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Lawmakers Brace for Fight over ISIS War Powers Vote

Despite Washington’s political consensus to combat ISIS, passage won’t be easy

President Obama is set to ask Congress this week for new war powers to combat ISIS. Per the AP: “President Barack Obama is expected — as early as Tuesday — to ask Congress for new war powers, sending Capitol Hill his blueprint for an updated authorization for the use of military force to fight the Islamic State group. Haggling then begins on writing a new authorization to battle the Sunni extremists, who have seized territory in Iraq and neighboring Syria and imposed a violent form of Sharia law. That will lead to the first war vote in Congress in 13 years — one of the most important votes faced by members of the House and Senate.” Despite Washington’s political consensus to combat ISIS, passage won’t be easy. The language will have to be wide enough to fight ISIS in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere across the globe -- but also narrow enough not to be viewed as overly broad. Next, there are these questions: For how long does it last? How do you wind it down? Then there are the intra-party tensions (Dem hawks vs. Dem doves, GOP hawks vs. GOP doves). Finally, there’s the political reality that it’s never hard to make something hard. Remember in 2008 when Obama, John McCain, and much of Washington were on the same page in closing Gitmo? Well, it didn’t take much to later turn that into a political football.

Both Obama and Netanyahu aren’t backing down

Sticking with foreign affairs and national security, the Obama White House and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu aren’t backing down from their feud over Netanyahu’s speech to Congress in March -- two weeks before Israel’s elections. Here was Obama at his news conference yesterday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “We have a practice of not meeting with leaders right before their elections, two weeks before their elections,” Obama said. “As much as I love Angela, if she was two weeks away from an election she probably would not have received an invitation to the White House, and I suspect she wouldn’t have asked for one.” Ouch. Then came the word from Netanyahu that he isn’t cancelling the speech. “At a time when there are those who are dealing with protocol and politics, a bad deal [with Iran] is being put together in Munich that will endanger Israel’s existence,” Netanyahu said while campaigning. Here’s the deal: Right now, it would be more politically damaging -- at home -- to Netanyahu to back out of the speech than to give it. But bottom line: This speech (its timing, how it was announced) hasn’t made ANYONE look good.

Jeb releases his emails from his days as Florida governor

This morning, Jeb Bush and his team unveiled a website containing 250,000 emails from his time as Florida governor, as well as the first chapter of his new e-book, which chronicles his emails with Floridians. The Tampa Bay Times: “Today, Bush is releasing the first chapter of his e-book on a website containing a vast archive of emails from his time as governor — one that shows someone who got down in the weeds, constantly pestering staffers to ‘fup,’ or follow up please, as much as he muscled through a sweeping conservative vision for the state.” More: “‘My staff estimated I spent 30 hours a week answering emails, either from my laptop or BlackBerry, often while on the road,’ Bush writes. ‘The idea of this book, through the use of these emails, is to tell the story of a life of a governor. No day is like the one before it … The unexpected became the expected.’”

But they don’t appear to be ALL of his emails

The conspicuous push for transparency is intended as a clear contrast to some of the questions that dogged both Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton in their own past runs, but Democrats are quick to point out that there’s a lot more where those emails came from; Bush has said that he received 550,000 emails on his private account and another 2.5 million on his public one.

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives -- Clinton edition

Things you can always count on: The sun rises in the east, it’s cold in February, and there’s drama (real or imagined) surrounding the Clintons and their allies. The latest Clinton-related drama came yesterday, when Politico reported that Hillary ally David Brock resigned from the Democratic Super PAC Priorities USA in the wake of what Brock calls “an orchestrated political hit job” by rival Clinton allies against his own groups, American Bridge and Media Matters. Last night, Priorities USA and Brock tried to mend fences, with Priorities’ Jennifer Granholm releasing a statement saying: "We take the concerns board member David Brock raises seriously and are working to address them. We've worked seamlessly with American Bridge and Correct the Record and we will continue that strong collaborative relationship.” Brock issued his own statement: "After talking to several leaders of Priorities USA Action, I am confident they want to address the situation. I'm open to returning to the board and I share their desire to find a way to move forward.” Folks, here’s the real story: As Clinton appears to be the only true 2016 game in town for Democratic strategists and fundraisers, there is going to be drama over how all of these different Democrats get fed. With a weak DNC, the challenge for Clinton and her team is creating some kind of structure to ensure that everyone gets some feed at the money trough.

Full speed ahead for Rubio

In other 2016 news, Marco Rubio has lured a top New Hampshire operative who used to work for Mitt Romney -- Jim Merrill. It’s the latest sign that Jeb Bush’s emerging campaign isn’t deterring Rubio from making his own moves. And Rubio needs to signal this to GOP donors. Bottom line: Republicans better start looking for options to run for Rubio’s Senate seat in ’16…

Senate Republicans ready to punt DHS funding bill back to the House GOP

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans appear to be ready to punt the task of passing legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security back to the House -- after it became clear that Democrats would not allow the Senate to consider the House-passed funding bill, NBC’s Frank Thorp reports. "I think we have to figure out what the House's next play probably is at this point," Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the Senate Republican Conference Chairman, told reporters Monday, "I don't know how many times we can have the same vote over and over again. At some point, we have to figure out what the next iteration of this big discussion is." Thune, Thorp adds, was referring to the three motions to move forward on the House-passed bill that all failed to get the 60 votes needed to pass after Democrats unanimously opposed the measures. Democrats don't appear to be willing to budge, calling instead for a clean funding bill, and Republicans now admit they need a Plan B. "All we can do is say we tried, and the House will have to pass something else," Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) told reporters, "We are in a box canyon on this, no doubt." More Flake: "We've brought it up three times now and the same result, so I just don't know what else we're supposed to do over here.”

Oregon’s attorney general opens investigation into scandal involving Gov. Kitzhaber and his fiancée

Finally, don’t miss the news, per The Oregonian: “Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced Monday that she has opened an investigation into the allegations of public corruption against Gov. John Kitzhaber and Cylvia Hayes. Through her investigation, launched Friday, Rosenblum has the power to request any records, subpoena witnesses and bring charges against the Democratic governor and his fiancée.”

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