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Kids at the border turning into political crisis for Obama administration

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Continued disagreement over what’s drawing unaccompanied minors and what to do about them
  • After blows at Supreme Court, White House weighs contraception options
  • Airstrikes in Iraq, and the amazing return of Chalabi in Iraq
  • Administration releasing new data on trying to attract and keep the best teachers

White House pledges to ‘stem tide’ of surge in border crossings: Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson vowed Sunday the Obama administration would “stem the tide” of Central American child migrants illegally crossing the southern U.S. border. At the same time, Johnson refused to say whether most of the unaccompanied minors would be deported or allowed to stay in the country. “We have to do right by the children. I have personally encountered enough of them to know that we have to do right by the children,” Johnson said during an appearance on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “But, at the end of the day, in the final analysis, our border is not open to illegal migration. And we will stem the tide,” he added. Johnson declined to get specific on how the administration would handle the influx. “There is a deportation proceeding that is commenced against illegal migrants, including children. We are looking at ways to create additional options for dealing with the children in particular, consistent with our laws and our values,” Johnson said. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, urged the administration to take decisive action with those who have entered the country. “The thing this administration needs to do is immediately deport these families, these children. I know it sounds harsh. I know it sounds difficult,” he said on NBC. President Obama is seeking $2 billion from Congress to respond to the surge of children and other migrants crossing the border illegally, as well as the authority to return them home faster. On Friday, the president said the time had come to “fix our immigration system,” which he described as “broken.” After acknowledging earlier in the week that immigration reform does not stand a chance of passing the rest of this year, whatever steps the president can take will likely be limited to executive action. Johnson said Sunday there are “a number of things” the administration can do “within the confines of existing law,” adding, “If Congress doesn’t act, we will.” By the way, the fact that just 1,669 children have been deported this year as compared to a high of more than 8,000 in 2008 won’t quell the debate that Obama’s policies aren’t somewhat to blame as a magnet.

Weighing contraception options: After a bruising week of Supreme Court developments last week, the Obama White House is going back to the drawing board. The New York Times reported Friday: “The administration must move fast. Legal and health care experts expect a rush to court involving scores of employers seeking to take advantage of the two decisions.” The options appear two-fold: Either put the onus on the companies’ insurers or health plan administrators or expand the administration’s role in offering coverage. “The White House is under such pressure that no one has been able to work out details of how the alternatives would be financed or administered,” the Times writes. And, of course, don’t miss the politics here. As we’ve written, women are a key plank to Democrats’ hopes this fall and Democrats have been trying to turn the Hobby Lobby loss into a win. The White House “is eager to court the votes of women dismayed by the rulings,” the Times added. “The Democratic National Committee is already urging voters to fight back against the Hobby Lobby decision and to ‘stand up for Obamacare’ in the November elections.

Airstrikes in Iraq and the return of Chalabi: A day after ISIS’ leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was filmed addressing a mosque in Mosul, airstrikes hit the northern Iraqi city held by ISIS. The U.S. claims to have had no knowledge of them and Iraqi officials had no knowledge of them, The Washington Post reports. The future of the country is very uncertain. But many continue to point the finger at Iraqi leader Nouri al-Maliki as part of the problem. And in a leadership vacuum, unlikely people can emerge. In fact, there appears to be renewed momentum behind Ahmad Chalabi to take over as the next Iraqi leader. The Guardian: “He was a presidential patron, then a pariah; an alleged fraud, then an economic saviour. And, perhaps more remarkably, he was groomed by Washington, lured by Iran, and is now being courted by both as a man who could rescue Iraq.” That Chalabi has emerged again — and that U.S. officials have met with him — is a striking development, considering Chalabi’s former influence with Bush administration neoconservatives to help influence the U.S.’s decision to get into Iraq in the first place with false information. Aram Roston, author of a book about Chalabi, “The Man Who Pushed America to War,” wrote of how Chalabi has tried to remake himself several times over. He quotes a former CIA official about Chalabi’s chances, “It’s Iraq. Anything could happen.”

Administration launches new education initiative: The Obama White House begins this week announcing what it’s calling the Excellent Educators for All Initiative. The president hosts a lunch with teachers at 12:10 p.m. ET with Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Duncan hosts a roundtable at 2:15 p.m. ET. The initiative will ask states to come up with plans by April 2015 to address schools where they are having problems attracting and retaining good teachers, what they are calling Comprehensive Educator Equity Plans. The administration is also putting in $4.2 million to create a “technical assistance” support network that will essentially be a forum for states to talk to each other about how they’re setting up their plans. The data comes from local municipalities given directly to the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection program. The enforcement stick could be withholding or reducing Title I funding, funding for the neediest districts, but there is more to be rolled out this fall and some of the details will be filled in then. There are lots of questions here: mainly on the reliability of the data. The Obama administration has been targeting poverty in what it’s calling “Promise Zones” in several cities. This can be seen as part of that effort with education a key plank in ending poverty. Conservatives — and teachers — are going to be immediately skeptical. It’s going to be a challenge for the administration for this not to be labeled another “unfunded mandate.” But it’s amazing how education in the Obama administration went from the one thing Republicans would concede they liked from Obama and now it’s just as hotly partisan and political as anything else.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominated Sandra Day O’Connor to become a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. How many female Supreme Court justices have there been? Apologies for the week-long hiatus, but Presidential Trivia is back after an Independence Day break. July 4th Bonus Trivia: Which presidents died on the 4th of July? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out.


  • The Washington Post reports that normal Internet users, who were not intended surveillance targets, have been caught up in the National Security Agency’s data collection. The Obama administration responded to the report, saying “the agency routinely filters out the communications of Americans and information that is of no intelligence value.”

  • A new Associated Press/GfK poll finds that even though most Americans still identify with either the Democratic Party or Republican Party, 25 percent of Republicans and 13 percent of Democrats dislike their own party.

  • Minnesota Sen. Al Franken is facing a tighter-than-expected race after his GOP opponent, investment banker Mike McFadden, won a surprise victory at the party’s endorsement convention, becoming the de facto nominee earlier than the Democrats had planned for.

  • Roll Call’s Abby Livingston reported over the weekend from Ripley, W.Va., where Democrat Natalie Tennant and Republican Shelley Moore Capito brought their Senate battle to a July 4th parade.

  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit may rule this week on a lawsuit that challenges insurance subsidies in federally run exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

  • College students and voter registration advocates in North Carolina are making the unprecedented argument that the state’s voter ID law violates the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.

  • Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney spoke to The New York Times Magazine, saying that leak investigations do not create a “chilling effect” — reporters are still able to get their hands on information the White House doesn’t want them to — and that yes, he probably would have fought with himself as a reporter on the other side of the podium.

  • The Wall Street Journal sees Hillary Clinton doing more to distance herself from President Obama, most notably in what her efforts to woo congressional Republicans would look like.

  • Democrats in New York’s 11th Congressional District are pinning their hopes on Brooklyn Democrat Domenic Recchia against indicted Rep. Michael Grimm, even though they concede the election will be settled on Grimm’s turf, Staten Island.

  • Pizza deliveryman Sean Haugh has mostly kept his campaign for North Carolina’s Senate seat to YouTube, but with recent polls putting his support between 8 percent and 11 percent, Democrats and Republicans are starting to take notice of the Libertarian.

  • “The future finally seems to have arrived,” The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin writes about technological modernization at the White House.

  • There’s the presidential schedule we see, and then there’s the one we don’t.

  • American public opinion on immigration policy depends on how the question is asked: polls have shown a majority support legalizing illegal immigrants, but Americans also seem to be split over whether the administration’s increased deportations are a good or bad thing.

  • Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is gunning for chairmanship of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and his ally in the fight is Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings.

  • California and New Jersey are considering adopting legislation similar to Connecticut’s gun seizure law, which allows police officers to obtain a court order to seize an individual’s gun, after presenting evidence that they are a danger to themselves or others.

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a gun-control bill last week may have taken some of the pressure off of him from GOP voters if he runs in 2016.

  • There are multiple universities vying for a chance to be the site for Barack Obama’s presidential library, among them Columbia University, the University of Hawaii and the University of Illinois Chicago.

  • Speaker John Boehner defends his lawsuit against President Obama in a CNN op-ed on Sunday. Boehner writes, “Too often over the past five years, the President has circumvented the American people and their elected representatives through executive action, changing and creating his own laws, and excusing himself from enforcing statutes he is sworn to uphold — at times even boasting about his willingness to do it, as if daring the American people to stop him.”

  • Mark your calendars… on July 29, the intimate details of a White House affair will be released — those of Warren G. Harding’s.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.


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