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Happy Monday morning.
The legislation, estimated to cost $118 billion, amounts to a dramatic rewrite of key parts of U.S. immigration law, including slashing the number of migrants eligible for asylum and altering how those claims get processed.
The package would also provide $60 billion in emergency funding for Ukraine, an issue that has become extraordinarily controversial on Capitol Hill due to growing GOP opposition. There are billions of dollars for Israel, the Indo-Pacific region and ongoing U.S. military operations in the Middle East as well.
But the bill’s release Sunday night was like pouring gasoline on the fire that is the Senate GOP internal war. Senators and aides publicly and privately questioned whether a majority of the Republican Conference would back it, a key metric. There were even calls for an immediate leadership change from some GOP senators and conservative outside groups.
Top Republicans back proposal: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. James Lankford (Okla.), the lead GOP negotiator, fiercely defended the bill on Sunday after its release. McConnell will brief Senate Republicans on the bill this evening, we’re told. That isn’t likely to mollify conservatives, who are already calling the bill “atrocious” and “a magnet for more illegal immigration.”
During a press call Sunday evening, Lankford said those criticizing the proposal had already come out against it before the text was released, so he didn’t expect them to reverse course.
“If we have a crisis on our southern border, and we do… we should address that and do what we can to be able to solve that problem — not just hope that the problem gets better or hope that an election solves the issue,” Lankford said.
Let’s acknowledge that Lankford and Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), the three chief negotiators on the border security package, defied the odds by even reaching a compromise on an issue as politically sensitive as immigration.
But it’s unclear if there’s a path to 60 votes in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and McConnell are counting on a center-right plus center-left supermajority of the Senate to vote for this measure. There’s no guarantee of enough support there. (Here are statements from Murphy, Lankford, Sinema, the White House and Schumer).
Lankford said in response to these statements that he’s “a little confused… at how it could be ‘worse than expected.’” The Oklahoma Republican added he wants to huddle with the speaker’s team. Of course, Johnson’s statement will undoubtedly cause some on-the-fence GOP senators to vote against the bill.
“We’re at the beginning points of information,” Lankford asserted, dismissing the House GOP criticisms. “There are some people who just read Facebook posts… They made their decision based on the Facebook posts, not the text.”
But hardline Senate GOP conservatives are furious over the proposal, saying it will do nothing to stop the flow of migrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. And after Schumer said Sunday, “I have never worked more closely with Leader McConnell on any piece of legislation as we did on this,” McConnell’s Republican critics pounced.
That prompted Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a leading detractor of both the bill and McConnell, to quote-tweet us with this response: “The bromance continues…” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said, “That’s the problem.”
Lee later tweeted a call for “new leadership” and described the bill as a “disqualifying betrayal.” McConnell’s opponents clearly want to make a move against him. Whether that actually materializes is an entirely different question.
It’s hard to see how this bill will win over a majority of Senate Republicans at this point, which is what McConnell and others in leadership had sought. There’s already internal GOP discussion over whether McConnell — whom conservatives accuse of using the border provisions as cover for more Ukraine funding — will try to split the two off.
The path forward: Schumer reiterated Sunday night that the first procedural vote will be on Wednesday. This will be a critical test.
We expect several progressives to oppose the plan as well. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) did so on Sunday due to the Israel funding. Hispanic lawmakers and pro-immigration groups such as the ACLU are already taking aim at the changes to immigration policy. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) called it a “new version of Trump-era policies that will cause more chaos at the border.”
On the House side: The House Republican leadership has signaled it will move beyond the Senate’s bipartisan proposal. This week, Johnson plans to put on the floor a bill to send $17.6 billion to Israel without any spending cuts, a reversal of his earlier approach.
This also comes as Johnson and GOP leaders push Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ impeachment. A floor vote is expected later this week.
The Israel legislation is already hitting some headwinds in the House. The House Freedom Caucus said Sunday it was opposed to the bill because it lacks offsets. Johnson has the ability to put the bill on the floor under suspension of the rules, which would require a two-thirds majority for passage.
— Andrew Desiderio, John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman
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BETHPAGE, N.Y. — Democrats are contesting the special election in New York’s 3rd District on unfavorable political terrain. The central issue of the race is immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border crisis, providing an early preview of what may animate battleground House races come November.
Unlike other recent special elections in the post-Roe era, abortion rights aren’t top of mind for voters here. Instead, both candidates are focusing on how the migrant crisis is affecting New York communities. And former Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), who previously represented the district in Congress, is leaning into the issue in a way unlike any Democrat has to date.
Suozzi is locked in a toss-up battle with GOP political newcomer Mazi Pilip, an Ethiopian-Israeli immigrant whose campaign is largely being conducted behind closed doors. But despite Pilip’s light schedule — she declined our interview requests and didn’t hold any public events with the start of early voting this weekend — the race is tight.
The battle for control of the Long Island seat will determine whether Speaker Mike Johnson will see his miniscule majority shrink yet again. A sign both parties are taking it seriously: Johnson and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries visited the district in recent days ahead of the Feb. 13 election.
Immigration takes center stage: Pilip and her GOP allies have attacked Suozzi by linking him to President Joe Biden’s unpopular immigration policies. Suozzi responded by asserting he’s worked across the aisle for years to find bipartisan common ground on the issue.
While the 3rd District voted for Biden by 8 points in 2020, the district elected now-expelled former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) two years later. And when Suozzi — who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2022 — rallied union carpenters in Bethpage, N.Y., early Saturday morning, he acknowledged his party had some work to do.
“I got a Democratic registration advantage, but people in my district are upset with the Democrats because they haven’t been tough enough on things like the border,” Suozzi told the carpenters.
“They’re worried about the immigration crisis. People streaming across the border. What the hell’s going on? Seems so chaotic,” Suozzi said. This is rhetoric you won’t often hear from Democrats.
We asked Suozzi if he was concerned that the race was playing out on Republican turf. The argument goes that most voters concerned about the border may already be GOP-leaning. Suozzi rejected our premise.
“This is not a Republican issue. This is an American issue,” Suozzi told us. “This is a problem we’ve had in our country for 35 years, and we have not reformed the immigration system. I’ve worked hard and in a bipartisan fashion to address it.”
Abortion rights: The Democratic message of protecting statewide abortion rights is a tougher sell in New York, where there is no threat of state restrictions. Suozzi is hitting Pilip for not pledging to codify Roe. But Pilip has taken away some of the thunder from activists by committing to oppose a national abortion ban.
This race is a different story than the last high-profile special election in New York. Back in summer 2022, Rep. Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.) won an upset in a Hudson Valley district while capitalizing on widespread anger in the immediate aftermath of the Dobbs decision.
A study in contrasts: Over the weekend, Suozzi crisscrossed Nassau County at multiple public rallies open to the press. Pilip, who doesn’t campaign on Saturday because she observes the Jewish Sabbath, held zero public events.
Suozzi is a political veteran who brushes off aides if they try to stop reporter questions after rallies. Pilip has two years experience in the county legislature and doesn’t answer questions at her own news conferences.
But in a February election when turning out the base is key, the vaunted Nassau County GOP machine — which Suozzi decried as the “strongest it’s been since I was the county executive” in the early 2000s — may be the difference maker.
— Max Cohen
THE CANVASS K STREET
Just 38% of Republicans on K Street think Mike Johnson is effective as House speaker. These results from our latest survey, conducted in partnership with LSG, aren’t exactly surprising.
Throughout his 100-plus days as speaker, Johnson has struggled with how to move major pieces of legislation, even with key deadlines looming.
Johnson was notably indecisive on whether to attach a FISA extension to the NDAA. Johnson has also backtracked from his original stance that there would be no more stopgap funding bills. He instead passed a clean CR to avoid a government shutdown in January. And this week, Johnson is putting a clean Israel aid bill on the floor, despite previously insisting the funding needed to be offset.
The odds were already stacked against Johnson when he became speaker; he inherited a fractured GOP conference with an unruly right flank that had just ousted his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy.
A dwindling majority: What’s worse for Johnson is the House GOP has been losing members in an already razor-thin majority. Several House Republicans have left — including McCarthy and embattled former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.). House Majority Leader Steve Scalise has also been absent for weeks after receiving a stem cell transplant. That leaves Johnson with no room to maneuver on votes.
Even with the hiccups, K Street largely thinks Johnson’s job is safe. Most GOP K Street leaders (68%) say they don’t think Johnson will be ousted, according to the survey conducted Jan. 8-26.
Want to take part in The Canvass? Our survey provides anonymous monthly insights from top Capitol Hill staffers and K Street leaders on key issues facing Washington. Sign up here if you work on K Street. Click here to sign up if you’re a senior congressional staffer.
— Donna Baeck
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Monday: The House Rules Committee will meet on several bills scheduled for the floor this week, including the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Tuesday: The House is supposed to vote on a rule for the SALT bill. But many in leadership are skeptical the rule passes, dooming the bill’s already long prospects.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will have a hearing about the state of American aviation and the FAA. FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker will testify.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will appear at the House Financial Services Committee to give an annual report of the Financial Stability Oversight Council. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will have the heads of BCG, McKinsey, M. Klein & Company and Teneo to testify on foreign influence in consulting companies.
… AND THERE’S MORE
Club for Growth is up on the air against former Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.). You’ll remember Walker was in the House from 2015 to 2021. Walker then ran for the Senate in 2022 but finished third in the primary. Walker thought about running for governor in 2024 yet dropped down to join the race for his old House seat.
The group is running an absolutely brutal spot that reminds voters that Walker missed 30% of his votes before he left the House. And it also runs through Walker’s electoral history. Walker is running against Bo Hines, who ran in 2022 but lost to Rep. Wiley Nickel (D-N.C.).
— Jake Sherman
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ALL TIMES EASTERN
President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
Biden will depart Las Vegas en route to Joint Base Andrews.
Biden will depart Andrews for the White House, arriving at 8:45 p.m.
BIDEN’S WEEK AHEAD
Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will host a reception at the White House in recognition of Black History Month with Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff.
Biden will travel to New York for campaign receptions.
Biden will travel to Leesburg, Va., to deliver remarks at the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference.
Biden will host German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for a bilateral meeting at the White House.
– Vivek Shankar, Charlie Savage and Matthew Rosenberg
– Maham Javaid
– Arne Delfs and Michael Nienaber
– Valerie Gonzalez in Eagle Pass, Texas
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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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