McConnell says Trump to sign border bill, declare emergency


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On the roster: McConnell says Trump to sign border bill, declare emergency - Time Out: In defense of Valentine’s Day - Source: Biden almost certain to run for president - Schumer discusses another Senate run for Beto - Truly ‘rat-ical’

MCCONNELL SAYS TRUMP TO SIGN BORDER BILL, DECLARE EMERGENCY

Fox News:President Trump is prepared to sign the border security compromise package to avert another government shutdown if passed by Congress and will declare a national emergency to obtain funding for the border wall, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell revealed Thursday. Speaking on the Senate floor, McConnell said he had just spoken to the president about the border security bill set to be voted on in Congress. McConnell said he supported Trump declaring a national emergency, something the president has suggested for weeks he might do. The White House did not immediately comment to Fox News. The Senate is set to vote on the compromise first on Thursday, followed by the House. Congressional negotiators announced Monday they'd reached ‘an agreement in principle’ on border security funding that includes more than $1.3 billion for physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. The White House initially requested $5.7 billion for the border wall. Lawmakers have until 11:59 p.m. Friday to get the agreement through both houses of Congress and signed by Trump [before] what would be the second partial government shutdown this year.”

THE RULEBOOK: FOR LOVE OF COUNTRY
“In the mild season of peace, with minds unoccupied by other subjects, [the convention] passed many months in cool, uninterrupted, and daily consultation; and finally, without having been awed by power, or influenced by any passions except love for their country, they presented and recommended to the people the plan produced by their joint and very unanimous councils.” – John Jay, Federalist No. 2

TIME OUT: IN DEFENSE OF VALENTINE’S DAY 
[Ed. note: We are inaugurating a new Valentine’s Day tradition. Because of the great response we got last year from the offering you will find below, we’re pressing “repeat.” Much love to you, dear readers.]
St. Valentine’s Day has become sour rather than sweet for Americans, especially as the rise of social media has encouraged even more ostentatious displays of affection and invariably produced the desired result: envy. 

Now, there’s nothing wrong with the holiday when it comes to children. Cutting valentines and enjoying sweet treats is the kind of harmless fun that parents and teachers can enjoy too. But when it comes to the actual object of the holiday, we have gone rather off the boards. 

It was February 14th in probably the year 278 when a Christian pastor called Valentine was executed by the order of Roman Emperor Claudius II. There was lots that the empire did not like about the growing Christian faith, but much of the concern centered on military preparedness. How could a faith that preached unconditional love, forgiveness and a peace “which surpasses all understanding” be compatible with the martial, conquering spirit of Rome? 

A material consideration for Claudius was that he was having a harder time getting young men to join the legions because of the emphasis on family and children among Christians. Accordingly, he banned Christian marriage. Valentine, undaunted, continued to perform the ceremonies in secret. When he was caught, the pastor was dragged before the prefect of Rome and condemned to be beaten to death and have his head cut off (not that he would have noticed by then). 

Now, there are a few contenders for the title of the real St. Valentine, so the world will never actually know the details of his story, which have long been intertwined with legend and folklore. But, it seems pretty clear that there was a pastor willing to pay the ultimate earthly price to celebrate and sanctify the romantic love between a man and women. His actions and the veneration of them is a reflection of the centrality of that love to the worldview of Christianity, and, by extension, Western civilization. 

There is much to deplore in the modern Valentine’s Day of edible underwear, overpriced roses and cheesy Instagram posts. But there is much to celebrate when it comes to our society’s continuing affection for affection, especially at a time when we are both more connected and more alone ever in history. The story of Valentine and his sacrifice is a reminder that Eros, while not a rightful object of worship itself, is a love worth celebrating. 

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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval:
 41.8 percent
Average disapproval: 54.4 percent
Net Score: -12.6 points
Change from one week ago: up 3.6 points 
[Average includes: Fox News: 46% approve - 52% disapprove; Gallup: 44% approve - 52% unapproved; CNN: 42% approve - 54% disapproval; IBD: 39% approve - 57% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve - 57% disapprove.]

SOURCE: BIDEN ALMOST CERTAIN TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT
Fox News: “Former Vice President Joe Biden is almost certain to run for president in 2020, a source with direct knowledge told Fox News on Thursday. The source said the timing of an announcement is still up in the air. With such a crowded field of Democratic hopefuls, Biden wants to keep big donors and potential staffers with him, and has been conducting outreach to former colleagues, grassroots activists and contributors, the source said. Fox News also confirmed through two sources that California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein met privately Thursday morning with Biden. The sources said Feinstein expects Biden to run. A ‘Friends of Joe’ group, which has been inactive since 2016, has been busy with a flurry of emails, conversations and activities, the source said. The group comprises longtime aides, donors, supporters and friends.”

Howard Dean to head Dems’ new voter database - AP: “Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez is declaring a major victory ahead of the 2020 presidential election, with the help of one of his most well-known predecessors. Howard Dean, the one-time presidential candidate, former Vermont governor and ex-DNC chairman, is set to head a new data exchange operation that Democrats hope puts them back on par with Republicans in the never-ending race to use voter data to drive Americans to the polls. State party leaders on Wednesday approved the arrangement hammered out by DNC officials, state party leaders and Democratic consultants. … The arrangement would allow the national party, state parties and independent political action groups on the left to share voter data in real time during campaigns. … When a presidential campaign spends big money on consumer data to update voter profiles, the new information would go into the central file as well.”

Midwestern Dems push for Milwaukee to host convention - Politico: “Top Midwestern Democrats and business leaders are engaged in a frenzied, last-minute effort to bring the Democratic National Convention to Milwaukee next year, insisting that a Wisconsin convention presence would help repair the frayed relationship between the party and heartland voters. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has been involved in the behind-the-scenes overtures, offering up his own political muscle to lure the marquee political event to his neighboring state. Pritzker told POLITICO on Wednesday he spoke to Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers this week about helping to land the convention. … Midwestern Democrats say locating in Milwaukee would help heal the wounds left by a 2016 general election campaign that saw Hillary Clinton skip Wisconsin and then unexpectedly lose the state to President Donald Trump.”

Harris fact-checked over ‘nonsensical’ claim Trump hiked taxes on middle class - Fox News: “Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a 2020 presidential hopeful, is under fire for claiming that lower tax refunds are a sign that the Trump tax cuts are ‘a middle-class tax hike’ -- something a top fact-checker described as ‘nonsensical and misleading.’ ‘The average tax refund is down about $170 compared to last year. Let’s call the President’s tax cut what it is: a middle-class tax hike to line the pockets of already wealthy corporations and the 1 percent,’ she said in a tweet. Harris was apparently reacting to information from initial returns that the average refund is down approximately 8 percent. But, as fact checkers quickly pointed out, the size of one’s refund has more to do with how much was withheld for taxes over the course of the year rather than one’s overall tax burden.”

Julian Castro still lacking support from Hispanic Caucus - Politico:Julián Castro is the lone Latino candidate in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary field. He’s uniquely positioned to capture the support of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which has more members than ever and more clout. Yet so far, he’s come up dry. Just one of the 38-member group has publicly endorsed Castro’s bid since his campaign announcement last month — his twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), who chairs the CHC and also serves as chairman of Julián’s campaign. It isn’t personal, according to interviews with CHC members. The reluctance so far to commit to Castro, they say, is largely due to home-state loyalties or political caution in a race that’s still taking shape.”

SCHUMER DISCUSSES ANOTHER SENATE RUN FOR BETO
Politico: “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer met with former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke last week to discuss a possible 2020 Senate campaign against GOP Sen. John Cornyn, according to a source familiar with the meeting. O’Rourke, a Democrat who lost narrowly against Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, is considering running for president and hasn’t publicly discussed running again for Senate in 2020. But he also hasn’t ruled it out. O’Rourke and former Obama Cabinet secretary Julián Castro — who has announced his own White House bid — are considered by many Democrats to be the party's best prospects for defeating Cornyn. A spokesman for O’Rourke did not return a request for comment on the meeting. Schumer’s office declined to comment.”

Mark Kelly could face some opposition to Arizona Senate run - HuffPo: “Democratic operatives are ecstatic about Mark Kelly’s decision to run against appointed Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally in 2020. He’s a dream candidate… However, the party’s left wing is holding off on the celebrations for now. Public records show Kelly voted in the 2012 GOP primary while living in Texas, meaning he likely cast a ballot for either Mitt Romney or one of the host of conservatives running against President Barack Obama and either Ted Cruz or David Dewhurst for Senate. (A Kelly spokesperson said he voted for Obama in the general election.) And progressives both in the state and nationally have long been preparing for Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Latino veteran of the war in Afghanistan and member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, to run for the seat. Gallego is still considering a bid, potentially creating an ideological clash with Kelly.”

Will 2020 bring the first female senator to Colorado? - Roll Call: “Colorado Democrats have their sights on Sen. Cory Gardner, one of the most vulnerable senators in 2020 and one of two Republicans running in a state won by Hillary Clinton. And some see the race as an opportunity to do something historic: send a woman to the U.S. Senate. … Colorado is one of just five states that has never elected a female governor or senator. Former Colorado Democratic Party Chairwoman Pat Waak said there have been ongoing discussions among female activists about the importance of having a woman challenge Gardner. … Two women — scientist Trish Zornio, who trained with Emerge Colorado and has been traveling across the state, and activist Lorena Garcia — are already running for the Democratic nomination. But female activists haven’t yet coalesced around either so far.”

New gubernatorial candidate joins Mississippi race - [Mississippi] Clarion Ledger: “Retired longtime state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., son of a former governor, is planning a gubernatorial run this year as a Republican, sources involved in his planning confirmed Wednesday. One of Waller's main campaign themes is expected to be that he is the only Republican candidate who can beat Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood — who remains very popular in an otherwise deep red state — in the race for governor. Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, already with $7 million in his campaign war chest, has been the presumptive GOP front-runner. But Reeves has trailed Hood in past and recent polling and is unpopular with some segments of the establishment state GOP and hard-line conservatives. Another Republican in the race, freshman state Rep. Robert Foster, a farmer from Hernando, lacks the name recognition and fundraising capacity of Reeves and Waller.”

THE JUDGE’S RULING: AN INCREDIBLE FREE SPEECH DEBATE
This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano discusses the president, his ex-aide Cliff Sims and an incredible free speech debate: “A former White House communications aide and former Trump campaign adviser who has written a blistering tell-all book about the Trump White House now finds himself in litigation about whether he can freely publish his book -- which he has already done -- and freely profit from it. The former Trump friend and colleague is Cliff Sims, and his book is called ‘Team of Vipers.’ … When Sims began his time as an official of the Trump campaign, he signed a nondisclosure agreement, or NDA. … Can the government punish speech of someone who agreed to remain silent? In a word: No. It cannot deter speech, and it cannot chill speech. Chilling takes place when government behavior is so oppressive that the potential speaker is afraid to speak about what he knows.” More here.

PLAY-BY-PLAY
William Barr
confirmed as next Attorney General - NYT

House overwhelmingly votes against anti-Semitism in language added to Yemen resolution - Roll Call

Virginia House speaker debates probe into Fairfax allegations - Richmond Times-Dispatch

AUDIBLE: WILD AND WONDERFUL
“If they want to see how well they will fare, come to West Virginia. That would be a good testing ground.” – Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., on the expanding 2020 field. The senator cautioned the current group of Democrats that they should campaign as a “centrist” since “that’s where most people’s lives are.”

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TRULY ‘RAT-ICAL’
CTV: “A teen who set out for a day of sledding with friends on Ryan Street Hill found himself on a collision course with a massive rat. Seventeen-year-old Cole Salsman had his GoPro camera recording as he slid down the hill with dozens of other kids who were out of class because of widespread school cancellations Tuesday. ‘We hitting the ramp boys?’ Salsman is heard asking as they speed toward a bump. But it wasn't a ramp he hit seconds later – it was the rat. In the video, the critter is seen deftly dodging another sled before colliding with Salsman. ‘I thought somebody's toboggan snapped and a piece of plastic flew my way,’ he said. Shrieks from nearby sledders can be heard as the rodent ricochets off the sled, lands in the snow, and scurries away to safety. While getting a rat in your lap might ruin someone's day of fun, Salsman took it in stride. ‘I think it made it better,’ he said. No word on whether the rat was injured in the collision.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Having a child, I discovered, makes you dream again and, at the same time, makes the dreams utterly real.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on June 28, 1985.

Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.