**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**

On the roster: Senate GOP ultimatum to Trump on emergency - First glimpse of 2020 map shows pitched battle - Roy Moore threatens another run - Pelosi: ‘This is not a day at the beach’ - If petting dogs is outlawed, only outlaws will pet dogs


Politico: “Sen. Lamar Alexander delivered an ultimatum to President Donald Trump on Thursday: Reconsider your national emergency declaration at the border or face a potential rebellion from the GOP. The retiring Tennessee Republican declined to state whether he will become the deciding senator to block the president’s maneuver, instead taking to the Senate floor to try and convince Trump that he has other ways to collect $5.7 billion for the border wall — the precise amount of money he demanded during the government shutdown fight. ‘He’s got sufficient funding without a national emergency, he can build a wall and avoid a dangerous precedent,’ Alexander told reporters afterward. ‘That would change the voting situation if he we were to agree to do that.’ Three other Republicans have said they would join Democrats in voting for a resolution to block Trump, and only one more is needed for the Senate to successfully reject Trump’s declaration.”

Measure has bipartisan support - Roll Call: “Sens. Susan Collins and Tom Udall have teamed up on the Senate version of legislation disapproving of President Trump’s border security national emergency. Udall, a Democrat from New Mexico and an appropriator, said the resolution to terminate the national emergency isn’t really even about the proposed border wall itself, saying on the Senate floor this is a matter of ‘standing up for the Constitution.’ He said the declaration was ‘an end run around Congress’s power to appropriate, plain and simple.’ Collins, a Republican from Maine, followed Udall on the Senate floor, where she cited writings from both Alexander Hamilton and James Madison in the Federalist Papers, including when Madison described the power of the purse being reserved for the legislature as ‘the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people.’”

Trump warns: ‘Great jeopardy’ for Republicans who oppose him - WaPo: “President Trump warned Thursday that fellow Republicans who vote to nullify his national emergency declaration at the U.S.-Mexico border are putting themselves ‘at great jeopardy’ politically. Trump’s comments come as the Senate prepares to vote on a measure aimed at thwarting the president’s use of the declaration to direct billions of dollars more in funding to border barriers than Congress has authorized. ‘I think that really it’s a very dangerous thing for people to be voting against border security,’ Trump said in an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity. ‘I really think that Republicans that vote against border security and the wall, I think you know, I’ve been okay at predicting things, I think they put themselves at great jeopardy.’”

“I shall be told, that however dangerous this mixture of powers may be in theory, it is rendered harmless by the dependence of Congress on the State for the means of carrying them into practice; that however large the mass of powers may be, it is in fact a lifeless mass.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 38

Commentary: “‘The age of criticism’ —that is what Randall Jarrell called the period between the 1930s and the early 1960s, a time when the power of literary criticism threatened to swamp the power of literature itself. In England, the magisterial T. S. Eliot was at work, as were F. R. LeavisWilliam Empson, I.A. Richards, and others. In America, Edmund Wilson was at the top of his game…  The name missing from this roster of distinguished academic critics was the most famous of them all, Lionel Trilling. Then and now, Trilling doesn’t seem quite to fit in anywhere. He was never entirely comfortable with Columbia University, where he taught for decades—or, for that matter, with thinking himself an academic or even a critic. He was often listed among the group known as the New York Intellectuals… He wrote for the same magazines they did—Partisan Review and Commentary here, Encounter in England—but he was never fully in the mix.”

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
41.8 percent
Average disapproval: 54.4 percent
Net Score: -12.6 points
Change from one week ago: no change  
[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.]

Sabato's Crystal Ball: “Our initial Electoral College ratings reflect a 2020 presidential election that starts as a Toss-up. We start with 248 electoral votes at least leaning Republican, 244 at least leaning Democratic, and 46 votes in the Toss-up category. The omissions from the initial Toss-up category that readers may find most surprising are Florida and Michigan. Much of the electoral map is easy to allocate far in advance: About 70% of the total electoral votes come from states and districts that have voted for the same party in at least the last five presidential elections. With an approval rating in the low-to-mid 40s — and, perhaps more importantly, a disapproval rating consistently over 50% — it would be easy to say that President Trump is an underdog for reelection. … He has done little to appeal to people who did not vote for him, and a Democrat who can consolidate the votes of Trump disapprovers should be able to oust him unless the president can improve his approval numbers in a way he has demonstrably failed to do in the first half of his term.”

Biden, Beto, Bernie look most competitive against Trump in Texas - Quinnipiac University: “In a very early look at possible 2020 presidential matchups in Texas, President Donald Trump is essentially tied with former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders or former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. President Trump leads other possible Democratic contenders by small margins.  Hypothetical matchups by the independent Quinnipiac University Poll show: President Trump at 47 percent, including 41 percent of independent voters, to Biden's 46 percent, including 46 percent of independent voters; Trump at 47 percent, including 41 percent of independent voters, to Sanders' 45 percent, including 48 percent of independent voters; Trump at 47 percent, including 41 percent of independent voters, to O'Rourke's 46 percent, including 48 percent of independent voters. Trump has leads, driven mainly by a shift among independent voters, over other possible Democratic candidates: 46 - 41 percent over former San Antonio Mayor and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro; 48 - 41 percent over U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California; 48 - 41 percent over U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.”

WashEx: “Roy Moore, a conservative lightning rod who cost the Republican Party a Senate seat in deep-red Alabama, is signaling fresh interest in mounting another campaign in 2020, sparking alarm on the right that Democratic Sen. Doug Jones could be gifted another unlikely victory. Moore, 72, a former state judge, made the rounds at last Friday’s Alabama Republican Party dinner gala. A few days later, a new political action committee run by Moore’s son, Caleb Moore, issued an email fundraising appeal. Republican insiders, including conservative allies of President Trump, fret that Moore — derailed by sexual assault allegations in a 2017 special election that should have been an easy layup — might divide the party in the primary and advance to a rematch with Jones. On Wednesday, a Moore confidant pointedly declined to rule out that his buddy might run for Senate next year.”

Politico: “House Democrats held an emotional debate behind closed doors Thursday over how to stop losing embarrassing procedural battles with Republicans — a clash that exposed the divide between moderates and progressives. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) took a hard line at the caucus meeting, saying that being a member of Congress sometimes requires taking tough votes. ‘This is not a day at the beach. This is the Congress of the United States,’ Pelosi said, according to two sources. Pelosi also warned that Democrats who voted with Republicans on the ‘motion to recommit’ could become a lower priority for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, although her threat may be more bluster than reality, according to Democratic lawmakers and aides. And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the superstar New York freshman Democrat, suggested she would alert progressive activists when Democrats are voting with the GOP on these motions, said the sources. In the end, Pelosi and other top Democrats didn't agree to any rules change and will continue to study the issue.”

Won’t commit to Green New Deal vote - Fox News: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will not commit to holding a vote on the Green New Deal touted by progressive lawmakers, saying Congress needs something that is ‘evidence-based.’ The sprawling Green New Deal proposal was recently put forward by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. The package is focused on income inequality and climate change, calling for a complete transition to clean, renewable energy -- but also including a host of far-reaching economic programs including guaranteed jobs. But while the plan has been embraced by numerous 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have raised questions about its multi-trillion-dollar price tag and the sheer logistics of implementing it. ‘I can’t say we’re going to take that and pass it because we have to go through our checks and balances of it with our committee chairs and the rest,’ Pelosi, D-Calif. …”

Schumer’s strategy: duck and cover - The Hill: “Senate Democratic leaders are grappling over how to vote on a controversial climate change proposal that is being championed by progressives and mocked by conservatives. … But Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) has floated a plan with his caucus to vote present on the ambitious legislation. It remains to be seen if Senate Democrats will embrace Schumer’s strategy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday panned the Green New Deal as ‘the far-left’s Santa Claus wish list dressed up to look like serious policy.’ The nonbinding legislation calls for the federal government to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, eliminate pollution as much as technologically feasible and provide training and high-quality education so that ‘all people of the United States’ can participate in the Green New Deal mobilization. McConnell says the Senate will vote on the Green New Deal before the August congressional recess.”

This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explains why he agrees with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s constitutional argument about Trump’s national emergency declaration: “Earlier this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a group of supporters and journalists that in her view, gun violence is the real emergency. Such a statement, in the context in which she made it, should send shivers down the spines of all who believe in personal liberty protected by the Constitution. Notwithstanding the terrifying analogy she made about gun violence -- terrifying to those who believe in the individual right to keep and bear arms as articulated by the Second Amendment and interpreted and upheld by the Supreme Court -- Pelosi wasn't really speaking about guns. She was speaking about the presidency and the Constitution.” More here.

NORK summit a bust AP

Senate confirms new EPA boss WheelerPolitico

Florida congressman apologizes for crass, menacing tweet AP

Trudeau, rocked by scandal, faces pressure to resign WSJ

New probe targets alleged funny money for Trump inaugural - NYT

“Work where you can with your colleagues, recognizing that probably, given the opportunity, they will try to end your political career.” – Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, tweeted about working with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, despite the New York Democrat’s efforts to recruit candidates to unseat Cornyn next year.

“Your musings were interesting about whether the early primaries serve or useful purpose or not, but I kept waiting for a conclusion of ‘but that ship has sailed.’ I really did think you were leading up to a discussion of California’s March 2020 primary date with early voting starting before the New Hampshire primary is held.  Is that coming today, or did you miss the news about California having moved up its primary?” – Steve Arthur, Arlington, Va.

[Ed. note: I think those are very different conversations, Mr. Arthur. California and Texas have certainly changed the nature of Super Tuesday, taking from a relatively low-wattage affair to a potentially make-or-break delegate bonanza. I tend to think that it will increase rather than decrease the value of the four early states. There will be less time for stumbles and resets. South Carolina may suffer, coming just three days before California. But I suspect that it will persevere, especially if Cory Booker establishes it, as I suspect he will, as an existential effort.]    

“[T]hank you for not making the Cohen testimony your lead story. There are so many other important events occurring (possible North Korean denuclearization, anyone?) and to continue giving this liar more air and print time would be such a waste of your excellent Halftime Reports. I was disappointed that FoxNews.com and the Fox News Channel devoted so much wall-to-wall coverage today to that horrible, twisted excuse for a ‘lawyer’ (since disbarred, good riddance).” – Lauren Falk, Ridgecrest, Calif.

[Ed. note: Don’t misconstrue our coverage choices, Ms. Falk. This is a political newsletter, not one of general interest news, legal news, or congressional news. We really mostly care about what will shape the next election. We suspect that few, if any, minds were changed. Certainly, not yours! There’s no doubt that the Mueller probe will have substantial 2020 consequences and we try to keep an oar in that water. But until then, we substantially see the accusatory, angry, speculative, reverse engineered fights over who said what and who leaked what to whom as mostly a waste of time aimed at keeping partisans engaged and barking up trees. It was a historic moment, though, no doubt. A sitting president’s lawyer of a decade sitting before Congress accusing the chief magistrate of the U.S. government of massive corruption. Whatever your personal feelings about Cohen, I’d say that for those providing general news content, that would be too important to pass up.]   

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

WFTV9: “A new proposal in a Florida law could make it illegal to pet your dog while driving. A bill recently filed in the Florida Senate would ban interaction with pets when behind the wheel. … The proposed legislation doesn’t just take aim at pets; it redefines distracted driving to include more than mobile devices. Reading, writing and applying makeup while driving would be against the law. … The bill would also make distracted driving a primary offense, meaning you could be pulled over if you’re seen petting your pup behind the wheel. According to the legislation, it would save lives on Florida roads. Many feel their animals aren’t distractions. … Lawmakers are expected to address the bill in March when they return to session.”

“I am sure there is a special place in heaven reserved for those who have never used the F-word. I will never get near that place. Nor, apparently, will Dick Cheney.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on July 2, 2004. 

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.