GOP donors push senators on immigration

With Laura Barrón-López and Andrew Desiderio.

PUTTING ON THE PRESSURE: A number of current and former GOP donors are taking aim at Republican senators, accusing them of picking partisan gamesmanship over good-faith efforts to work on immigration reform, Laura Barrón-López and I are told.

In particular, a group of Republicans who want to see progress on immigration reform negotiations are critical of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who was originally in the 2013 gang of eight that sought to address the overloaded U.S. immigration system, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who represents a border state. They want Graham and Cornyn to press Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to take up the Graham-cosponsored Dream Act, the Farm Workforce Act, and Cornyn’s own bill that he has cosponsored with Democratic Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) titled the “The Bipartisan Border Solutions Act.”

GOP figures speaking out include board members of the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC), who have spoken to 41 Republican senators about the bills. Some who describe themselves as lifelong Republicans say they may start voting across party lines if they don’t see the party bend on immigration. Two Republicans who spoke to us threatened to withhold financial support: Cuban-American billionaire Mike Fernandez, a former Republican turned independent who’s previously donated millions to GOP candidates, and Bob Worsley, a former GOP State Senator in Arizona.

“The people who have been there on the issue for a long time, like Lindsey Graham, are nowhere to be found at the moment,” said John Rowe, Exelon Chairman emeritus and national GOP bundler. “He doesn’t particularly want to talk to me at the moment. And that of course is frustrating because I’ve supported him for a very long time.”

Rowe said if Graham and Cornyn would put their muscle behind the existing bills alongside Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.), he’s confident they’d have 15 Republican votes. “All I know is a whole lot of decent people are being held hostage to issues that don’t have anything to do with them,” Rowe said. A spokesperson for Graham pointed your Huddle host to a statement the senator made in June, in which he cited the situation at the border as the holdup on immigration reform. And Cornyn in a letter last week asked Durbin to mark up a targeted DACA bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It is not just donors. Some figures with a different form of influence say they are fed up.

William Diaz, a Venezuelan-American leader in Orlando who helped deliver Venezuelan support for Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) in 2018 against then-incumbent Bill Nelson, says he used to have meetings with Scott about immigration. Diaz, who is a registered Democrat, said he ultimately encouraged other Democratic Venezuelans to vote for Scott after multiple discussions about Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans.

But Diaz says if Scott doesn’t support key legislation he wants to see passed, he may encourage Venezeulan-Americans to support other candidates next cycle. Scott’s margin of victory was 10,033 votes, or 0.12 percent. Scott has vocally condemned the Venezuela authoritarian regime, even praising the Biden administration for granting TPS to Venezeuelans fleeing the Maduro regime. He is also calling on Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Some donors are also encouraging Democrats to simply go it alone through reconciliation on immigration if Republicans can’t get on board. But this push is an uphill battle, at least right now. Republicans have been increasingly leaning further right on this issue, demanding big changes to border security, including building Trump’s border wall, before they come to the negotiating table.

GIMME, GIMME REFORM: The free Britney movement has a new fan base: members of Congress.

In light of Britney Spears’ recent emotional plea before a judge to be released from her legal guardianship that is driving her crazy, lawmakers across the political spectrum — from GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz and Andy Biggs to Dem Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bob Casey — are pushing for the federal government to take action. (We talked to all four of them, and more.)

The lawmakers acknowledge that they might not be able to do much about state-controlled guardianships, also known as conservatorships, but they argue that Congress can still play a role, particularly because they see clear opportunities for abuse.

“The federal government’s role is limited, but limited is not the same thing as nonexistent,” said Warren (D-Mass.) in an interview. “It turns out that the federal government collects a lot of data about conservatorships: where they’re used, when they’re used, how long they’re used, but they keep all that data secret. This is an area where sunshine might help.”

Members previously have expressed concern about conservatorships, but the public’s attention on the issue boomed after a New York Times documentary detailed a movement to “free” Spears from her legal situation. Spears’ father and a wealth management company are co-conservators over her finances. Spears is expected to appear before a judge again on Wednesday.

More here from Marianne, yours truly and Victoria Colliver, who is in Cali: https://politi.co/3kdeb5x

GOOD MORNING! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Monday, July 12, where it is your Huddle host’s last day writing the newsletter (besides the occasional fill-in). I am handing over the reins to Katherine Tully-McManus.

I want to send my love to all you good ole Huddlers. You all have been amazing. From the die-hard trivia players who fill my inboxes each morning, to the reader who sends “feedback” emails every day and got himself his own Outlook folder. From the reader who found a way to get me homemade cookies after Jan. 6 to the members and staff who reached out to connect throughout my tenure in your inboxes every morning. And, finally, to those who have laughed at my jokes. Thank you.

FRIDAY’S MOST CLICKED: The Detroit Free Press’ story on how a DNA test won’t be ordered in John Conyers estate case was the big winner.

ON TAP THIS WEEK: Infrastructure. Infrastructure. Infrastructure.

Per WSJ’s Andrew Duehren: “Democrats are racing to finalize a bipartisan infrastructure deal and set the contours of a broad child-care and education plan, aiming to maintain a delicate agreement with Republicans while simultaneously plowing forward with their own priorities,” Duehren writes. “After a two-week recess, senators return to Washington this week to determine the fate of much of President Biden’s roughly $4 trillion agenda.” More here from Andrew: https://on.wsj.com/3xBjwYa

Related: Global tax deal heads down perilous path in Congress, by Richard Rubin: https://on.wsj.com/3r3LBFa

FIRST IN HUDDLE: Your Huddle host got a first look at Whip Steve Scalise’s fundraising haul for Q2 and it is impressive. He brought in more than $9 million in the second quarter, meaning he has raised just over $16.1 million this year to date. This year, the Louisiana Republican has donated 8.39 million — $4.5 million this quarter — to the NRCC, which comes as House Republicans look to win back the majority next year.

REPORT CARD UPDATE: “A new report card on the oversight performance of congressional committees for 2021 shows most Democratic chairs falling far behind the usual pace of oversight for their committees, even as some of their fellow Democratic chairs earned top grades. Among the 34 House and Senate committees graded on their oversight, eight committees received “A” grades, while 19 committees received “F”s,” per the Lugar Center .

“The grades reflect the first six months of hearing activity in the 117th Congress as calculated by the Lugar Center’s Congressional Oversight Hearing Index (COHI), which was launched in May 2020. The COHI is the first-ever statistical database that measures how committees in both Houses of Congress are performing their vital oversight function.”

Written on top of the report cards: “Must return with parent/guardian signature.”

Here is the full report card: https://bit.ly/2UHLdjn

WAR GAMES: Biden is facing enormous pressure from the Hill as Iran-backed militia groups are continuing to attack Americans in Iraq and Syria. The past few weeks alone have seen a significant uptick in attacks from the Iranian proxies, prompting at least one U.S. retaliation that the Biden administration said was intended to de-escalate the situation and deter future attacks. But the militia groups haven’t stopped, and Biden’s strategy is being panned as insufficient and ineffective by Republicans who want a more forceful and deliberate approach.

Moreover, the conflict could undermine Congress’ ongoing work on reining in presidential war powers — efforts that Biden supports, even as he cites his Article II authority to strike back at the Iran-backed terror groups.

Biden does not have the authority to launch offensive attacks on the Iranian proxies — that is, unless he gets approval from Congress, which is already moving to take existing AUMFs for Iraq off the books. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to approve a bill to do just that later this week, and GOP senators are promising to make the process difficult.

While the 2002 AUMF was intended to topple the Saddam Hussein government — a mission completed in 2003 — some Republicans say repealing the Iraq authorizations would unnecessarily hamstring Biden while Iranian proxies continue to attack Americans in Iraq and other countries in the region.

Lara Seligman and Andrew have more on this complicated dynamic: https://politi.co/36qz0Cy

Related: Iran cheers U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan — but fears what could follow, by WaPo’s Miriam Berger: https://wapo.st/3AQtKWJ | Top U.S. commander in Afghanistan to step down Monday, marking a symbolic end to 20 years of war, by Dan Lamothe in Kabul: https://wapo.st/3hvMXVY | Jack Reed: Biden made ‘the best of many poor choices’ on Afghanistan, our Kelly Hooper reports: https://politi.co/2UFYOI0

WHIPPING BIDEN ON THE FILIBUSTER: House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) told Laura that President Joe Biden “should endorse” the idea of amending the legislative filibuster in the Senate for legislation that applies to the Constitution, so Dems could have a way to move forward with their sweeping elections reform bill and another bill reauthorizing key sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act with just Democratic support.

Such a statement comes after months of setbacks and gridlock on voting rights and it is one he’s shared with White House counselor Steve Ricchetti and Office of Public Engagement Director Cedric Richmond. “I’ve even told that to the vice president,” Clyburn said. Biden could “pick up the phone and tell [Sen.] Joe Manchin, ‘Hey, we should do a carve out.’…I don’t care whether he does it in a microphone or on the telephone — just do it.”

Laura has the story: https://politi.co/3yPygCS

PERVERT ALERT: This story has haunted me all year. Ruben Verastigui, 27, a former Republican National Committee aide, pleaded guilty on Friday to a child pornography charge and is facing 12 years or more in prison under a plea deal with prosecutors.

In addition to Verastigui admitting to possession of 152 videos and 50 images of child pornography and to receiving and distributing sexual depictions of children, he also sought out images of rape of children during an online chat last year, per an affidavit filed in the case in February by a Department of Homeland Security.

According to an affidavit filed in the case in February by a Department of Homeland Security investigator, Verastigui sought out images of rape of children during an online chat last year. The investigation focused on a ring of at least 18 people trading child pornography via a chat group on an unnamed website.

More here from our Josh Gerstein: https://politi.co/2Vy6e0A

ICYMI over the weekend:

-POLITICO-Harvard poll: Americans sharply divided over vaccine mandates, by Dan Goldberg: https://politi.co/36sgU35

-Haitian opposition leader mounts D.C. lobbying campaign after president’s assassination, by our Theodoric Meyer: https://politi.co/3wtMWpL

-Kinzinger urges Republican leaders to call out ‘garbage politicians’ who play on vaccine fears, by The Hill’s Caroline Vakil: https://bit.ly/3yPe18q

-Pizzeria owner mounts truly bizarre defense for Jan. 6 riots, by the Daily Beast’s Kelly Weill: https://bit.ly/3wzgMt9

CAMPAIGN CORNER:

-The big question of the 2022 midterms: How will the suburbs swing? By NYT’s Trip Gabriel: https://nyti.ms/3hxzA7O

-Alaska Republican Party leaders endorse Tshibaka in U.S. Senate race, by Anchorage Daily News’ Samantha Davenport: https://bit.ly/3ebrShI

-Byron Donalds raises eye-popping $1.1M in a single quarter, by Florida Politics’ Jacob Ogles: https://bit.ly/3yOXfqg

-Scuffle breaks out at Rep. Katie Porter’s town hall, by L.A. Times’ Seema Mehta: https://lat.ms/2U4vdIl

TRANSITIONS

Samantha Brown, who has served as the comms director for Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) the past seven years, is heading to be comms director for the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association. Jacob Wilson is Raskin’s new CD.

Jonathan Uriarte is starting as Hispanic media director for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the Senate Dems. He previously was comms director for Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.).

Cate Hurley is now press secretary for Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). She previously was press assistant at the Department of Energy.

Dave Bloom is now working as Policy and Advocacy Officer at Mines Advisory Group (MAG) America, and was previously at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners as well as the American Foreign Service Association.

TODAY IN CONGRESS:

The House is out.

The Senate convenes at 3 p.m.

AROUND THE HILL

6 p.m.: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s closed hearing on repealing the authorizations for use of military force against Iraq.

TRIVIA

FRIDAY’S WINNER: Michael Meachen was the first person to correctly guess that John Adams was an admitted vandal, having defaced a chair previously owned by William Shakespeare at the poet’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon. He wanted it as a souvenir. Adams did so with Thomas Jefferson in his company while the two were still friendly, but Adams soured on Jefferson as they became embroiled in an election battle.

TODAY’S QUESTION: From Bob Koczera: Which presidents were nominated or offered a position on the U. S. Supreme Court — before they were elected — and declined it?

The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your answers to [email protected].

GET HUDDLE emailed to your phone each morning.

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