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First Read's Morning Clips: Shutdown showdown

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day
Image: Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pauses as he speaks to members of the media after the weekly Senate Republican Policy Luncheon December 16, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington.Alex Wong / Getty Images file

TRUMP AGENDA: House might have the votes to avoid shutdown, but Senate doesn’t

The latest on the shutdown negotiations from Leigh Ann Caldwell and Marianna Sotomayor: “House Republicans are confident they have the votes to pass a short-term government funding bill before Friday’s deadline to keep the government open, leadership aides tell NBC News. But the measure’s prospects in the Senate remain much dimmer, keeping the chance of a government shutdown alive.”

More in the Washington Post: “Bitter divisions in both parties threatened Wednesday to derail Congress’s effort to keep the federal government fully operating past the end of the week. The shutdown threat emerged on two fronts: Republican defense hawks in the House said a short-term spending plan the party introduced late Tuesday did not devote enough money to the military. Meanwhile, Democrats, whose support would be critical for passage in the Senate, began lining up in opposition amid pressure from immigration activists to use the budget talks as leverage to legalize many young immigrants known as “dreamers.””

And the Wall Street Journal: “In the clearest sign yet that Democrats may be prepared to withhold their support for the stopgap spending bill, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) struck a new angry tone over the lack of a deal so far to provide new protections for Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents. Spending bills need 60 votes to pass the Senate, where Republicans hold 51 seats… “The revulsion toward that bill was broad and strong,” Mr. Schumer said of Senate Democrats’ closed-door discussion Wednesday, though he held back from saying Democrats would block the bill.”

So what happens if the government shuts down? Benjy Sarlin: “While funding expires on Saturday, you’d really start to notice the effects on Monday when hundreds of thousands of federal employees who are deemed non-essential don’t show up to work. Without funding, the law requires them to be furloughed without pay. In 2013, the last time there was a shutdown, a peak of 850,000 federal workers per day were furloughed, according to the Congressional Research Service. Without workers, national parks will be closed along with various government offices, programs, and activities.”

John Kelly says that Trump was not “fully informed” when he made sweeping campaign promises about the border wall.

The Wall Street Journal notes that, a year in to his presidency, Trump has busted conventional wisdom on every level.

“A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds that by a 53-to-40-percent margin, Americans deemed Trump's first year a failure. And by an almost 2-to-1 margin (61 to 32 percent), Americans said they believe Trump has divided the country since his election. Americans give Trump relatively positive marks on his handling of ISIS and the state of the economy — no small things. But on just about every other issue, they disapprove of his handling of them or they think things have gotten worse — from their views of the tax plan to the state of race relations and women's rights to immigration, health care, the deficit and foreign policy, including his approach to North Korea. Seven-in-10 Americans are now concerned about the possibility of war breaking out with the rogue nuclear nation.”

Trump published his list of “Fake News Awards” yesterday, although the Washington Post notes that most of the stories he cited were quickly corrected and errors admitted.

From NBC’s Julia Ainsley, Andrew Lehren and Anna Schecter: “The data firm whose work for Donald Trump's campaign attracted the interest of Robert Mueller's investigators recently filed paperwork showing it had helped spread negative information about Qatar, the Gulf nation targeted by the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates in a bitter propaganda battle. The parent company of Cambridge Analytica filed documents with the U.S. Justice Department's Foreign Agents Registration Unit disclosing $333,000 in payments by the UAE for a 2017 social media campaign linking the Qataris to terrorism. In June the Trump administration endorsed the aggressive Saudi and UAE stance against Qatar, and their decision to cut diplomatic ties. The filing by SCL Social Limited is one of hundreds of new and supplemental FARA filings by U.S. lobbyists and public relations firms since Special Counsel Mueller charged two Trump aides with failing to disclose their lobbying work on behalf of foreign countries.”

“A top Trump administration official answered a full range of questions from House investigators Wednesday, just one day after former White House strategist Steve Bannon told them he was under instructions from the West Wing to remain silent, sparking new negotiations between Congress and the White House that could lead President Trump to formally invoke executive privilege for the first time in the Russia probe,” NBC’s Mike Memoli reports.

Aaaaand then there’s this: “Adult movie actress Stormy Daniels last week purportedly denied having an extramarital affair with Donald Trump back in 2006, but she told a different story in 2011, according to a recently rediscovered magazine interview published Wednesday. InTouch magazine has just made public a 7-year-old interview with Daniels in which she claims that a sexual relationship with Trump began after she met the future president at a celebrity golf tournament in July 2006 in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.”

OFF TO THE RACES: Trump heads to Pennsylvania

The New York Times: “The next presidential election is nearly three years away, but in the Capitol the race is already unfolding, with no fewer than six senators — Mr. Booker and Ms. Harris, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — eyeing the Democratic nomination in 2020, with each angling to get to the left of the others. That is not making life easy for the 10 Democratic senators who must run for re-election this year in states carried by President Trump — so much so that one of them, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, lamented openly in a recent interview that her colleagues running for president were ‘all trying to find their base.’”

POLITICO looks at what Barack Obama will be up to during the midterms. “[W]ith the midterms approaching, people close to him say he’ll shift into higher gear: campaigning, focusing his endorsements on down ballot candidates, and headlining fundraisers. He’ll activate his 15,000-member campaign alumni association for causes and candidates he supports — including the 40 who are running for office themselves. He’s already strategizing behind the scenes with Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez and Eric Holder, who’s chairing his redistricting effort.”

PA-18: The New York Times, with a big look at what’s going on in the special election in Pennsylvania: “Republicans are scrambling to save a heavily conservative House seat in western Pennsylvania, dispatching President Trump to the district on Thursday while preparing a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to stave off another embarrassing special election defeat in a district that was gerrymandered to stay Republican.”

And NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald: “Though Trump's event is not officially a political one, it's an early sign of the stepped-up political involvement the White House has promised GOP officials ahead of November's midterm elections, where Democrats hope an anti-Trump wave will put them in power on Capitol Hill. Republicans, meanwhile, are taking nothing for granted heading into the March 13 special election in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District.”

How it’s playing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “President Donald Trump will travel to the Pittsburgh area tomorrow in the company of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in a visit that will make his case that “we’re ensuring that the forgotten men and women of the country — especially Pennsylvania — are not forgotten any more,” a senior administration official told reporters Wednesday afternoon… Asked whether the president would endorse Mr. Saccone during his visit to the 85,000-square-foot H&K facility itself, the official noted that “this is an official event” by the White House, and “as such we are not approaching it [as] a political event.” But he allowed that “the president obviously has the latitude to do things” that staffers could not, apparently leaving the door open to off-the-cuff support during the president’s remarks.”

And/but from Trump’s Twitter account this morning: “Will be going to Pennsylvania today in order to give my total support to RICK SACCONE, running for Congress in a Special Election (March 13). Rick is a great guy. We need more Republicans to continue our already successful agenda!”

And in the AP: “Democrats, meanwhile, aren’t necessarily any more confident in the chances that lawyer and former Marine Conor Lamb can flip the district to their side. The handling of the race shows both sides’ reluctance to put too much emphasis on one contest amid the high stakes of this midterm election year.”

IL-GOV: Keep an eye on how expensive this race is: The Illinois governor candidates spent more than $26 million in the last three months of 2017.

MN-SEN: After Tim Pawlenty nixed a Senate run, GOP Rep. Emmer says he won’t run for Senate or governor this year.

MO-GOV: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “As Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner heads into what could be a tough re-election fight this year, national Democrats are turning a newly acquired weapon on him: his ties to fellow Republican Gov. Eric Greitens of Missouri. Meanwhile, state-level Democratic organizations in Iowa and Tennessee also are using the embattled Missouri governor to go after their own Republican officeholders for their connections to Greitens — who had been positioned as a future national star in the GOP prior to last week's revelations.”