’s veto is this important point: In his veto message, the president didn’t take issue with the merits of the Keystone pipeline; instead, he maintained that the matter is for the EXECUTIVE branch to decide, not the LEGISLATIVE branch. And it bears repeating: There’s the real possibility that the Obama administration could still approve the Keystone pipeline. After all, there are supporters inside the administration that believe the U.S. should throw Canada -- a stalwart ally -- a bone here.

Jeb’s “Reformocons” vs. Walker’s “Supply-siders”?

NBC’s Perry Bacon confirmed yesterday’s news, first reported by National Review, that Jeb Bush’s emerging campaign has enlisted leading “reform conservative” thinker April Ponnuru (wife of the National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru). And given that Scott Walker’s appearance in New York last week (where Rudy Giuliani said Obama doesn’t love America) was with prominent GOP supply-siders, it’s maybe worth noting that the GOP primary could come down between Jeb’s “Reformocons” and Walker’s “supply siders.” As Jonathan Chait described the debate, it’s between conservatives who want to target tax breaks and relief to the middle class -- the Reformocons -- versus conservatives who believe that big tax breaks for all (including the wealthy) is the way to bring prosperity -- the supply-siders. Don’t forget: The last time we saw a Bush taking on the supply-siders was when George H.W. Bush was railing against Ronald Reagan’s “voodoo” economics. And guess who won that fight?

On Hillary’s Silicon Valley speech

Here’s NBC’s Andrew Rafferty on Hillary’s appearance in Silicon Valley yesterday: “Hillary Clinton dropped a number of hints about her expected presidential run in 2016 and laid out what could be the tenets of a potential campaign in front of a women's conference in Silicon Valley on Tuesday. The former secretary of state said she is checking the final items off her list of things that must be in place before she officially announces her campaign, saying she will make a decision ‘in good time.’ ‘I am obviously talking to a lot of people, thinking [it] through,’ Clinton told Kara Swisher, the co-executive editor of Re/code, during a question and answer session. ‘Because here's my view on this, Kara: I just think that we have so many big issues we have to deal with that unless we can really come together and have a national conversations about those issues, we're not going to make the progress we need.’ The crowd excitedly applauded when Clinton high-fived Swisher after the journalist said: ‘I interviewed President Obama last week and I'm eager to interview another president.’”

New Q-poll shows Walker ahead in Iowa

A new Quinnipiac poll of likely 2016 Iowa caucus-goers has Scott Walker in the lead with 25% -- followed by Rand Paul at 13%, Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson tied at 11%, and Jeb Bush at 10%. (Note: Our NBC/Marist poll from earlier this month, which had Huckabee on top, was among POTENTIAL Iowa caucus-goers.) Perhaps more revealing are the fav/unfavs for these candidates:

Walker 57%-7% (+50)

Carson 51%-5% (+46)

Huckabee 63%-24% (+39)

Paul 58%-22% (+36)

Jeb Bush 41%-40% (+1)

Chris Christie 30%-54% (-24)

This is more proof that the more conservative candidates are dominating in that conservative caucus. After all, add up Walker, Carson, and Huckabee vs Jeb and Christie. Ouch.

Rahm gets forced into a runoff

Here’s the problem when you’re not a beloved politician and you’re forced to run against yourself: You experience the kind of rebuke that Rahm Emanuel suffered yesterday. The Chicago Tribune: “Rahm Emanuel failed to win a second term Tuesday, suffering a national political embarrassment as little-known, lesser-funded challenger Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia forced the mayor into the uncharted waters of an April runoff election. It’s the first time Chicago has had a runoff campaign for mayor, which is what happens when none of the candidates eclipses the 50 percent benchmark in round one. With 98 percent of the city’s precincts counted, unofficial results showed Emanuel with 45.4 percent and Cook County commissioner Garcia at 33.9 percent. Businessman Willie Wilson had 10.6 percent, 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti had 7.4 percent and frequent candidate William “Dock” Walls was at 2.8 percent.” Make no mistake: Emanuel can still win the April runoff, but this was a major rebuke in a weak field of candidates. Also note: Be wary of progressive groups trying to claim credit for forcing Emanuel into this runoff. It’s more than Emanuel hasn’t been popular in Chicago over the last four years – rather than this being a populist movement against him.

Ted Strickland announces OH SEN bid

At publication time, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland announced that he’s running for the Senate next year. Here’s the thing about Democrats re-running the likes of Ted Strickland, Russ Feingold, and possibly Joe Sestak in ’16: Because it’s a presidential electorate, they have a much better chance -- on paper -- of winning than they did in 2010. As we wrote last week, 80% of the time the party that wins a state in a presidential election also wins the competitive Senate seat in the same state. In other words, if Hillary Clinton wins Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania in ’16, chances are that Strickland/Feingold/Sestak will win. On the other hand, these re-run candidacies look a bit, well, stale. And that’s a MAJOR problem for the party.

Villaraigosa’s no-go in CA SEN race creates clear path for Kamala Harris

Lastly, with Antonio Villaraigosa’s decision NOT to run for California open Senate seat in 2016, it sure looks like Secretary of State Kamala Harris (D) is going to have a cakewalk to capturing it next year. Who would have thought CA SEN would essentially be over before it even started?

Click here to sign up for First Read emails. Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. Follow us @chucktodd, @mmurraypolitics, @carrienbcnews