Morning Report — Can Republicans clean up after their ‘mess’?   


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Democracy is messy,” Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said Wednesday. 

The ability to govern is supposed to be the broom. 

“We’re cleaning it up,” he argued a day after coming up short while attempting to impeach a Cabinet member and send more money to Israel while sidestepping Ukraine. 

Three House Republicans broke ranks with Johnson on Tuesday to oppose impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The Speaker says he will try again. 

▪ The Hill: Republicans point fingers after embarrassing floor defeats. 

▪ The Associated Press: Broken Congress. 

Moderate Republicans on both sides of the Capitol say they’re exasperated. 

“I’ve gone through the multiple stages of grief. Today I’m just pissed off,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told CNN. 

Her remarks followed her procedural vote Wednesday to advance a bipartisan border security package that Republicans initially demanded, but it fell apart this week after former President Trump lobbied against it. 

The Senate’s $118 billion border measure, which had been bundled with U.S. assistance for Israel and Ukraine, fell short of the 60 votes needed to move forward Wednesday. 

President Biden and fellow Democrats say their message to voters today, tomorrow and until Election Day will be that Republicans blocked the toughest bipartisan border legislation in decades because Trump “and his MAGA friends” prefer to use immigration as a political weapon. 

The failed procedural vote was a rebuke by Republicans of a deal crafted in part by one of their own members, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, one of the chamber’s most conservative senators.  

“I have a difficult time understanding again how anyone else in the future is going to want to be on that negotiating team — on anything — if we are going to be against it,” Murkowski added. 

CNN: Here were some of the key provisions in the now-blocked Senate border measure. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) moved rapidly Wednesday to try to pluck out and resurrect the package’s bundled provisions to send military help to Ukraine, which says it’s desperately low on ammunition to battle Russia, plus aid to Israel as it wages war against Hamas.  

Senators assessed their options for hours behind the scenes Wednesday night. Some, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — a Trump ally, Russia foe and champion of enhanced border security — wanted to be able to amend the security-aid package. Border provisions previously deep-sixed by Republicans resurfaced as favored potential add-ons. A critical mass of members to back Ukraine assistance did not emerge. Schumer finally let senators escape for the night, adding a floor vote to the schedule today.  

Today’s scheduled Senate vote proposes $60.1 billion for Ukraine, $14.1 billion for Israel and $10 billion in humanitarian aid for civilians of global crises.     

In the House, a central GOP argument against providing more funding to Ukraine has been an interest in America’s national security at the southern border as the foremost priority. Nonetheless, more resources for the U.S. border fell away when the Senate package died. 

By the way, the Senate is poised for a two-week break from Washington, and the House has just six more legislative days on its calendar this month. 


3 THINGS TO KNOW TODAY: 

▪ A U.S. strike in Baghdad killed an Iranian-backed militia leader Wednesday whose fighters are blamed for the drone attack that killed three reservists at a U.S. military base in Jordan. The U.S. may opt to strike other Shiite militia leaders and commanders, an official said. 

▪ The special counsel investigating Biden’s handling of classified records completed and submitted his probe this week, Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a letter to Congress Wednesday. A report will be released publicly “soon.” It’s being reviewed by White House lawyers. 

▪ In the second mix-up of European leaders in a week on Wednesday, Biden related anecdotes about the wrong person. He referred to François Mitterrand, who died in 1996, instead of French President Emmanuel Macron and the late Helmut Kohl instead of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel


TAPED, TALKING: In the bribery prosecution of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), federal prosecutors in Manhattan disclosed in a court document filed late Monday that a confidential informant had recordings and shared details with investigators. The senator has pleaded not guilty to charges. In the filing, prosecutors asked the judge, Sidney Stein of Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, to reject defendants’ requests for dismissal. A trial is scheduled in May. Menendez has not said if he will seek reelection. 


LEADING THE DAY 

Politics Haley 020624 AP Matt Kelley

 © The Associated Press / Matt Kelley | Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley appeared at a campaign event in Spartanburg, S.C., on Monday. She lost Nevada’s symbolic GOP primary Tuesday. 

POLITICS 

TWO DAYS AFTER NEVADA’S PRIMARY ELECTION, the state Republican Party will hold its caucus today. Twenty-six delegates are at stake, and Republican front-runner Trump is expected to easily sweep them.  

It’s a marked contrast from the fate that his competitor, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, experienced Tuesday. Her shocking loss to a “none of these candidates” option threatens to dent whatever momentum she was building ahead of her showdown with Trump in her home state of South Carolina. 

Though Haley has been seen as a long-shot candidate, The Hill’s Julia Mueller reports she’s benefited from a cash windfall in recent months, spurring hopes among supporters that she might narrow the gap with Trump in her home state on Feb. 24.  

“Haley had a bad night in Nevada, seemingly on track for a miserable night in South Carolina later on this month and potentially a disastrous Super Tuesday, should she choose to stay in the race,” said GOP strategist Brian Seitchik, arguing the loss adds to evidence of Trump’s enduring dominance over the GOP.  

ABC News: What to know about Haley’s loss to “none of these candidates” in the Nevada Republican primary. 

Meanwhile, Ronna McDaniel’s anticipated resignation as chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) amid Trump’s vocal dissatisfaction with the party apparatus is the latest sign that the former president is reshaping the GOP for years to come, write The Hill’s Brett Samuels and Caroline Vakil.  

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that McDaniel is expected to leave her post following the South Carolina GOP primary, while RNC chief of staff Mike Reed announced the same day that he was leaving the organization to move into the private sector after this month. Their exits come as Trump barrels toward the GOP nomination and looks to stamp out any critics or people who have fallen out of his favor, a development that could have reverberations in the Republican Party beyond November.  

Trump is now expected to back a loyalist in the race to serve as the next RNC chair, with North Carolina GOP Chair Michael Whatley — who has echoed Trump’s false claims of election fraud — reportedly among the front-runners. RNC spokesperson Keith Schipper pushed back against The Times’s reporting, writing in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, “Nothing has changed. This will be decided after South Carolina.”  


2024 ROUNDUP

▪ Author Marianne Williamson has ended her presidential primary bid Wednesday evening after failing to break single digits. Williamson, 71, launched her bid against Biden last March, critiquing the Democratic Party’s ethos and pleading to fundamentally change operations in Washington.  

▪ Is it morning in Joe Biden’s America? Bloomberg Businessweek’s Joshua Green wrote a data-based economic and political analysis that looks back at a corollary in 1983, former President Reagan’s communications skills and an accommodative Federal Reserve. 

▪ Trump-aligned GOP consultant Alex Bruesewitz is weighing a primary bid against Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) over his decision to vote against impeaching Mayorkas. 

▪ Trump was trailing Biden in overall campaign cash on hand at the end of 2023, but he dominated fundraising last year by at least one critical measure: his number of small donors. 

▪ Could Taylor Swift tilt Florida blue? It’s Democrats’ wildest dream. 


WHERE AND WHEN 

The House convenes for a pro forma session at 10 a.m. Friday. 

The Senate will meet at noon.  

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden will travel to the Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Va., to speak at 4 p.m. to House Democrats during their annual retreat. The president will return to the White House this evening. 

Vice President Harris has no public events. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken met this morning in Tel Aviv with Israeli Minister Gadi Eisenkot and Israeli Minister Benny Gantz. He met an hour later with Israeli Opposition Leader Yair Lapid. Blinken plans to meet at midday local time with foreign service officers at U.S. Mission Israel. 

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is scheduled to testify at 9 a.m. to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs about the annual report from the Financial Stability Oversight Council. Yellen will hold a bilateral meeting at the Treasury Department at 3 p.m. with Executive Vice President and Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni of the European Union.  

Economic indicator: The Labor Department will report at 8:30 a.m. ET on claims for unemployment benefits filed in the week ending Feb. 3. 

The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. 


ZOOM IN 

International Netanyahu 122423 AP Ohad Zwigenberg

© The Associated Press / Ohad Zwigenberg | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pictured in December. 

INTERNATIONAL 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday rejected Hamas’s terms for a cease-fire and hostage-release agreement, calling them “delusional” and leveling harsh criticism on any arrangement that leaves the militant group in full or partial control of Gaza after the war. He vowed to press ahead with Israel’s war against Hamas, now in its fifth month (CNN and Politico). 

“There is not a commitment — there has to be a negotiation, it’s a process, and at the moment, from what I see from Hamas, it’s not happening,” Netanyahu added. 

Hamas had presented its response to a proposal for a deal by calling for a phased Israeli withdrawal from the enclave during a four-and-a-half-month truce and a plan to permanently end the war. But Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel’s aim is “complete victory,” and the country will “not do less than that.” 

Netanyahu also said Wednesday that he told Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Biden’s executive order targeting Israeli settlers involved in violent attacks against Palestinians was “inappropriate” and “highly problematic.” The order, which was issued last week, is the most significant move by any U.S. administration against settler violence in the occupied West Bank (Axios). 

▪ NPR: The U.S. is demanding Iran rein in its proxy groups. Is that actually possible? 

▪ The New York Times: As Iranian-backed groups and American forces, both of which have bases in Iraq, lock horns around the Middle East, things are becoming uncomfortable for the Iraqi government. 

▪ The Washington Post: A U.S. strike in Baghdad killed a key militia commander, officials say. 

▪ The New York Times: The United States has been a bulwark for Ukraine. What happens if support collapses? 


ELSEWHERE 

Trump World Constitution 121719 AP Andrew Harnik

© The Associated Press / Andrew Harnik | A pocket Constitution pictured in 2019. 

TRUMP WORLD    

TRUMP’S LAWYERS ARE SET FOR A HISTORIC Supreme Court showdown today as they attempt to demolish the lawsuits challenging the former president’s ballot eligibility under the 14th Amendment’s “insurrection clause.” As The Hill’s Ella Lee and Zach Schonfeld report, the oral arguments are set to be the most momentous milestone yet in the patchwork of challenges seeking to prevent Trump’s return to the White House over his actions surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack. 

To disqualify Trump from the state ballot, the Colorado Supreme Court found Trump “engaged in insurrection.” Trump’s lawyers, however, argue that Jan. 6 wasn’t an insurrection as defined in the clause, which was originally ratified after the Civil War and intended to prevent former Confederates from returning to federal office. Even if it was, Trump’s team contends the Colorado voters who sued still can’t connect the Capitol attack to their client. Alex Reinert, a Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law professor, noted there also is the question of whether the Supreme Court will give deference to the lower court’s factual findings on Trump’s conduct.  

“There’s no question that there was enough evidence for the trial court to find that he engaged in insurrection. I don’t know that the court is going to do that,” said Reinert, who clerked for former Justice Stephen Breyer the term the court decided Bush v. Gore.  

▪ CBS News: Trump’s ballot eligibility is headed to the Supreme Court. Here’s what to know about Thursday’s historic arguments. 

▪ Politico: Meet the lawyers arguing the Trump ballot case at the Supreme Court. 

▪ NPR: University of Chicago Law professor Aziz Huq says that the Supreme Court has no good options in the case concerning Trump’s appearance on the Colorado ballot. 

Lawyers for Trump and the New York attorney general’s office both told the judge in his real estate civil fraud trial on Wednesday that he shouldn’t delay ruling in the case because of reports that former Trump Organization financial executive Alan Weisselberg possibly committed perjury while testifying (USA Today and NBC News). 


OPINION 

■ The eyebrow-raising line in the Trump immunity opinion, by Jason Willick, columnist, The Washington Post. 

■ Presidential candidates don’t know when to fold, by Mark Mellman, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


THE CLOSER 

QUIZ Lunar New Year 020724 AP Andy Wong

© The Associated Press / Andy Wong | In Beijing this month, a tree was decorated for the Lunar New Year. 

Take Our Morning Report Quiz 

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the upcoming holiday, we’re eager for some smart guesses about Lunar New Year

Be sure to email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and kkarisch@thehill.com — please add “Quiz” to your subject line. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday. 

According to the Chinese lunar calendar, this year marks the year of the… 

  1. Rat 
  1. Ox 
  1. Dragon 
  1. Rabbit 

Which of these foods is traditionally associated with Lunar New Year celebrations? 

  1. Shaved ice 
  1. Moon cakes 
  1. Nian gao, or glutinous rice cakes 
  1. Sweet dim sum 

Red is considered an auspicious color during Lunar New Year celebrations. What does it symbolize? 

  1. Prosperity and good fortune 
  1. Health and wellbeing 
  1. Calm and relaxation 
  1. Strength and perseverance 

True or false: One of the customs associated with Lunar New Year celebrations is the giving of red envelopes containing money, usually by elders to younger members of the family. 

  1. True 
  2. False 

Stay Engaged 

We want to hear from you! Email: Alexis Simendinger (asimendinger@thehill.com) and Kristina Karisch (kkarisch@thehill.com). Follow us on X, formerly known as Twitter: (@asimendinger and @kristinakarisch) and suggest this newsletter to friends! 





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