If you’re looking for a signs of an emerging schism between the establishment and tea party within the GOP, look no further than the mounting crop of primary challengers to Republican Senate incumbents. In 2010 and 2012, tea party activists picked their most vulnerable targets, like Lugar, Hatch and Bennett. Now they’re going after the entire establishment.
— With state senator Chris McDaniel‘s campaign against Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, half of the 12 Republican senators up for reelection now face threats from the right. A seventh, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, is worried enough about a primary that he voted against the government-funding compromise.
— While most of the upstarts are clear underdogs, McDaniel is the closest to actually winning a Senate seat. The state legislator’s well-orchestrated entrance was designed as much to put pressure on Cochran to retire. The Senate Conservatives Fund and Club for Growth each blasted endorsements out within minutes of his announcement. One conservative operative involved in the race called him “the Jim DeMint of the Mississippi state legislature” and expects him to be more formidable than any of the other conservative Senate challengers.
— McDaniel and his allies read the political tea leaves in Mississippi effectively. Cochran only raised $53,000 in the third quarter, a telltale sign the longtime appropriator is heading to the exits. If Cochran does step down, McDaniel would become an early frontrunner as the conservative candidate, with national fundraising assets behind him. Mississippi, after all, is a deeply Republican state with a very conservative primary electorate.
It’s striking that the Club for Growth, which traditionally focuses on the House, has now endorsed more candidates for the Senate (2) this cycle. The Senate Conservatives Fund is now officially opposing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, backing his tea party challenger Matt Bevin. With House Republicans already marching in line with the base, outside groups are working to reshape the Senate more to their liking.
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Senator John McCain paid a secret visit to Northern Syria over the weekend during his trip abroad. McCain reportedly went "to speak with American officials and Kurdish fighters leading the charge to push ISIS militants out of Raqqa, the jihadist group’s stronghold." The trip was organized with the help of U.S. military.
"The Trump administration will deliver its first budget to Congress in mid-March, and the president confirmed Wednesday it will contain major cuts for federal agencies." The blueprint, expected to be released in mid-March, will not include the kinds of specifics usually seen in White House budgets, but rather will instruct the heads of agencies to "do more with less."
"While Democrats nationwide have put the focus on President Trump, the Sanders wing of the party has engaged in an intramural fight to remake the party in a more populist, liberal mold." From Washington state to California to Florida, Sanders loyalists are making good on their promise to remake the party from the ground up. And just last week, a "group of former Sanders campaign aides launched a super PAC with the explicit goal of mounting primary challenges to Democratic incumbents."
Congress will need to vote on Donald Trump's pick of Lt. General H.R. McMaster to be his next national security adviser, but not for the reason you think. The position of NSA doesn't require Senate approval, but since McMaster currently holds a three-star military position, Congress will need to vote to allow him to keep his position instead of forcing him to drop one star and become a Major General, which could potentially affect his pension.