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The GOP's house was divided long before Trump's rise and fall

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) wears a mask reading \"Censored\" as she walks to the House floor during debate on the second impeachment of President Donald Trump.
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) wears a mask reading "Censored" as she walks to the House floor during debate on the second impeachment of President Donald Trump.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Around this time just nine years ago, Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses; Mitt Romney took New Hampshire; and Newt Gingrich was the winner in South Carolina.

And that came after Romney, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain had all taken turns as frontrunners for the GOP presidential nomination.

We mention that campaign history from three presidential cycles ago, because it helps tell the story of how today’s Republican Party remains fractured between establishment vs. populist forces; between policies vs. confrontation; between reality vs. conspiracy theories; and by a record of just one presidential win in the last four cycles — Donald Trump’s in 2016.

The GOP establishment won the battle (with Romney winning the nomination), but it lost the war.

And here’s where that GOP presidential field is today:

  • Mitt Romney is the junior senator from Utah, who attended Monday’s meeting with President Joe Biden on the Covid relief bill.
  • Rick Perry served as Trump’s Energy secretary.
  • Rick Santorum is a political commentator at CNN.
  • Newt Gingrich was a staunch ally of Trump’s, and his wife was Trump’s ambassador to the Vatican.
  • Herman Cain passed away from Covid-19 complications last year after attending an indoor Trump rally.
  • Tim Pawlenty in 2018 lost the primary in Minnesota to get his old job as governor back.
  • And Michele Bachmann, the winner of the Ames Straw Poll, was another staunch Trump defender who was saying last fall that "transgender Black Marxists" were trying to overthrow the U.S. government.

So if you want to try to make sense of Mitch McConnell vs. Marjorie Taylor Greene, or Matt Gaetz vs. Liz Cheney, it’s important to revisit the GOP’s history just a decade ago after the Bush presidency had ended.

And it helps explain which side is winning.

Biden’s still going big

Yesterday, we wrote that Joe Biden’s choice on the Covid-19 relief bill is pretty simple: Go big and (pretty much) alone? Or go smaller with (some) GOP support?

Well, after yesterday’s “frank” and “useful” meeting with GOP senators, it sure seems like Biden is continuing to focus on Door No. 1.

“While there were areas of agreement, the president also reiterated his view that Congress must respond boldly and urgently, and noted many areas which the Republican senators' proposal does not address,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a readout of yesterday’s meeting.

“[Biden] reiterated that while he is hopeful that the Rescue Plan can pass with bipartisan support, a reconciliation package is a path to achieve that end,” Psaki added.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

More than $31 million: The amount that former president Donald Trump’s Save America PAC raised in the last five weeks of 2020.

About $217,000: How much of that $31 million the PAC actually spent.

26,396,736: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 113,922 more than yesterday morning.)

444,981: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 2,157 more than yesterday morning.)

93,536: The number of people currently hospitalized from Covid-19 in the United States.

309.31 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

At least 29.9 million: The number of Americans who have received one or both vaccine shots so far.

1,324,949: The average number of individual shots per day since January 20 (7-day average)

87: The number of days left for Biden to reach his 100-day vaccination goals.

Biden’s day

At 5:00 p.m. ET, President Biden signs executive actions on the subject of immigration, including one that creates a task force reuniting children who were separated from their parents during Donald Trump’s presidency. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki briefs reporters at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Dems still don’t control the Senate Judiciary Committee

Chuck Schumer may be the Senate’s majority leader, but Democrats still don’t hold the gavels of several committees without an organizing resolution to determine a power sharing agreement in a 50-50 Senate.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is poised to become the Senate Judiciary Committee chair, but since Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., still holds that position, President Biden’s attorney general nominee, Merrick Garland, hasn’t received a confirmation hearing. Durbin released this letter to Graham last night:

“Following Judge Garland’s introduction as the nominee, my staff quickly sought to work with Republican Committee staff to map out a process that would provide sufficient time to review Judge Garland’s record while still swiftly advancing his nomination. As early as January 14 — just one week after then-President-elect Biden formally announced Judge Garland’s nomination — Committee staff had bipartisan, preliminary conversations laying out possible hearing dates and logistics. Those conversations have continued in earnest, yet we now encounter obstacles that needlessly delay the Committee’s consideration of an eminently qualified pick who has bipartisan support to lead the Justice Department.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell relented on his demand to include a filibuster-saving proposal in the agreement last week, but McConnell and Schumer have not moved forward in bring a resolution to the floor.

Biden Cabinet Watch

State: Tony Blinken (confirmed)

Treasury: Janet Yellen (confirmed)

Defense: Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin (confirmed)

Attorney General: Merrick Garland

Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas

HHS: Xavier Becerra

Agriculture: Tom Vilsack

Transportation: Pete Buttigieg

Energy: Jennifer Granholm

Interior: Deb Haaland

Education: Miguel Cardona

Commerce: Gina Raimondo

Labor: Marty Walsh

HUD: Marcia Fudge

Veterans Affairs: Denis McDonough

UN Ambassador: Linda Thomas-Greenfield

Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines (confirmed)

EPA: Michael Regan

SBA: Isabel Guzman

OMB Director: Neera Tanden

U.S. Trade Representative: Katherine Tai

And the number of the day is … one

Andrew Jackson! Central banking! Pens! It’s the tale of the ONLY president ever censured by the United States Senate.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Biden is expected to sign three major executive orders on immigration.

There’s a wrinkle in the reconciliation process — it could trigger unintended cuts to Medicare.

Mitch McConnell is weighing in on the big controversies brewing in the House GOP.

A campaign autopsy from GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio shows that Trump’s loss was rooted in the pandemic, voter fatigue and dips among key demographic groups.

Rahm Emanuel could be headed for an ambassadorship.

What should Biden do about inspectors general chosen under the Trump administration?

In an Instagram video, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez described her experiences on January 6 and revealed that she’s a survivor of sexual assault.

A progressive PAC wants to target Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

The North Carolina Democratic Senate primary is getting crowded fast.

And be sure to check out Bruce Mehlman’s latest presentation on our current political/economic/societal climate.