Today's immigration votes will prove if Republicans are capable of governing

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — A crisis at the border. An outraged American public. Uncertainty about what comes next. And today, the House of Representatives is set to vote on two comprehensive immigration bills — the conservative Goodlatte bill and a more moderate GOP bill — that will determine if the Republican-led House is capable of governing.

NBC’s Alex Moe and Marianna Sotomayor have some of the behind-the-scenes drama from yesterday: “Republican leadership huddled in Speaker Paul Ryan’s office after House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows claimed the compromise immigration bill was not ready for primetime which leadership later called a ‘miscommunication’ and NOT the Freedom Caucus moving the goal posts at the 11th hour as some moderates have suggested. Leadership says the immigration votes are STILL HAPPENING Thursday.”

More from Moe and Sotomayor: “Out of the loop it appears are the moderates — who were part of the group that negotiated this compromise deal with the Freedom Caucus and leadership — who say they are unaware of the changes the Freedom Caucus are asking for. Rep. Denham … told Chuck Todd on MTP Daily that “it is unbeknownst to him” what the Freedom Caucus wants. Moreover, he said that everything that the conservative caucus wanted was included in the final compromise bill text.”

Every time that House Republicans refuse to reach across the aisle — after all, both the Goodlatte bill and the more moderate one are GOP-sponsored bills — House Republicans are held hostage by this Freedom Caucus-vs.-moderate battle.

So we have four questions:

1. Can any bill win a majority of support?

2. If not, which bill gets more support — the Goodlatte bill or the moderate one?

3. Do the votes get pulled from the floor if it looks like nothing can pass?

4. And most importantly of all, are House Republicans capable of governing?

The family separation story is far from over

After he signed his executive order halting the separation of migrant children from their parents, President Trump said at a rally last night in Minnesota: "We’re going to keep families together. But the border’s going to be just as tough as it’s been."

But this family separation story is FAR from over.

What happens to the children who’ve already been separated from their parents?

Right now, the Trump administration doesn’t appear to have a plan how to reunite the separated children with their families. “There are no plans to reunite families while the adults are in federal custody awaiting court hearings for unlawfully crossing the border, a spokesman for the [Department of Health and Human Services] said Wednesday evening,” per NBC’s Julia Ainsley, Daniella Silva and Suzanne Gamboa. “So for the 2,300 children currently detained under the separation policy, HHS will follow the procedure already in place: finding temporary homes with a relative already in the U.S. or in foster care.” An HHS spokesman later said, “It is still very early and we are awaiting further guidance on the matter.”

Now that newly arriving families won’t be separated, where will they stay?

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“Family detention centers run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have a current capacity of 3,335 beds, according to the latest federal budget allocations. But on average, 420 parents and kids are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in family groups each day, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained by NBC News,” Ainsley, Silva and Gamboa add. “At that rate, the family detention centers will be full within eight days — and an unknown number of those beds are already occupied.”

And does Trump’s executive order run afoul of a court ruling?

“The executive order calls on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to file a request with a federal court in California to modify a 1997 court settlement that sets standards for the government’s detention of migrant children, so that migrant families could be detained together through their criminal proceedings for charges of illegal entry and for any other immigration proceedings,” per NBC News. “Previously, as a result of that settlement, known as the Flores decision, children could not be detained with their families for more than 20 days. The Trump administration may now try to defy that time limit and hold the families until the parents can have their cases adjudicated, since they will continue to be prosecuted for crossing the border illegally.”

Trump’s executive order was a stunning reversal

Here was Trump signing that executive order yesterday: “So we're gonna have strong, very strong borders, but we're going to keep the families together. I didn't like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”

  • One, it was PRECISELY his administration’s policy to separate families — to deter illegal immigration.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions:

“I have put in place a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border. If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple. If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law.” (Speech in San Diego, Calif., May 7, 2018)

(Emphasis is ours.)

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly:

NPR: Family separation stands as a pretty tough deterrent.

Kelly: It could be a tough deterrent — would be a tough deterrent. A much faster turnaround on asylum seekers.

NPR: Even though people say that's cruel and heartless to take a mother away from her children?

Kelly: I wouldn't put it quite that way. The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever. But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long. (NPR interview, May 11, 2018)

  • Two, Trump BLAMED DEMOCRATS for the policy of separating migrant children from their families.

“No, I hate it, I hate the children being taken away. The Democrats have to change their law. That's their law — That's the Democrat's law. We can change it tonight. We can change it right now. I will leave here -- no, no, you need their votes. You need their votes.”

More: “The Democrats forced that law upon our nation. I hate it. I hate to see separation of parents and children.” (Trump press scrum, June 15, 2018)

  • And three, DHS Secretary Nielsen argued that only Congress could fix the problem; the administration’s hands were tied.

“Until these loopholes are closed by Congress, it is not possible, as a matter of law, to detain and remove whole family units who arrive illegally in the United States. Congress and the courts created this problem, and Congress alone can fix it.” (White House press briefing, June 18, 2018)

Michael Bloomberg will spend millions to help Democrats win the House

“Mr. Bloomberg — a political independent who has championed left-of-center policies on gun control, immigration and the environment — has approved a plan to pour at least $80 million into the 2018 election, with the bulk of that money going to support Democratic congressional candidates, advisers to Mr. Bloomberg said,” the New York Times reports.

Bloomberg explains his decision in a Boston Globe op-ed. “Republicans in Congress have had almost two years to prove they could govern responsibly. They failed. As we approach the 2018 midterms, it’s critical that we elect people who will lead in ways that this Congress won’t — both by seeking to legislate in a bipartisan way, and by upholding the checks and balances that the Founding Fathers set up to safeguard ethics, prevent the abuse of power, and preserve the rule of law. And so this fall, I’m going to support Democrats in their efforts to win control of the House.”

“To be clear: I have plenty of disagreements with some Democrats, especially those who seek to make this election about impeachment. Nothing could be more irresponsible. But I believe that ‘We the People’ cannot afford to elect another Congress that lacks the courage to reach across the aisle and the independence to assert its constitutional authority.”

Dems get some good polling news in two key Senate races — West Virginia and Wisconsin

In West Virginia, a Monmouth poll shows Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., leading Republican Patrick Morissey among likely voters assuming a standard midterm turnout (50 percent to 43 percent), as well as assuming a Democratic surge (51 percent to 42 percent).

And in Wisconsin, a Marquette Law School poll has Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., ahead of GOP challengers Leah Vukmir (49 percent to 40 percent among registered voters) and Kevin Nicholson (50 percent to 39 percent).

One of the big stories that got lost during all the focus on the controversial Don Blankenship: Republicans didn’t nominate their worst Senate candidate. But they also didn’t nominate their best.