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First Thoughts: Washington's terrible week

Washington’s awful, terrible, not-so good week… Quinnipiac poll: Half of GOP voters not happy with congressional Republicans… Lacking that compassion thing… Mark Levin’s warning to Paul Ryan… Hillary rakes in the big speaking fees… This week’s 2016 round up… Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Martinez all to speak at Maverick PAC in FL… Holder to brief Obama on new leak-investigation guidelines… And “Meet the Press” to feature Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. gestures as he speaks with reporters on Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, July 9, 2013, about student loan rates following a Democratic strategy session.

*** Washington’s terrible week: The only thing more absurd than Syfy’s “Sharknado” last night (and yes, the TV movie was that bad) was what transpired on Capitol Hill on Thursday. But at least the movie didn’t pretend to be something it wasn't; not so in Washington. Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell had an ugly exchange on the Senate floor over Reid’s threat to change the filibuster rules and over the GOP’s unprecedented obstructionism. “This is really a sad, sad day for the U.S. Senate, and if we don't pull back from the brink here, my friend the majority leader is going to be remembered as the worst leader of the Senate ever,” McConnell said of Reid. The Democratic leader returned the fire. “If anyone thinks since the first of the year that the norms and traditions of the Senate have been followed by the Republican leader, they’re living in Gaga Land,” he said. Also yesterday, House Republicans passed the farm bill by a partisan 216-208 vote, but they did so by stripping out the funding authorization for food stamp programs -- the first time they had been separated from the farm bill since the 1970s. Democrats sharply criticized the move. "Mitt Romney was right, you all do not care about the 47%," said Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla. And the absurdity didn’t just happen yesterday; it took place all week long. The impasse over immigration reform. The battle over implementing the health-care law. By far, it was the worst week in Washington this year. Maybe the only saving grace: Few outside Washington appear to be paying attention right now. But that could very well change…

Will the GOP's future fortunes in "national contests" be "increasingly dim" if they don't change course on immigration reform, as The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson suggests in his latest column? Eugene Robinson, along with former DLC Chair Harold Ford Jr., GOP strategist Steve Schmidt and "Meet the Press" moderator David Gregory discuss.

*** Poll: Half of GOP voters not happy with congressional Republicans: A new Quinnipiac poll measures attitudes about the gridlock on Capitol Hill, and few -- unsurprisingly -- are happy with Congress’ performance. But the headline to us is that about half of GOP voters aren’t happy with congressional Republicans: 49% of them disapprove of the job congressional Republicans are doing (compared with 32% of Democrats who disapprove of congressional Democrats). And before some argue that GOP disapproval is from disappointed conservatives, consider this next number: An equal 49% of Republican respondents say that congressional GOP leaders are doing too little to work with Obama on big issues (versus just 22% of Democrats who say the president is doing too little). This suggests a disconnect between Republicans in Washington and Republicans across the country. Half of self-described GOP voters seem to be saying: “Why don’t we try to start governing?” By the way, not for nothing, a majority also say in this poll Obama needs to reach out more too. But the combined GOP numbers are potentially more telling.

*** Lacking that compassion thing: There’s one other point we want to make about the GOP: The party really seems to be struggling with that compassion thing. Take passing the farm bill WITHOUT the food stamp program. Or the scant attention to the plight of the undocumented immigrants -- and their families -- who are currently living in the shadows of this country. Compassion is a powerful thing in politics; remember, George W. Bush won a presidential election (in 2000) on that theme. Republicans are going to need to figure out how to add a compassionate element to their austerity push. Of course, conservatives would argue the one place they show the most compassion (on the issue of abortion) doesn't get the attention it deserves. Then again, on abortion, there is another side that believes there is a lack of compassion for women on this issue. Point is, the GOP has a perception problem on this front -- something the Republican National Committee noted, and they've done little to fix it.

*** Mark Levin’s warning to Paul Ryan: Here are a couple of 2016 stories worth noting. The first is this warning from conservative talk-show host Mark Levin: “Now it's Paul Ryan's turn to damage his presidential hopes…,” Levin said on Twitter, citing a Washington Post piece on how Ryan is trying to work behind the scenes to get immigration reform passed. The gist of Levin’s warning: “Don’t be the next Marco Rubio and face backlash from conservatives.”  By the way, it’s striking that Rubio’s Senate office hasn’t issued a press release concerning on the topic of immigration since the Senate passed the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” bill. This is especially noteworthy given the perilous situation the immigration effort now faces. Here are a sampling of the Rubio press releases since June 27: “Rubio: ObamaCare Should Be Repealed, Not Simply Delayed”… “ICYMI: Rubio, Schock Push Higher Education Tax Reform”… “Rubio, Cardin Introduce Bill To Increase Transparency Of Foreign Aid”… “Rubio, Senate Republicans Call on President to Permanently Delay ObamaCare for All”… “Rubio To Oppose New Continuing Resolution Unless It Defunds ObamaCare”… “Rubio Draws “Line In The Sand” Over Debt Limit”… “Rubio Backs Legislation To Defund ObamaCare.”

*** Hillary rakes in the big speaking fees: The second 2016 story, via the Washington Post, involves the paid speeches Hillary Clinton is giving since her exit as secretary of state. “In the six months since stepping down as secretary of state, Clinton has addressed apartment-complex developers in Dallas, private-equity managers in Los Angeles and business executives in Grand Rapids, Mich. Still to come are travel agents, real estate brokers, clinical pathologists and car dealers — collecting more than $200,000 per appearance, according to one executive who arranges speaking tours.” The Post adds, “Most of the trade groups Clinton has addressed actively lobby Congress on issues both substantial and mundane.” 

*** This week’s 2016 round-up: In other ’16 news this week: A new Quinnipiac poll out today finds Hillary Clinton leading Chris Christie by six points (46%-40%) and Rand Paul by 12 points (50%-38%), while Biden trails Christie by double digits (46%-35%) and is tied with Paul (42%-42%)… A firm run by members of Obama’s vaunted 2012 campaign team announced it was partnering with the “Ready for Hillary” effort… Rick Perry on Monday said he wouldn’t seek another term as Texas governor, but the speculation now turns to whether he’ll run for president in 2016… Scott Walker headlined an Indiana GOP dinner on Tuesday night… Another Quinnipiac poll showed Chris Christie leading Democratic opponent Barbara Buono by a 61%-29% margin among registered voters… And the conservative Free Beacon raised eyebrows with a piece noting that Rand Paul’s (R-KY) social media director, Jack Hunter, “spent years working as a pro-secessionist radio pundit and neo-Confederate activist, raising questions about whether Paul will be able to transcend the same fringe-figure associations that dogged his father’s political career.”

*** Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Martinez all to speak at Maverick PAC in FL: And speaking of potential 2016ers, Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Susana Martinez all will be speaking at Maverick PAC’s three-day annual conference in Miami, FL, which begins today. Maverick PAC is an organization that aims to engage young Republicans in the political process.

*** Holder to brief Obama on new leak-investigation guidelines: NBC’s Pete Williams reports that Attorney General Eric Holder will go to the White House (probably around 11:30 am ET) to privately brief the president on the Justice Department’s plans for revising the rules governing leak investigations that involve the news media. (You may recall, Williams adds, that President Obama, during his speech in May at the National Defense University, mentioned the leaks issue and press freedom.  He said, “I've raised these issues with the attorney general, who shares my concern. So he's agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and he'll convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review. I've directed the attorney general to report back to me by July 12th.) If the president accepts the report, DOJ will put it out later in the day on Friday. If there are revisions to be made, it won’t come out until Monday. Those who have seen the recommendations say they call for significant changes in how the Justice Department investigates the news media. If these changes had been in place, these officials say, DOJ would not have taken the steps it did in investigating AP and Fox.

*** Spitzer turns in more than 27,000 signatures: The AP: Former New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer (D), who is now running for NYC comptroller, “said that ‘over 27,000 signatures’ were submitted to the city Board of Elections just after 10:30 p.m. Thursday, ahead of a midnight deadline. It came just four days after the tarnished ex-governor launched his campaign. Spitzer needs 3,750 valid petition signatures to get on the Democratic primary ballot for September.” But: “The filing may not be the last word. Spitzer's opponents or others could challenge signatures for reasons such as incomplete addresses or missing dates.”

*** “Meet” to interview Reid, McConnell: Finally, “Meet the Press” this Sunday interviews the two men who battled over filibusters and Senate procedure yesterday – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.