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The New Republican Congress Is Off to a Rough Start

Two months into their control of both chambers of Congress, Republicans have little to show for their majorities.
Image: House Passes Stopgap Bill Funding Homeland Security Department For Short Term
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 27: House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), second from left, walks with Deputy Whip Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), at center, on their way to the House chamber to vote on a stopgap spending bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security at the U.S. Capitol on February 27, 2015 in Washington, DC. The last-minute deal will fund DHS for one week, prolonging the debate over long-term funding for the department. (Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)T.J. Kirkpatrick / Getty Images

Two months into their control of both chambers of Congress, Republicans have little to show for their majorities -- except for yet another embarrassing failed vote. House Republicans’ inability to pass a measure to keep the Department of Homeland Security open for a mere three weeks resulted in a last-minute effort by the Senate and House to extend the funding for one more week, which means we’re now back to where we started. As we’ve written, congressional Republicans have picked as many fights (over immigration, DC’s pot legalization, Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be U.S. attorney general) as legislation they’ve passed that has become law (the Clay Hunt SAV Act, terrorism risk insurance reauthorization, and Friday’s one-week DHS extension). This isn’t the first two months of GOP congressional control that Republicans envisioned or even promised. Governing is never easy, especially during a time of divided government (with Democrats in charge of the executive branch and Republicans the legislative branch. But Republicans so far have taken a hard job and made it even more difficult.

A possible way out of the DHS fight -- via House Democrats

Yet Roll Call writes that there’s a possible way out of this DHS-funding impasse, and it’s via House Democrats. “Under current rules, any House Democrat may be able to force a vote on a clean DHS funding measure by making a privileged motion the House recede from its previous position and concur in the Senate amendment. The Senate voted to amend the House-passed DHS funding bill — with immigration policy riders — and replace it with a ‘clean,’ six-month spending bill. The House, in turn, voted to ‘disagree’ with the Senate’s amendment to the House’s proposal, sending the bill back across the Rotunda and requesting a conference committee. Under clause four of House Rule XXII … ‘When the stage of disagreement has been reached on a bill or resolution with House or Senate amendments, a motion to dispose of any amendment shall be privileged.’ In other words, any House lawmaker could take to the floor and move the House concur with the Senate bill.” If all 188 House Democrats voted for such a measure, you’d only need 29 House Republicans to reach the magic 217 number. Regarding today’s Hill action, NBC’s Frank Thorp reports that the cloture motion on the House-passed measure to go to conference is scheduled for 5:30 pm today, and is expected to fail as Democrats are expected to oppose it.

A busy week in politics

There’s plenty of political news this week -- the aforementioned return to the battle over DHS funding and immigration, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to Congress on Tuesday, the Supreme Court’s oral arguments in King vs. Burwell on Wednesday, and the aftermath of the weekend’s CPAC and Club for Growth cattle calls. For more on those subjects….

Breaking down the weekend’s CPAC straw poll

By now, you probably know that Rand Paul won Saturday’s CPAC straw poll -- making it the FIFTH time in the last six years when a Paul (either Rand or Ron) has won the straw poll. (So take the results with a grain of salt.) Paul was the first choice of 26% of straw-poll voters, followed by Scott Walker at 21%, Ted Cruz at 12%, Ben Carson at 11%, and Jeb Bush at 8%. Yet maybe more interesting in the straw poll were the results on the issues:

  • 83% want to repeal the health-care law;
  • 37% want to deport undocumented immigrants back to their home countries, and another 27% say that they should be encouraged to return to their home countries before applying for citizenship (essentially the Romney 2012 position);
  • by comparison, just a combined 29% say that undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the U.S. and apply for either citizenship or legal status;
  • 58% say they would never support a Republican nominee who supports Common Core;
  • And 41% believe marijuana should be legalized for recreational and medical use.

Now not all Republican voters are CPAC conference-voters (a whopping 50% were 25 or younger, which probably explains the marijuana results). But it does show where lots of conservative voters stand.

NBC/WSJ poll shows Israel has already become a partisan issue

For those worried that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on Tuesday is making Israel/Netanyahu a partisan issue -- between Democrats and Republicans -- an NBC/WSJ poll released yesterday shows that’s exactly what’s happening. Per the poll, nearly half of American voters -- 48% -- say that congressional Republicans should not have invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress on Tuesday without first notifying President Barack Obama. By contrast, 30% believe the invitation was fine, and another 22% don’t know enough to say either way. Not surprisingly, the issue breaks along partisan lines, with 66% of Democrats saying Republicans shouldn’t have invited Netanyahu without first notifying the president, compared with just 28% of Republicans who say that. Israel remains popular with Americans, the poll also finds: 47% of voters view it positively, versus 17% who have a negative reaction. But among Republicans, it’s 66%-12%; among Democrats, it’s 29%-21%. And Netanyahu has a 30% positive-17% negative rating in the poll -- up from 24% positive-15% negative a year ago. Yet once again, that largely breaks along partisan lines, with 49% of GOP voters holding a positive opinion of Netanyahu, versus just 12% of Democrats.

Young vs. old divide on Israel

The NBC/WSJ poll also shows a significant age difference when it comes to views of Israel. Older Americans are fans; younger American aren’t as much.

Israel’s favorable/unfavorable rating among those ages 18-34

31% positive

22% negative

Among those 35-44:

44% positive

23% negative

Among 45-54:

50% positive

12% negative

Among 55-64:

54% positive

13% negative

Among 65+

61% positive

14% negative

Your big tell where the King vs. Burwell politics stand

If you wanted to see where the politics stand of the Supreme Court possibly gutting the health-care law in King vs. Burwell, look no further than this Washington Post op-ed by GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch, Lamar Alexander, and John Barrasso. In it, the three senators stress they will propose providing financial assistance to Americans getting subsidies on the federal exchange “for a transitional period. It would be unfair to allow families to lose their coverage, particularly in the middle of the year.” Two things here: One, Republicans are now acknowledging the hardship of an estimated 9 million Americans losing out on nearly $30 billion in tax credits and cost-sharing reductions by 2016. Two, we can’t envision a scenario where Congress actually approves of the Hatch-Alexander-Barrasso plan. If John Boehner can’t get the votes to fund DHS for THREE WEEKS, we’re pretty sure that Congress would be able to keep the Obamacare subsidies alive if Congress strikes them down.

The week’s other big Supreme Court case

Finally, speaking of the Supreme Court, don’t miss TODAY’s oral arguments when it comes to redistricting. Politico: “The Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments that it’s unconstitutional for a state” -- Arizona -- “to isolate its legislature from the redistricting process, citing the federal constitution’s Election Clause. And if the court sides with the plaintiffs, it could upend political districts and election laws from coast to coast before 2016.” In other words, it could deal a blow to states like California that have decided to use independent commissions to draw legislative districts.

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