Who blinks first between Obama, Republicans?

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Republicans need to show they can govern; Obama wants to pick his spots for compromise
  • Immigration fight kicks off (again) this week
  • Why we’re not taking a Romney 2016 presidential bid seriously yet

Contrast of priorities: On Tuesday, President Barack Obama meets with congressional leaders for the first time since Republicans took control of the new Congress. So far, both sides are taking hard-line postures. The House passed approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline and repealing the requirement in the health care law that businesses have to provide insurance for those who work at least 30 hours a week. The Senate is likely to take up both measures. Very quickly, the White House offered veto threats on both. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell penned an op-ed saying Obama, who will deliver his State of the Union Jan. 20, is the one who needs to compromise after the midterm elections gave the GOP control of both chambers. So where does that leave the two sides before Tuesday’s meeting? Waiting to see who blinks first.

The latest immigration fight kicks off: One of the top items on the agenda for Republican rank and file threatens to stand in the way of any other items McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner might want to tackle with the White House: immigration. And that fight kicks off this week. The House is set to introduce legislation that would limit the president’s executive action on immigration before Thursday when they go away on their joint retreat with the Senate. Remember that in the spending bill that passed at the end of the year, Republicans only funded the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 27 to give some time to have this debate. The president also officially sent his nomination of Loretta Lynch to replace Attorney General Eric Holder at the Department of Justice last week. She is going to be grilled on how strongly she backs the president’s executive actions on immigration. It’s a fine line she will have to walk. Lynch must support the president, yet in supporting him on his immigration policy she could risk gumming up her nomination. Across the aisle of course, this immigration fight also puts Republicans in a tough political situation. They have already declared that comprehensive reform is “dead” and that they will have a piecemeal approach. But how long can the GOP go in total opposition to reform, especially considering the jockeying for Hispanic votes by both parties? President Obama’s ratings with Hispanics dropped last summer, but rebounded after his executive action. Since we’re in football playoff season, let’s use a gridiron quote. Republicans have to be careful. If they SAY they want to work on immigration but do not DO anything about it, Latinos could think, quoting former Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green, “They are who we thought they were.”

2016 — What’s Mitt Romney up to and why we aren’t taking another Romney run seriously (yet): On Friday, 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney told 30 of his presidential campaign donors in midtown Manhattan that he’s thinking about a bid. Why? He needs to remain relevant, and he’s struggling with how to do that. Jeb Bush’s entry has forced him to address this. Romney’s declaration came after one of his donors asked directly about his plans and three noted they have already committed to Jeb. The former Massachusetts governor, who feels he was right on the issues and believes he would win in this environment, needs to buy time. What about Ann Romney, who publicly had declared opposition to another White House run? Per the Washington Post’s Phil Rucker, Robert Costa, and Matea Gold, she has changed her mind and has been “very encouraging.” Pardon those of us who followed both of the Romney presidential campaigns closely and watched the “Mitt” documentary for being skeptical. One other factor adding to skepticism: the lack of build-up and preparation. Romney has yet to hire staff and begin setting up the outlines of an organization. And while candidate Romney sold off homes ahead of 2012, after his defeat, he filed to nearly quadruple the size of his La Jolla, Calif., beachfront home — the one with the car elevator — and was buying up property again in Utah, including a home with a Batman-like secret room. This gives us some important tea leaves to watch. If Romney starts selling homes again, if Ann comes out doing interviews saying her husband should run, if staff and volunteers are deployed, and if Romney starts traveling to early states, we will change our minds and start taking a Romney re-run seriously.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1991, Congress passed a resolution authorizing President George H.W. Bush to use military power to force Iraq out of Kuwait. What was the name given to the military operation to help liberate Kuwait? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to ClaireBear M. Steen (@BearLoves14) for guessing Thursday’s trivia: Which president first dubbed it the “State of the Union”? The answer: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.



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