Here are the stories our panel of top political reporters will be watching for in the week ahead, in this week’s “Inside Politics” forecast.
1. Kushner’s immigration plan
Jared Kushner helped push a criminal justice reform bill through Congress – can he do it again on immigration?
Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is set to release a framework plan this week, New York Times White House reporter Michael Shear said. But don’t get your hopes up.
“People in Washington are giving Jared about the same odds for success as one of his other projects – bringing peace to the Middle East,” Shear said.
“His plan would raise significantly the number of immigrants who business groups can bring in, while lowering the number of immigrants that can come in through family ties. Some business groups are happy with this, but anti-immigration activists don’t think it lowers the overall immigration number far enough,” Shear said.
As for Democrats – Shear reports that lawmakers and liberal activists are already lined up to fight against it.
2. Harris’ “electability” argument
Democratic voters consistently say one of the most important qualities they want in a presidential nominee is “electability” – someone who can beat Donald Trump in November 2020.
This week, Sen. Kamala Harris will make the case that’s her.
“She’s going to Michigan, and will try to reframe the debate around electability, she’ll argue in front of an African-American audience … that electability is broader than being a white male and that she can be competitive in the Midwest,” CNN’s senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson said.
Henderson says Harris will point to the thousands of African-American voters in states like Michigan that didn’t show up for Hillary Clinton – voters that could have made a decisive difference.
“It’s going to be an interesting argument to see her give, and to see how it’s received among African-Americans,” Henderson said.
3. Watching Liz Cheney
Election Day 2020 won’t just be about who sits in the Oval Office – it’ll be who controls Congress, too. So do Republicans feel good about their chances to win back the House?
Watch Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming for an answer to that question, reports Washington Post congressional correspondent Paul Kane.
“All eyes are on Liz Cheney … to see whether or not she is going to give up her House seat and run for the Senate,” Kane said. Wyoming’s senior senator, Mike Enzi, announced this weekend that he won’t run for re-election.
“This is a real sign of whether or not (Republicans) think they have any chance of winning back the majority,” Kane said. “Liz Cheney is already number three in House leadership. She could one day become House speaker, not that far off. But if House Republicans think they’re going to stay in the minority, she might want to jump into the Senate, where Republicans have a majority.”
4. Does the House GOP care about White House “stonewalling”?
Democrats say the Trump administration is engaged in “unprecedented” and “unconstitutional” stonewalling – routinely ignoring subpoenas from oversight committees. They say the President’s not respecting the idea that Congress is a co-equal branch of government.
The response from Republican lawmakers? Silence, Washington Post congressional correspondent Rachael Bade said.
“I covered the IRS controversy, the Benghazi investigations – these were investigations run by House Republicans when they were in the majority when (former President Barack) Obama was in the White House,” Bade said. “The Obama administration hated these investigations, but they allowed a number of people to come in and give depositions.”
Bade has been asking GOP lawmakers what they think, and “I have not heard a single Republican say they are worried about precedent here, which again speaks to how much Trump has changed this party and how they put loyalty to him above a potentially future problem for themselves.”
5. Trump & Pelosi
And from CNN Chief National Correspondent John King:
They are unlikely allies to begin with, and the sharp oversight confrontations between House Democrats and the White House makes the odds longer. But there are areas where President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi in theory are interested in cooperating, trade and infrastructure to name two.
But a week that began with a snippet of hope for bipartisan cooperation ended with strong signals the gaps might be too much to bridge.
Outside the White House on Tuesday, Pelosi smiled as she noted the President wanted a big infrastructure deal, and that he had embraced the bigger price tag favored by Democrats: $2 trillion. Pelosi said another meeting is planned in three weeks and the President promised to have some ideas for how to pay for it.
Conservative grumbling was immediate from Capitol Hill and within the West Wing. And a Saturday tweet from the President suggests those conservative critics are dialing the boss back.
“There is nothing easy about a USA Infrastructure Plan, especially when our great Country has spent an astounding 7 trillion dollars in the Middle East over the last 19 years, but I am looking hard at a bipartisan plan of 1 to 2 trillion dollars. Badly needed!”
Badly needed suggests a desire to get something done.
But a closer read shows the $2 trillion of Tuesday is now “1 to 2 trillion dollars” on Saturday. To Democrats, a President headed to a smaller package is listening to GOP voices who also have different views than Democrats on how to pay for any infrastructure plan.
The President needs Democratic votes to get his new trade deal with Mexico and Canada through the House, and Pelosi’s support would be giant.
The business community has been lobbying the Speaker and her staff for months, and is encouraged by word that she understands the economic value of the deal.
“Yes, we would like to get to yes,” she said Thursday at her weekly press conference. But her choice of words when asked what she needs to get to a “yes” on the USMCA deal is important.
She said there are worker rights and environmental provisions that must be renegotiated.
The White House and the business community are pressing to get side agreements or separate legislation in Mexico to address the concerns of those whose votes they need to get the deal through Congress. And they have been hoping Pelosi would sign on to such an approach.
As of this week, she is not budging: “There’s different suggestions, but I say it has to be part of the agreement. It can’t be a sidebar or side letter or later legislation or anything like that.”
USMCA proponents hope the Speaker changes her mind, but acknowledge the clock is ticking. Passing anything the President wants in the Democratic House is difficult, and more difficult with each passing day as oversight confrontations intensify and as the 2020 election cycle gears up as well.
The smart money is that if USMCA is to clear the House, that has to happen relatively soon.
“Must get done by August recess or will never get done, in our view,” was the take of a GOP strategist working with the White House and business groups on the Capitol Hill strategy. “Nancy is driving the bus here. … She is the key.”