Opening Arguments On Capitol Hill

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • ANALYSIS - ABC'S JEFF ZELENY: Will House of Representatives v. Obama become an etched-in-stone case of historic legal proportion? We won't know the answer to that question for months - or years - but the opening chapter of the debate begins today in something of a mock trial over whether Congress has legal standing to sue a president for overstepping his executive authority and defying the legislative branch. Fiscal conservatives will also find themselves defending whether the cost of the lawsuit, sure to be in the millions, is worth the taxpayer's dime. But the far bigger question is over what actually constitutes victory. The midterm elections will be long over by the time a federal judge rules whether the case can proceed. While the lawsuit has stirred talk of impeachment, it has been taken it off the table as a real alternative. And that is Speaker Boehner's political goal.
  • IT'S A WAY FOR ANGRY REPUBLICANS TO LET OFF A LITTLE STEAM: But as a legal matter, Boehner faces a far steeper climb, ZELENY notes. When we asked about the case yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell noted that he employed a far different strategy in his suit over recess appointments that resulted in a 9-0 Supreme Court decision. "The best path for us here in the Senate was to look for a case brought out in the private sector which we felt best illustrated the nature of the problem," he said, suggesting the difficulty of the House's legal approach. "The best response for the American people might be this fall to change the Senate. That's something that can be done this fall."


THE TEXAS TWO-STEP: BIPARTISAN DUO FROM THE LONE STAR STATE TAKES LEAD TO FIX BORDER CRISIS. A bipartisan duo of Texas lawmakers have joined forces to present a Texas-style solution to fixing the nation's border crisis. Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat, have introduced legislation aimed at easing what's been called a humanitarian crisis caused by a wave of unaccompanied Central American children who have flowed into the United States across the Mexican border. "The cartels, the transnational criminal organizations that smuggle people from Central America into the United States, have figured out this loophole in a 2008 law, which dealt with human trafficking," Cornyn told ABC's JEFF ZELENY, host of "The Fine Print," in an interview. WATCH:


-MAJOR CASH IN TEXAS GOVERNOR'S RACE. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has a Texas-sized money advantage over state Sen. Wendy Davis heading into the final months of the Texas governor's race, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. Abbott reported having a whopping $35.56 million cash on hand yesterday while Davis has $13.1 million cash on hand - a more than $20 million difference in funds still available to them leading up to November 4th. When it comes to last quarter, Davis slightly bested Abbott in fundraising, bringing in $11.2 million. Abbott raised $11.1 million in the last quarter.

-ARKANSAS DEMS HIT COTTON IN NEW AD: The Democratic Party of Arkansas is out with a new ad portraying Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., as a candidate concerned more with the interests of billionaires, like the Koch brothers, than Arkansas voters. The Democratic Party of Arkansas says the new ad titled "Resort" will run statewide in a significant six figure ad buy. WATCH:

-BEHIND THE NUMBERS IN KENTUCKY. Alison Lundergan Grimes sure can raise money, announcing Tuesday she has broken Kentucky fundraising records and raised $4 million in the second quarter reporting period, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. She had donations from all 120 counties, but also all 50 states marking what the campaign is touting as the most in the quarter than another Senate candidate in the country. It's remarkable not only as a challenger, but who she is up against: the powerful Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The numbers truly reflect that this is the most watched race in the country. Of course this doesn't mean she will be able to toss McConnell out, this will be a bitter fight every day until November. McConnell may have raised less in the quarter ($3.1 million), but he still leads in cash on hand with $9.8 million to Grimes' $6.2 million, as well as overall fundraising with the incumbent raising $25 million this cycle to Grimes' $11.3 million. McConnell also has quite a bit of help on his side. The pro-McConnell super PAC, the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition launched a 30 second television ad yesterday with a buy of $719,000. The positive ad touts McConnell's work to save coal jobs to "stop Obama's war on our way of life." No mention of Grimes, but the comparison is clear. WATCH:



'SHOCKED' CONGRESSMAN SCOLDS VA OVER 'DECEPTION' IN LATEST REVELATIONS. A flabbergasted congressman scolded officials from the Veterans Benefits Administration that it is "clear" there "is not a corner that VBA leadership will not cut, nor a statistic that they will not manipulate," ABC's JOHN PARKINSON reports. The angry rebuke came from House Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller during a second hearing into the alleged intimidation of whistleblowers at the scandal scarred Veterans Administration Monday. The hearing went late into the night, ending just before 1 a.m. today. Miller, R-Fla., asked the VA officials present who was paying the price for agency's "self-defined success." "Whatever hooray you shout, whatever 'win' you attempt to claim in 2015, you shall not be celebrated," Miller said. "It has been made clear that there is not a corner that VBA leadership will not cut, nor a statistic that they will not manipulate to lay claim to a hollow victory." "What we all want to see, both my Republican and Democrat colleagues, is progress - not deception," Miller said.

REPUBLICANS ACCUSE DEMOCRATS OF USING HOBBY LOBBY FALLOUT TO 'SCORE ELECTION YEAR POINTS.' Republicans fired back yesterday at Democrats' plans to counter the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision that allows a contraception exclusion for closely-held companies with religious beliefs, saying they will propose a measure of their own, according to ABC's JAKE LEFFERMAN. It was a dose of election year reality, dashing Democratic efforts at drawing bipartisan support for their plan. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said the dialogue has been driven away from the religious freedom rationale of the ruling and distorted for political leverage. "I really am disappointed that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would try to score election-year points by misrepresenting what the Hobby Lobby decision stands for" and allow American women to believe that the decision affects their access to contraception, Ayotte told reporters yesterday. The tagline "not my boss's business" that Democrats have used to promote their bill is misleading, Ayotte said, because nothing in the Supreme Court ruling allows an employer to interfere with a woman getting a contraception prescription.

CORY BOOKER BRINGS SELFIE OBSESSION TO THE SENATE. Three months after the Washington Post declared that senators ruined selfies for everyone, Cory Booker is bringing selfies back. The New Jersey senator's latest online crusade: snapping a selfie with every single one of his Senate colleagues, 99 in total, notes ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ. The campaign started early last month with a shot Booker took with Sen. Angus King, I-Maine. Last week, he convinced his unlikely ally, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to take a selfie with him - in the middle of a media appearance nonetheless. If anyone could pull off the use of selfies in the Senate, it would be Cory Booker. The junior New Jersey senator maintains a consistent presence on Instagram and Twitter, where he plays the role of serious policy maker ("Healthcare decisions should be between a woman & her doctor #NotMyBossBusiness"), Zen master ("In a world where many couldn't care less. Be someone who couldn't care more"), and downright fun guy ("LOL") all at the same time.

HILLARY CLINTON ON 'THE DAILY SHOW': TALKS ISRAEL AND HINTS AT 2016. Hillary Clinton told "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart that leaders face "hard choices" on the crisis in Israel and Gaza, giving a perhaps inadvertent plug for her memoir, while also telling him she likes to work out of her home and prefers an office with "fewer corners," when he plied her with questions about her potential presidential bid, notes ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE. In a lengthy back-and-forth with Stewart she said Israel is "absolutely right" that it has to defend itself from Hamas rocket attacks, but expressed sympathy for the people of Gaza who she said are "trapped." "Unless we can give people enough of a sense of security on both sides that they will be better off and their children are going to be better off, then the guys with the guns can always disrupt anything," Clinton said. "There are extremists on all sides and people with guns on all sides so leadership has to be very tough minded and very strong to make the hard choices," Clinton said, using the name of her memoir, a reference that Stewart immediately jumped on: "What? You did not do that? Wow." Walshe gets into the one question Jon Stewart really wanted Hillary Clinton to answer.

JOURNALIST JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS RELEASED AFTER BEING DETAINED IN TEXAS. America's most famous undocumented immigrant, former Washington Post reporter and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, was released Monday after being taken into custody by the Border Patrol in McAllen, Texas, ABC's SERENA MARSHALL and JIM AVILA report. Vargas, who made a movie about his limbo status in the United States and came out publicly as an undocumented immigrant, has previously said he knew he was subject to deportation. But yesterday his fears almost come true - almost.

WHY JOHN KERRY WAS OUT OF THE LOOP WITH EGYPT'S CEASEFIRE PLAN. Secretary of State John Kerry was all set to travel from nuclear negotiations in Austria to Egypt to help work out a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, but before he could even get to the Vienna airport, Egypt beat him to the punch - or, more accurately, the truce, ABC's ALI WEINBERG reports. A U.S. official said State Department staff members were already in Cairo in anticipation of Kerry's arrival there, but the trip was called off soon after the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced it had drafted a ceasefire plan that called for an immediate end of hostilities on both sides. "One of the reasons I'm going to Washington and not to Egypt," Kerry said in Vienna this morning, "is because there was this offer on the table." "I am prepared to fly back to the region tomorrow if I have to, or the next day or the next, in order to pursue the prospects if this doesn't work," he added, just hours before Israel began shelling Gaza again, formally breaking the ceasefire.

ELIZABETH WARREN SUPPORTERS LAUNCH 'READY FOR WARREN.' You've heard of Ready for Hillary, but now there's Ready for Warren, notes ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has said over and over that she will not run for president in 2016, but that isn't stopping her fans from encouraging her to run. A group of activists has launched the Ready for Warren campaign, asking people to sign a petition urging the Massachusetts Democrat to pursue a presidential bid. "We are Ready for Elizabeth Warren to run for President in 2016," a statement on the website reads. "Warren is the backbone that the Democratic Party too often forgets it needs." As for the senator herself, she is not working with the group and does not endorse their work.

HOUSE PASSES $11 BILLION HIGHWAY BILL IN BIPARTISAN VOTE. Behind a slight majority of Democratic votes, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted late yesterday afternoon to approve a $10.8 billion short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON and JEFF ZELENY report. The temporary lifeline for the nation's construction workers passed 367-55, with 186 Democrats joining 181 Republicans on the vote. The legislation, known formally as the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014, was opposed by many conservatives, with both the Club For Growth and Heritage Action pressing lawmakers to oppose the vote. Forty-five of the House Republican Conference's most conservative members opposed the vote, while 10 Democrats also voted against it.


DC STATEHOOD ADVOCATES PROPOSE NEW ADDRESS FOR WHITE HOUSE. The Obamas might have to reprint a lot of expensive stationary if several members of the Washington, D.C., City Council get their way, notes ABC's SCOTT WILSON. The council, in an attention-getting effort to push the issue of D.C. statehood, is looking to rename 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and if the measure passes, the president's new address would be located on "D.C. Statehood Now Boulevard." But don't hold your breath. "The 1500 and 1600 blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue NW - I have proposed to be renamed to 'D.C. Statehood Now Boulevard," Councilmember Yvette Alexander told ABC News. "Even though this is a symbolic measure, it's still another step in the right direction because so many citizens across the nation are still not aware of our plight in the District of Columbia," Alexander added. "And we have to just be very vocal about it and use everything possible to get the attention of our nation." The proposal would be subject to the approval of the Council of the District of Columbia - and ultimately Congress.


@politicalwire: Not a great way to get your congressional campaign noticed …

@AaronBlakeWP: Democrats want everyone in Congress to get along. Republicans want to fire everyone. Yup, sounds about right.

@psteinhauserCNN: A major super PAC touts a tiny fundraising haul. For Priorities USA, in 2014, less is definitely more.

@mikiebarb: Christielnd sees a potential path back to the GOP nomination: personality. My story: …

@moody: Must be nice! The Draft Ben Carson for President Committee has spent $150,000 buying up his books.

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