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Wake Up To Politics - February 16, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Friday, February 16, 2018. 263 days until Election Day 2018. 991 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

No immigration plan emerges from week of Senate debate

The Senate rejected four immigration proposals on Thursday, departing for recess without finding consensus on the issue after a highly-anticipated week promised to include open, freewheeling debate.

None of the proposals considered received the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural threshold:

  • An amendment by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Chris Coons (D-DE), offering a pathway to citizenship for "Dreamers" and boosting border security, failed 52-47. Four Republicans voted "yea"; one Democrat voted "nay."
  • An amendment by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), withholding federal funds from "sanctuary cities" that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials, failed 54-45. Four Democrats voted "yea."
  • An amendment by Sens. Mike Rounds (R-SD), Angus King (I-ME), and a bipartisan group of senators, offering a pathway to citizenship for "Dreamers" but not to their parents, providing border security funding, and limiting "family-based migration," failed 54-45. Eight Republicans voted "yea"; three Democrats voted "nay."
  • An amendment by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and other Republican senators, implementing the "four pillars" of the White House immigration framework (a pathway to citizenship for "Dreamers," dramatic changes to family-based migration, elimination of the diversity visa lottery, and border security and wall funding), failed 39-60. Three Democrats voted "yea"; 14 Republicans voted "nay."

The Senate's failure to advance any of the proposals leaves "Dreamers," undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as minors, in limbo, as the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program shielding them from deportation is set to expire on March 5, just over two weeks away.

The Rounds-King plan emerged after weeks of closed-door negotiations in the office of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who convened dozens of moderate senators she dubbed the "Common Sense Coalition." Their compromise plan included concessions to both sides, including the same provisions for "Dreamers" and border security that President Trump outlined, although the $25 billion in border funding wouldn't have been available as immediately as Trump wanted. The bill would also have made some changes to family-based immigration, although not as many as Trump's framework, while keeping the diversity visa lottery program intact, despite the president's calls to eliminate it.

After long negotiations and high anticipation, the bipartisan bill came six votes short of advancing, defeated by 42 Senate Republicans and Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris (CA), Martin Heinrich (NM), and Tom Udall (NM). The legislation was the target of intense opposition from the Trump Administration: the White House said it "would drastically change our national immigration policy for the worse by weakening border security and undercutting existing immigration law" and threatened a presidential veto. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said the bill "ignores the lessons of 9/11" and "would be the end of immigration enforcement in America."

However, the White House's plan received even less support, with Republicans and Democrats uniting to provide 60 votes against Trump's proposal. In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders blasted "the Schumer Democrats" for showing "they are not serious about DACA, they are not serious about immigration reform, and they are not serious about homeland security." Calling the Grassley proposal "a compromise bill," Sanders accused Democrats of being "held hostage by the radical left in their party" and siding "with an extreme fringe over the hardworking men and women of the Department of Homeland Security." Her statement did not mention the 14 Republicans who opposed the legislation.

So what happens now? The Senate goes home for a week, leaving the question of "Dreamers" unresolved. As they departed, both sides blamed the other for the chamber's inability to come to a consensus. "This vote is proof that President Trump's plan will never become law," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement afterward. "If he would stop torpedoing bipartisan efforts, a good bill would pass."

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), one of the Grassley bill's co-sponsors, countered that there was "broad agreement about how to solve this problem, but we won’t succeed unless the Democrats stop this incessant virtue-signaling and start negotiating in good faith."

The voting series also exposed rifts within both parties. The bipartisan plan was condemned by many progressive Democrats: New Mexicans Heinrich and Udall said the bill amounted to "ransoming lives of Dreamers for President Trump's $25 billion border wall." Republicans also blasted colleagues who voted for it, with Cotton telling reporters they should fear for re-election. On a conference call with reporters, a senior White House official anonymously piled criticism on Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), saying he essentially "became the chairman of the Democratic caucus."

Meanwhile, three red-state Democrats -- Joe Donnelly (IN), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), and Joe Manchin (WV) -- broke with their party and supported the Trump plan, while some conservatives opposed it. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said it was "to the left from President Obama's position."

"It looks like demagogues on the left and the right win again on immigration," Graham tweeted, pointing his finger at both parties' bases.

"I think it's safe to say this has been a disappointing week," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on the floor after all four bills failed. McConnell is not expected to continue the immigration debate as the fate of about 800,000 "Dreamers" hang in the balance. After Presidents' Day recess, the House is set to take up a conservative bill going even further in restricting legal immigration than President Trump's proposal, which is opposed by virtually all Democrats and some Republicans as well. Some senators floated short-term fixes to protect "Dreamers," but it is unclear if any could receive 60 votes or even be brought to the floor.

Parkland shooting responses

A roundup of responses to the school shooting in Florida...

  • President Donald Trump: "Our entire nation, with one heavy heart, is praying for the victims and their families. To every parent, teacher, and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you — whatever you need, whatever we can do, to ease your pain. We are all joined together as one American family, and your suffering is our burden also. No child, no teacher, should ever be in danger in an American school. No parent should ever have to fear for their sons and daughters when they kiss them goodbye in the morning."
  • Former President Barack Obama: "We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless. Caring for our kids is our first job. And until we can honestly say that we're doing enough to keep them safe from harm, including long overdue, common-sense gun safety laws that most Americans want, then we have to change."
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan: "It's just a horrific, horrific, horrible shooting. I think we need to pray, and our hearts go out to these victims. And I think, as public policymakers, we don’t just knee-jerk before we even have all the facts and the data."
  • Lori Alhadeff, mother of one of the victims: "President Trump, please do something! Do something. Action! We need it now! These kids need safety now!"

The Rundown

2018 Central: 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced his bid for the open U.S. Senate seat in Utah this morning. Romney, who has been critical of President Trump in the past, is running to succeed retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). "I will owe this Senate seat to no one but the people of Utah," Romney said in a video posted to Twitter...

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) is expected to announce his campaign for Senate this morning. A top GOP recruit, he had previously passed on challenging Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) in the fall but reversed his decision after lobbying from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans...

Russia probe: Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates, who has pleaded not guilty to an indictment by special counsel Robert Mueller along with his longtime partner Paul Manafort, is "finalizing a plea deal" with Mueller's office, "indicating he's poised to cooperate in the investigation," CNN reports. Gates would be the third former Trump aide known to be cooperating with Mueller's probe...

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon sat for an interview with the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday but refused to answer questions on the Trump transition or administration, claiming executive privilege even though President Trump hadn't invoked it. House Republicans are considering declaring Bannon in contempt of Congress...  Bannon spent about 20 hours meeting with Mueller's team in two sessions this week, NBC News reported...

Inside the West Wing: The White House "remains rudderless" as it grapples with the Florida school shooting and allegations surrounding former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, according to Politico... Questions continue to swirl around what White House counsel Don McGahn knew and when he knew it, per CNN...

Trending: Ronan Farrow's latest investigative piece for the New Yorker was published this morning: "Donald Trump, a Playboy Model, and a System for Concealing Infidelity." The piece details Karen McDougal's allegations of an affair with Trump, and the extent to which Trump and his allies went to hide it. "The President says he never had a relationship with McDougal," a White House spokesperson said in response.

White House schedule: Trump signs 9-1-1 bill, Pence to the border

Trump's day: At 11:30am, President Trump receives a briefing on the Florida school shooting.

At 1:30pm, the President signs Kari's Law, a bill requiring multi-line telephone systems to have a direct dial to 9-1-1. The bill, approved unanimously by both chambers of Congress, is named for Kari Hunt Dunn, who was stabbed to death in a motel room by her estranged husband in 2013. Dunn's daughter was unable to connect to 9-1-1 because she was unaware that she needed to dial "9" before making a call.

At 3pm, President and First Lady Trump depart Washington for West Palm Beach, Florida, where they will arrive at 5:40pm. The couple will spend the weekend at Mar-a-Lago; Trump is also expected to visit Parkland, Florida, the site of the mass shooting on Wednesday. "I’m making plans to visit Parkland to meet with families and local officials, and to continue coordinating the federal response," the President said in his statement on Thursday.

Pence's day: Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence visit Texas today. The Vice President will deliver keynote remarks at a Republican National Committee event in San Antonio. The Pences will then visit the Hidalgo Texas Port of Entry, along the border near McAllen, Texas. They will participate in a working tour of the site as well as a roundtable discussion on immigration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The Pences will then participate in a boat tour of the U.S.-Mexico border on the Rio Grande and in a walking tour along a bollard wall on the border near McAllen. The Pences will then depart for Dallas, where they will spend the night.

Briefing schedule: For the third day in a row, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders is not scheduled to hold a press briefing today.

Congress schedule

Neither house of Congress will conduct any business today as they depart for a weeklong Presidents' Day recess.

Supreme Court schedule

The Supreme Court justices will hold a conference today. Among other issues, they are scheduled to discuss the Justice Department's request for review of a federal judge's preliminary injunction of President Trump's order ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The request addresses San Francisco-based U.S. District Judge William Alsup's temporary order issued last month; U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis of Brooklyn also issued a nationwide injunction on Trump's order earlier this week.

Editor's Note: Barring any *breaking* news, there will be no newsletter on Monday in honor of Presidents' Day. Enjoy your three-day weekend! (I'll be working on my history term paper...)