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Could the Immigration Ruling Give Republicans an Escape Hatch?

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Last night’s news that a federal Texas judge issued a temporary injunction blocking implementation of President Obama’s most recent executive action on immigration creates a possible escape hatch for congressional Republicans in the battle over funding for the Department of Homeland Security. With current DHS funding set to expire on Feb. 27 and with the GOP divided on how to proceed, Republicans could -- and we stress COULD -- decide, “Well, the courts are rebuking Obama over this action, so we don’t need to anymore, and we can cleanly fund the Department of Homeland Security without attaching riders rolling back the president’s executive actions.” This is a scenario that the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent laid out a week ago. But Sargent also said there’s an important rub here: The Obama administration could quickly get the 5th Circuit to lift the injunction. As a result, Sargent wrote, conservatives “may respond — understandably — that it could be overturned on appeal. So Republicans must not blink in the drive to block Obama’s actions in Congress, to be absolutely certain the dragon is dead.”

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Or does the 5th Circuit lock it shut?

Indeed, the New York Times writes that legal scholars believe the 5th Circuit could very well lift the injunction issued by Texas federal judge Andrew Hanen, who was appointed by George W. Bush and has been an outspoken critic of Obama’s policies. “‘Federal supremacy with respect to immigration matters makes the states a kind of interloper in disputes between the president and Congress,’ said Laurence H. Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard. ‘They don’t have any right of their own.’ The states’ lawsuit quotes Mr. Obama as saying many times in recent years that he did not have authority to take actions as broad as those he ultimately took. Mr. Tribe said that argument was not likely to pass muster with appeals court judges. ‘All of that is interesting political rhetoric,” he said, ‘but it has nothing to do with whether the states have standing and nothing to do with the law.’” Still, in the short term, the judge’s ruling is a get-out-of-jail card for House Speaker John Boehner and congressional Republicans. Do they use it?

Boehner: “We will continue to follow the case as it moves through the legal process”

Well, right before our publication, Boehner issued a statement saying that Republicans will “continue to follow the case as it moves through the legal process” -- signaling that he doesn’t take the Texas federal judge’s ruling as the final word here. Boehner’s full statement: “The president said 22 times he did not have the authority to take the very action on immigration he eventually did, so it is no surprise that at least one court has agreed. We will continue to follow the case as it moves through the legal process. Hopefully, Senate Democrats who claim to oppose this executive overreach will now let the Senate begin debate on a bill to fund the Homeland Security department.”

Misunderstanding ISIS

As Congress is set to debate President Obama’s authorization against ISIS, Graeme Wood in The Atlantic makes a persuasive case that the political world -- the Obama administration, congressional Republicans, and the foreign-policy community -- has a fundamental misunderstanding of the Islamic group. “Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.” More from Wood: “Peter Bergen, who produced the first interview with bin Laden in 1997, titled his first book Holy War, Inc. in part to acknowledge bin Laden as a creature of the modern secular world. Bin Laden corporatized terror and franchised it out. He requested specific political concessions, such as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia. His foot soldiers navigated the modern world confidently.” In other words, who would have thought that Al Qaeda is/was a more political and pragmatic organization? But Wood argues that’s the case when compared with ISIS.

Why Loretta Lynch’s nomination might be in trouble

The snow in DC has cancelled President Obama’s meeting today with newly confirmed Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. But here’s something to chew on: Obama nominated Carter (in December) AFTER he nominated Loretta Lynch to succeed Eric Holder as U.S. attorney general (in November). And that’s a big sign that Lynch’s confirmation is no sure thing. The Hill: “President Obama’s pick to serve as the next attorney general is having a hard time finding Republican supporters. To be confirmed by the Senate, attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch only needs four Republicans to support her nomination. But it is unclear where those votes will come from. Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah) is the only Republican so far who has signaled his intention to vote for Lynch, though several others have spoken favorably about her.”

Why the 2016 Senate contests will probably hinge on who wins the ’16 presidential election

Finally, as Democrats and Republicans begin to clash over the upcoming 2016 Senate races, here’s an important thing to keep in mind: Control over the Senate in 2016 will likely hinge on which party wins the presidential election. Indeed, in the 40 Senate contests since 2004 rated by the Cook Political Report as either a Tossup or a Lean race, 32 times (or 80%) the Senate contest went the same way as the presidential contest did in the same state. And that’s particularly important when you consider that the 2016 Senate battlegrounds will be in Colorado (Bennet –D), Illinois (Kirk -R), Nevada (Reid - D), New Hampshire (Ayotte - R), North Carolina (Burr - R), Pennsylvania (Toomey - R), Wisconsin (Johnson - R), Florida (Rubio - R), and Ohio (Portman - R). An asterisk below marks the eight out of 40 races (20%) when the party that WON the presidential contest in a state LOST the competitive Senate contest.

2012 Toss Up or Lean contests

AZ (GOP won, Romney won, 54%-44%)

CT (Dems won, Obama won, 58%-41%)

FL (Dems won, Obama won, 50%-49%)

HI (Dems won, Obama won, 71%-28%

NM (Dems won, Obama won, 53%-43%)

*IN (Dems won, Romney won, 54%-44%)

ME (Dems/indie won, Obama won, 56%-41%)

MA (Dems won, Obama won, 61%-38%)

*MT (Dems won, Romney won, 55%-42%)

NE (GOP won, Romney won, 60%-38%)

*NV (GOP won, Obama won, 52%-46%)

*ND (Dems won, Romney won, 58%-39%)

PA (Dems won, Obama won, 52%-47%)

VA (Dems won, Obama won, 51%-47%)

WI (Dems won, Obama won, 53%-46%)

2008 Toss Up or Lean contests

*AK (Dems won, McCain won 59%-38%)

*LA (Dems won, McCaiin won, 59%-40%)

CO (Dems won, Obama won 54%-45%

GA (GOP won, McCain won, 52%-47%)

KY (GOP won, McCain won, 57%-41%)

NM (Dems won, Obama won, 57%-42%)

MN (Dems won, Obama won, 54%-44%)

MS (GOP won, McCain won, 56%-43%)

NH (Dems won, Obama won, 54%-45%)

NC (Dems won, Obama won, 50%-49%)

OR (Dems won, Obama won, 57%-40%)

2004 Toss Up or Lean contests

AK (GOP won, Bush won, 61%-36%)

*CO (Dems won, Bush won, 52%-47%)

FL (GOP won, Bush won, 52%-47%)

KY (GOP won, Bush won, 60%-40%)

LA (GOP won, Bush won, 57%-42%)

MO (GOP won, Bush won, 52%-46%)

NV (Dems won, Bush won, 50%-48%)

NC (GOP won, Bush won, 56%-44%)

OK (GOP won, Bush won, 66%-34%)

*PA (GOP won, Kerry won, 51%-48%)

SC (GOP won, Bush won, 58%-41%)

SD (GOP won, Bush won, 60%-38%)

WA (Dems won, Kerry won, 53%-46%

WI (Dems won, Kerry won, 50%-49%)

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