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Sens. John Cornyn, James Lankford and Mitch McConnell stand together at a press conference.

Border, tax and an impeachment: Congress’ week

The House is in today. The Senate doesn’t return until Tuesday. House members were on recess last week, while the Senate’s action was slow but dramatic. Here’s where things stand.

Border: This is the week – finally! — that the high-stakes national security-border security supplemental package is supposed to be released. The White House and both Senate Democratic and GOP leadership have a lot riding on this.

What will happen to the measure, how it will get voted on (if it does), and what former President Donald Trump and Speaker Mike Johnson will do if the Senate does pass something – which we remain skeptical about – are all questions that no one can answer right now.

When the Senate left town last week, the GOP Conference was a confused mess about how they would handle the emerging proposal from Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.). Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a warning about the political situation surrounding the proposal — meaning Trump was trying to blow things up – but later made it clear that he still backs the package.

The challenge for McConnell, Lankford and other Senate GOP leaders is whether they can move forward with the border security portion of this measure without majority support among Senate Republicans. That is very problematic for the Kentucky Republican, especially as far as Trump is concerned.

McConnell, who turns 82 in a few weeks, badly wants to win back the Senate majority, and Senate Republicans have a great map to do that in November. But if Trump returns to openly attacking McConnell, that’s gonna be a big problem throughout the year.

Ukraine is a huge question mark as well. There are Senate Republicans who back Ukraine but won’t support the border security-immigration portion of this package. Would McConnell agree to split Ukraine-Israel-Taiwan funding off in hopes of passing something through the Senate to try to put pressure on the House? Still unclear but a possibility.

There are also going to be a significant number of Democratic no votes on this package. Some Hispanic Democrats strongly dislike the immigration and border security policy changes. Progressive Democrats will oppose Israel funding. Let’s assume that somewhere between five to eight Democrats vote against the package. That number is very fluid.

This puts McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a rough spot. You need 60 votes to pass anything in the Senate, of course. In this case, they start with 40-odd Democrats. As we suggested, McConnell will likely want a majority of Senate Republicans in order to move forward. Can McConnell, Lankford, Senate Minority Whip John Thune, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and others swing that kind of vote?

It’s difficult to predict how this plays out right now. McConnell never panics, that’s one of his strongest points. Lankford was also strong on the Sunday talk show circuit despite some kerfuffle back home with the Oklahoma Republican Party.

This is clear, however – the earliest any kind of procedural vote will take place in the Senate is Wednesday or Thursday. We’ll see where things stand after that.

Taxes: Johnson hasn’t announced publicly or told key members of his leadership whether he’ll put the $70 billion tax bill on the House floor this week. This shouldn’t be a terribly difficult call. The bill extends a host of business-friendly tax breaks alongside a minor expansion of the child tax credit. It passed the Ways and Means Committee by a 40-3 vote.

But Johnson has a big decision to make here. New York Republicans have raised hell with the speaker over the Ways and Means Committee’s unwillingness to lift the state and local tax exemption limit as part of this bill.

Empire State Republicans, “the majority makers” last cycle, see this as something their leadership can do to help them back home. Northeast Republicans – many of them moderates – have been forced by their leadership to vote for toxic bills for more than a year now.

The House GOP leadership doesn’t want to put this bill on the floor under a rule – the only way it’s amendable – because it presents a whole host of other complications. And GOP leaders effectively believe they can call the New Yorkers’ bluff. They won’t vote against this package because it includes wildly popular provisions, the thinking goes.

This is another proof point that Johnson’s speakership is marked by a very deliberative – or tortured – decision-making process.

Jordan: The killing of three U.S. soldiers stationed in Jordan and wounding of dozens of others by Iranian-backed militias is another huge challenge for President Joe Biden and his national-security team. (More from Andrew Desiderio below.)

“We had a tough day last night in the Middle East. We lost three brave souls,” Biden told the White House pool Sunday. “And we shall respond.”

– John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman

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