The fast-track trade war has begun… And it’s a big test for Hillary… How fast track works and the concessions Democrats got from Republicans… Reid says he’ll force a vote on Loretta Lynch’s stalled nomination — but he’ll need five Republicans to support him… Granite State of Mind: GOP cattle call in New Hampshire takes place today and tomorrow, while Hillary hits the state on Monday/Tuesday… Jeb calls to confirm Lynch, gets blowback from the right… Scott Walker’s approval rating sinks in Wisconsin… And don’t forget to check out our new @MTP daily video.
*** The fast-track trade war has begun: Move over Iran and Loretta Lynch (at least for the time being), and say hello to the next political battle in Washington that has already produced strange bedfellows and promises to put Hillary Clinton on the spot — trade. “The leaders of congressional tax-committees in both chambers agreed to legislation Thursday to grant President Barack Obama ‘fast track’ authority to negotiate on a sweeping, multinational trade deal,” per NBC News. “The measure ensures Congress’ right to vote on a trade accord, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim nations, but blocks legislators from adding amendments that might slow down the measure’s progress.” Here’s what’s fascinating about this fight: President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, and House Ways and Means Chair Paul Ryan support the fast-track legislation, while organized labor, progressives, and some congressional Republicans (who don’t want to give Obama any kind of win) are against it. The fast-track battle also creates an interesting dilemma for Hillary Clinton – does she support it (and risk creating an opening on her left), or does she oppose it (and tick off the business community and put daylight between herself and Obama)?
*** A big test for Hillary: Remember, during the 2008 primary fight in Ohio, both Clinton and Obama competed in a contest who was more ANTI-trade, even though Hillary’s husband signed the NAFTA, and even though Obama has turned into a pro-trade president. So there’s plenty of precedent for Democrats to oppose free trade in the primaries and support it in the general election and once in the White House. The question is: After NAFTA and Obama’s newest free-trade push, can the left believe Democratic presidential politicians when they say they oppose free trade/fast track?
*** How fast track works and the concessions Democrats got from Republicans: The New York Times has more on how “fast track” works, and the concessions that Democratic supporters extracted from Republicans on the legislation. How it works: “The bill would make any final trade agreement open to public comment for 60 days before the president signs it, and up to four months before Congress votes. If the agreement, negotiated by the United States trade representative, fails to meet the objectives laid out by Congress — on labor, environmental and human rights standards — a 60-vote majority in the Senate could shut off ‘fast-track’ trade rules and open the deal to amendment.” The concessions Democrats got: “To win over the key Democrat, Mr. Wyden, the Republicans agreed to stringent requirements for the deal, including a human rights negotiating objective that has never existed on trade agreements … To further sweeten the deal for Democrats, the package includes expanding trade adjustment assistance — aid to workers whose jobs are displaced by global trade.”
*** Reid says he’ll force a vote on Loretta Lynch’s stalled nomination — but he’ll need five Republicans to support him: Speaking of Loretta Lynch’s stalled nomination, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow yesterday that if a vote on Loretta Lynch’s nomination for attorney general is not announced soon he will attempt to force a vote on her nomination, NBC’s Frank Thorp reports. The move may not really work, as Reid would need 51 votes to move into executive session. And even though there are five Republicans who have publicly said they will support Lynch’s nomination (putting them at 51), it’s not likely those same five would go against their own leadership to force this vote. That said, the word we’re getting from Democrats is they think they’ll get a vote on Lynch soon, because there’s been movement on the anti-trafficking legislation that’s been holding up her nomination. And get this: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s top communications aide tweeted that Lynch’s nomination will be taken up next week.
*** Granite State of Mind: Turning to the 2016 presidential race, we’re all going to be a Granite State of Mind over the next few days — with Republicans gathering in New Hampshire today and tomorrow for the “First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit, and with Hillary stumping in the state on Monday and Tuesday. Here is the rough speaking schedule for that GOP cattle call in Concord, NH:
Pataki (after 9:00 am ET)
Perry, Gilmore, Christie, Jeb (after noon ET)
Rubio (after 7:00 pm ET)
Paul (after 8:00 am ET)
Fiorina, Jindal, Graham, Huckabee, Cruz (after noon ET)
Walker (after 6:00 pm ET)
*** Jeb calls to confirm Lynch, gets blowback from the right: Stumping in New Hampshire yesterday, Jeb Bush said the Senate should work to confirm Loretta Lynch. “I think presidents have the right to pick their team,” Bush said. Check out this headline from Breitbart on the news: “ACT OF LOVE: JEB BUSH PUSHES REPUBLICANS TO CAVE TO OBAMA EXECUTIVE AMNESTY, APPROVE LORETTA LYNCH.” Ouch.
*** Scott Walker’s approval rating sinks in Wisconsin: Yes, it’s just one poll. But it’s from the best pollster in Wisconsin, and it’s bad news for Scott Walker. A new Marquette University Law poll – considered the gold standard in Wisconsin – shows that Walker’s job-approval rating in the state has sunk to 41% among registered voters. That’s down from 49% in October before his successful re-election. The poll also shows Walker trailing Hillary Clinton in the battleground state by 12 points in a hypothetical general-election match up, 52%-40%. And in a possible 2016 Senate rematch, the poll finds Republican Sen. Ron Johnson trailing 2010 Dem opponent Russ Feingold by a whopping 16 points, 54%-38%.
*** Hillary’s early role in the Iran negotiations: Meanwhile, here’s NBC’s Perry Bacon on Hillary Clinton’s early role in the Iran negotiations. “Hillary Clinton was deeply involved as secretary of state in President Obama’s decision to hold direct talks with Iran to reduce its nuclear weapon arsenal and has supported the process since she left the State Department, putting her at the center of a policy that Republicans are unified in opposing and even some Democrats are wary of. In Clinton’s own telling, as described in her 2014 book ‘Hard Choices,’ she personally helped initiate the negotiations. She details a one-on-one meeting on January 12, 2011 in Muscat, Oman, where the Sultan of Oman told her ‘I can help’ in setting up a process for negotiations between the two nations. Returning home, the secretary of state briefed President Obama on the discussion.”
*** On the trail: In other campaign activity today, Jeb Bush is in New Hampshire for a “Politics and Eggs” breakfast; Marco Rubio tours Manchester Community College at 10:45 AM ET and attends a house party in the afternoon. And Chris Christie will hold multiple events in New Hampshire.
*** On “Meet” this Sunday: NBC’s Chuck Todd will interview Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Utah Sen. Mike Lee, as well as others.
*** Our new @MTP daily video: Finally, just another reminder: Our daily First Read Minute video has a new look – as well as a new name, @MTP. Follow it on Twitter and check out yesterday’s video.
OBAMA AGENDA: Arguments before the 5th Circuit
From The New York Times: “Justice Department lawyers on Friday will urge the federal appeals court here to let President Obama immediately move forward with his overhaul of the nation’s immigration and deportation policies, despite a legal challenge by more than half of the states.”
Immigrants eligible to stay in the country under the president’s executive actions are left in limbo as it works its way through the courts, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is meeting with President Obama at the White House on Friday. Topics of discussion will include Ukraine, Libya and Islamic State militants.
The Washington Post reports: “President Obama’s high-stakes bid to complete one of the largest free trade pacts in U.S. history — over the objections of most Democrats —moved ahead Thursday when the Senate introduced bipartisan legislation that would give his administration vast new powers to close the deal.”
CONGRESS: Fight over Lynch nomination heats up
“The partisan spat over the stalled Loretta Lynch attorney general nomination heated up Thursday, as did behind-the-scenes Senate negotiations that could allow for her confirmation vote,” Roll Call writes.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow: “I know parliamentary procedure around here and we’re going to put up with this for a little while longer but not much.”
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, has dug in his heels.
And lawmakers on the Hill aren’t laughing about this week’s gyrocopter landing; NBC’s Alex Moe reports that they want answers.
OFF TO THE RACES: Rubio and Bush tied in Florida, per poll
Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush are essentially tied in Florida, according to a new Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey conducted after Rubio’s presidential announcement.
The Cook Report’s Amy Walter: “For the first time since early 2013, more Americans approve of the job Obama’s doing on the economy (48 percent) than disapprove (47 percent). That’s good news for Hillary Clinton and Democrats heading into 2016. Yet, Americans remain pretty pessimistic about the overall state of the economy as well as their own personal financial situation. Figuring out how to balance those seemingly contradicting trends is going to be one of the greatest challenges for both parties, but more so for Clinton and Democrats.”
BUSH: “Far from running from or playing down the views once expressed by his brother George W. Bush, Jeb Bush is embracing them — and emphasizing them,” The Washington Post reports.
Some of his business dealing in the 1980s and 1990s brought lawsuits and bad publicity, The New York Times writes.
In New Hampshire, he focused on the common enemies of the Republican Party and ate pie, MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin reports.
CHAFEE: Freudian slip? The former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee said on CNN Thursday that he is running for president. A spokesperson later said he is still in the exploratory committee.
CLINTON: National Journal’s Ron Brownstein on Hillary Clinton’s demographic challenge: “If Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic presidential nomination, she will inherit from President Obama a very different coalition than the one that elected her husband. Her great opportunity is to meld the different support that each man mobilized. Her great risk is that she won’t be able to re-create quite as much of either man’s coalition as she needs to win.”
Bloomberg headline: Hillary Clinton Said to Hire Former Wall Street Cop as Campaign CFO.
NBC’s Perry Bacon Jr. reports on how Hillary Clinton is at the center of U.S. negotiations with Iran.
Clinton is in a hurry to win over the left, the Hill writes.
President Obama’s weak approval ratings in key states could be a big problem for her, Politico reports.
KASICH: “Gov. John Kasich is about to launch a national political committee that would allow him to raise money and his profile as he considers a run for president in 2016,” the Northeast Ohio Media Group reported.
The Ohio governor will be on “Meet The Press” this Sunday.
O’MALLEY: He is stepping up his jabs at Hillary Clinton, knocking her on immigration and same-sex marriage on Thursday.
PERRY: He held a “youth town hall summit,” attended by few young people, where he bemoaned the 1980 Olympic boycott and said Colorado made a mistake by legalizing marijuana, The Wall Street Journal reports.
RUBIO: Florida Health Choices,The health insurance market he supports, only covers 80 people, Politico reports.
SANTORUM: He said he would not attend a loved ones same-sex marriage. Rubio has said he would, while Ted Cruz dodged the question, Politico reports.
WALKER: His former campaign manager formed a Super PAC on Thursday ahead of the Wisconsin governor’s likely presidential run, the AP reports.
NBC News’ Mark Murray, and Andrew Rafferty contributed reporting.