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On the roster: Senate votes to block Trump emergency funding - Beto bounces into the race - Pence calls out Biden - As Mueller winds down, top deputy set to exit - Call this one Freedom
SENATE VOTES TO BLOCK TRUMP EMERGENCY
NYT: “The Senate on Thursday easily voted to overturn President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the southwestern border, delivering a bipartisan rebuke to what lawmakers in both parties deemed executive overreach by a president determined to build his border wall over Congress’s objections. The 59-41 vote on the House-passed measures set up the first veto of Mr. Trump’s presidency. It was not overwhelming enough to override Mr. Trump’s promised veto, but Congress has now voted to block a presidential emergency declaration for the first time — and on one of the core promises that animated Mr. Trump’s political rise, the vow to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. In an attempt to limit defections ahead of the vote, Mr. Trump had sought to frame the vote publicly as not only a declaration of support for his border security policies but a sign of personal loyalty.”
The twelve Republicans who voted to block Trump - The Hill: “Here is the list of the GOP senators who voted against Trump on the emergency declaration: Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), Sen. Mike Lee (Utah), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.).”
The Judge’s Ruling: Power station - This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explains the constitutional powers of Congress when it comes to national emergencies: "The act itself fails to define what constitutes an emergency, but the courts – as is their job where a law is ambiguous – have generally defined an emergency as a sudden and imminent threat to life, liberty and property that cannot be addressed by the exercise of ordinary government powers. … President Donald Trump, in his recent declaration of national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, ordered the departments of Defense and Homeland Security to spend unused but unauthorized money in their budgets on building a 55-mile steel barrier – ‘a big, beautiful wall’ -- along a portion of that border. Because Congress has expressly and explicitly declined to authorize the funds for the construction of such a barrier, we have a constitutional conflict on our hands.” More here.
THE RULEBOOK: HE WAS SURE RIGHT ABOUT THAT ONE
“War between the States, in the first period of their separate existence, would be accompanied with much greater distresses than it commonly is in those countries where regular military establishments have long obtained.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 8
TIME OUT: THE UGLY TRUTH
Writer Rebecca Brill with a dispatch from Italy. Paris Review: “In order to become a member of the World Association of Ugly People, you need to be assessed. In the clubhouse of the Association, known by locals as Club dei Brutti, the president, a stocky man named Gianni with a lopsided goatee, produces a card featuring the official Club dei Brutti ugliness rating system: non definita (undefined), insufficiente (insufficient), mediocre, buona (good), ottima (great), straordinaria (extraordinary). Gianni examines my face and body quickly but thoroughly. Then, on a membership card on which he has written my name, he checks off the box marked ‘insufficiente.’ … Gianni signs my card anyway, thereby designating me the 31,310 member of Club dei Brutti. ‘Time makes us all ugly,’ he explains. I have not really come to Piobbico, a small village between two mountains in central Italy, to join the organization. Rather, I’m here for Club dei Brutti’s annual Festival of the Ugly…”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 42.4 percent
Average disapproval: 53.2 percent
Net Score: -10.8 points
Change from one week ago: no change
[Average includes: Monmouth University: 44% approve - 52% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve - 55% disapprove; Gallup: 43% approve - 54% unapproved; IBD: 41% approve - 53% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 46% approve - 52% disapprove.]
BETO BOUNCES INTO THE RACE
Dallas Morning News:“Beto O'Rourke formally launched a bid for the White House on Thursday morning, announcing his long-anticipated campaign with an online video ahead of a three-day swing through Iowa. ‘I am running to serve you as the next president,’ he says in a 3-minute video that his campaign planned posted online at [7:30 a.m. ET] ‘This is going to be a positive campaign that seeks to bring out the very best from every single one of us, that seeks to unite a very divided country. We saw the power of this in Texas,’ the former three-term congressman from El Paso says, his wife, Amy, seated beside him as he looks into the camera. The announcement ends four months of suspense as O'Rourke seeks to harness the buzz he generated in a near-miss bid to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz last fall. O'Rourke said he'll hold a kick-off event in El Paso on March 30.”
Pelosi punts on Beto’s accomplishments - Mediaite: “With former Congressman Beto O’Rourke announcing he is running for president on Thursday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was unable to name a significant accomplishment of his while he was in Congress. Pelosi instead pointed to the vitality he brought, his concern for the environment and his committee memberships. ‘Beto brought vitality to Congress…when he came, he came as a real champion for the environment. He got a great deal of support from the environment community in his district, he won a primary on that subject,’ she said. O’Rourke also sat on House Veterans Affairs Committee, which was very important to his district, according to Pelosi. ‘In persevering our planet and protecting our people, they’re at least two areas in addition to his vitality in so many different ways,’ she concluded.”
Is his 2018 performance overrated? - NYT: “[O’Rourke] did better than every Democrat running statewide in Texas in the 2018 midterms. It seems unlikely that many Democrats would have fared as well as he did, and you could argue it bodes well for his chances in a presidential race. But on balance his success was a reflection of deeper trends. Mr. O’Rourke’s close result wasn’t because of an exceptional turnout that will be hard for other Democrats to repeat in 2020. Republican voters, defined as those who have participated in a recent Republican primary, turned out at a higher rate than Democratic ones. Neither the Hispanic nor youth voter share of the electorate was higher than it was in 2016, when President Trump won the state by nine points.”
How he could win - FiveThirtyEight: The collective frisson brought on by O’Rourke isn’t just superficial, though. The ability to capture a media narrative and to build social media followings is key in America’s current politics-as-pop-culture moment. That O’Rourke might be able to command as much attention as, say, President Trump did during the 2016 campaign ain’t nothing. And it might well be that his X-factor charm has brought him attention from several high-profile Democrats. Former President Barack Obama met with O’Rourke after the midterms and spoke of him glowingly. ‘What I liked most about his race was that it didn’t feel constantly poll-tested,’ Obama told David Axelrod in a podcast interview.”
2020 hopefuls turn to swing-state Senators for advice - Politico: “As Democrats prepared to dive into the 2020 presidential election, they have sought counsel from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. But they’ve also looked to Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan for advice from the key states that tipped the 2016 election to President Donald Trump. The three Midwestern Democratic senators all won reelection in 2018, and they’ve begun advising 2020 Democrats about how to replicate their success in the heartland next year. In phone calls and informal chats on the Senate floor, they and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) – who last week removed himself from the 2020 race after considering a run – are using their recently tested political clout to influence the primary and steer candidates to their states. … ‘The path to the presidency goes right through Wisconsin. It was Trump's narrow win in this state as well as some neighboring states that solidified the presidency for him,’ Baldwin told [Politico] in an interview.”
PENCE CALLS OUT BIDEN
Fox News: “Vice President Pence, in an exclusive ‘Fox & Friends’ interview Thursday, said Joe Biden ‘caved to liberal activists’ when the former vice president backtracked after calling Pence a ‘decent guy.’ Meanwhile, Biden hinted at a 2020 announcement ‘in a few weeks’ on Tuesday during a speech at the annual convention of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) union. … Biden was met with applause and a standing ovation from the audience, but joked: ‘Be careful what you wish for. Be careful what you wish for.’ Sources familiar with his planning told Fox News last week that top advisers to the former vice president are getting their ducks in a row, figuring out a campaign structure and reaching out to veteran Democratic operatives who would be involved. Those sources suggested a campaign launch come April.”
Can Warren win as a wonk? - AP: “More than 1,000 people packed a New York concert venue for an act that wasn’t on guitar and drums. It was Elizabeth Warren, vocalizing hard numbers. The Massachusetts Democratic senator wove data points into a stump speech that riffed on the policy proposals she’s rolled out in her month-old presidential candidacy. ‘I love that you want to get into more detail about the 2 percent wealth tax,’ she said to a man asking whether her economic plan would drive the wealthy to move overseas. Warren’s policy-heavy performance last Friday was a hit with her crowd. And that’s something she’s counting on heavily in her campaign. She has laid down significant markers in a half-dozen different policy areas since the year began, putting pressure on other 2020 presidential contenders while keeping her campaign in the public eye without having to spend a dollar on ads.”
Harris refunds problematic donations - San Jose Mercury News: “Sen. Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign said Wednesday that it had refunded two donations that violated the senator’s pledge not to accept money from lobbyists or agents of foreign governments. Three days after she announced her White House bid in January, Harris received $2,700 from Arthur R. Collins, a lobbyist for the government of Bermuda. Sometime in January or February, Harris also received $2,700 from Vinca LaFleur, a speechwriter for the royal family of Jordan. Both Collins and LaFleur — who are American — reported their donations in government filings required of foreign agents. The Harris campaign refunded the money after the Bay Area News Group asked about the contributions this week. The refunds come as the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders are jostling to show their bona fides on campaign finance and government reform issues. Many of the top candidates, including Harris, have vowed to reject corporate PAC money, lobbyist donations and support from independent Super PACs.”
Candidates applaud Newsom’s move to stop death penalty - Business Insider: “Two high-profile Democratic presidential candidates are lauding California Governor Gavin Newsom's decision to impose a moratorium on executions in his state. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who's focused heavily on criminal justice reform throughout his political career, in a tweet said, ‘Inspired! I applaud @GavinNewsom's decision to impose a moratorium on this immoral and ineffective policy. Because of his leadership and the activism of people across the country, 737 human beings will not be put to death in the name of the people.’ Similarly, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who previously served as the state's attorney general, in a tweet referred to capital punishment as ‘immoral, discriminatory, ineffective, and proven to be unequally applied.’”
AS MUELLER WINDS DOWN, TOP DEPUTY SET TO EXIT
NPR: “One of the most prominent members of special counsel Robert Mueller's team investigating Russia's attack on the 2016 presidential election will soon leave the office and the Justice Department, two sources close to the matter tell NPR. Andrew Weissmann, the architect of the case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, will study and teach at New York University and work on a variety of public service projects, including his longstanding interest in preventing wrongful convictions by shoring up forensic science standards used in courts, the sources added. The departure is the strongest sign yet that Mueller and his team have all but concluded their work. Manafort has been sentenced to about 7 1/2 years in federal prison following two cases that stemmed from Mueller's investigation, although neither case involved alleged collusion with the Russians who interfered in the election. Weissmann has borne the brunt of attacks from critics such as Rush Limbaugh and conservative legal interest groups.”
Overwhelming bipartisan House vote to release Mueller report - NYT: “House Republicans joined Democrats on Thursday to overwhelmingly demand the Department of Justice release to Congress and the public the full findings of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and the possible involvement of President Trump’s campaign. Though the resolution is nonbinding and cannot force the Justice Department to take a particular action, Democrats who put it on the House floor are trying to build public pressure on Attorney General William P. Barr in advance of the investigation’s anticipated conclusion to share what Robert S. Mueller III produces. Far from standing in the way, Republicans joined Democrats en masse. On the 420-0 vote, four Republicans voted present.”
R.I.P. Birch Bayh, beloved Indiana senator and governor who left his mark on the Constitution, dead at 91 - Politico
Citing Paula Jones precedent, judge allows suit by female former contestant on Trump game show to proceed - WaPo
Democrats in Rep. Ilian Omar’s district consider a bid against her in 2020 primary - The Hill
“It’s like guys, political careers can only last so long. Let’s do this.” – Freshman Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, before launching into an irreverent, uproarious speech at the Washington Press Club Foundation dinner Wednesday night that kept the audience laughing with bipartisan barbs.
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CALL THIS ONE FREEDOM
WaPo: “An injured bald eagle suffered some fractures to its right wing and landed along Metrorail tracks in Maryland, experts said, and will undergo a fuller examination. Dan Rauch, the District’s wildlife biologist, said Thursday morning that the eagle rescued by animal experts on the tracks near the Morgan Boulevard station in Prince George’s County during the Wednesday evening rush hour was not Liberty or Justice, two bald eagles that have become well-known for their eagle cam at a nest in a tree at the D.C. Police Academy grounds in Southwest Washington. … Train traffic was fully restored in both directions just after 7 p.m. For their part, Metro riders seemed to understand — even, in some cases, applaud — having to endure a delay for the sake of the bald eagle’s welfare.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Today, however, there is a second reason a peace agreement is impossible: the supreme instability of the entire Middle East.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) in the Washington Post on March 19, 2015.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Liz Friden contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.