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The incredible shrinking House majority

DO THE MATH — The Republican-led House plans to vote on impeaching Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas Tuesday, according to House leadership. At the moment, it’s uncertain if Republicans have enough votes to impeach.

Republicans argue that Mayorkas has failed to enforce immigration laws, risked public safety and lied to Congress. Democrats say this is little more than a partisan stunt to help Donald Trump’s campaign — what’s at issue is a matter of policy differences, not impeachable offenses. President Joe Biden condemned the impeachment effort as “an unprecedented and unconstitutional act of political retribution.”

The looming situation is putting a spotlight on the precarious state of the Republican majority. The current math of the House is a key reason for the uncertainty over whether Republicans have the votes. Johnson’s Republican majority isn’t just thin — it’s one of the slimmest margins in congressional history. The last time the margin was this small between the parties was the Depression era.

That matters because every single Democrat is going to vote against impeaching Mayorkas. leaving Republicans with little room for departures from the party line.

The GOP’s diminished majority is no small matter. Republicans went into the 118th Congress with a historically small majority to begin with — 222 seats, compared to 213 for the Democrats. Since then, the size of the GOP Conference has only gotten smaller.

First came the ouster of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, which ultimately led to his resignation not long after. Then came the expulsion of New York Rep. George Santos in early December. Next came the departure of Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), who resigned on Jan. 21 to take over as president of Youngstown State University. None of those seats have been filled yet — and won’t be for some time — so the GOP is suddenly down to 219 seats.

The good news for Republicans is that Democrats lost a vote of their own last Friday with the resignation of Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.). That leaves the House partisan breakdown at 219-212.

That still leaves the GOP in a position to impeach Mayorkas, right? Sure. With 431 of the 435 House seats currently occupied, it will only take 216 votes to pass the articles of impeachment.

The problem, however, is that already at least one Republican — Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) — has announced he’s a no on impeaching the first Cabinet secretary in over 150 years. Other Republicans — including Reps. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and David Joyce (R-Ohio) — have not announced how they will vote. If Buck is joined by just three other Republicans, the articles of impeachment are dead in the House.

Then there’s Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), who has been absent for the past month after having a stem cell transplant procedure. He is scheduled to come back to Capitol Hill in February but the exact date is uncertain.

In the end, impeachment isn’t going anywhere. The Democratic-controlled Senate has already signaled it’s dead on arrival — there will be no Senate trial. The GOP’s diminished majority, on the other hand, could remain a problem. Early voting is already underway in the race to fill Santos’ seat in a Feb. 13 New York special election. And it’s a district with a slight Democratic lean, so it’s possible in the near term the GOP’s majority shrinks even more.

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— Blinken returns to Mideast in push for hostage deal and postwar plan for Gaza: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince today at the start of his fifth visit to the Middle East since the outbreak of the war in Gaza, hoping to press ahead with a potential cease-fire deal and postwar planning while tamping down regional tensions. But on all three fronts he faces major challenges: Hamas and Israel are publicly at odds over key elements of a potential truce. Israel has dismissed U.S. calls for a path to a Palestinian state, and Iran’s militant allies in the region have shown little sign of being deterred by U.S. strikes.

— Senate’s border deal is already more than halfway to getting blocked: Senate negotiators have two days to get to 60 votes on their $118 billion-plus proposal to pair major immigration policy changes with aid to Ukraine and Israel. So far, they’re not having a lot of luck. There are already 24 senators who stand as likely or outright nos on the bill, according to a POLITICO survey of all 100 senators. That’s past the halfway mark to a filibuster, leaving the deal dangerously close to failing during an expected Wednesday test vote. Those no votes include three Democratic caucus members: Bob Menendez (N.J.); Alex Padilla (Calif.); and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who does not support unconditional aid to Israel.

— U.S. walks back claim that it told Iraq about strikes beforehand: The U.S. didn’t directly notify the Iraqi government that American forces would strike inside the country on Friday, contrary to an earlier White House statement, a State Department spokesperson said today. U.S. forces conducted airstrikes against Iranian militants in Iraq and Syria on Friday as retaliation for the deaths of three U.S. soldiers in Jordan. That contradicted National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby’s comments to reporters during a call on Friday, in which he said, “We did inform the Iraqi government prior to the strikes occurring.”

DELAYS AHEAD — The judge presiding over Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C., criminal case acknowledged today that the former president’s trial could extend deep into 2024 — though significant uncertainty continues to cloud the timeline. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan told attorneys in another criminal case that she intended to be out of the country in early August — unless Trump’s trial is underway.

“I hope not to be in the country on August 5,” Chutkan said in a sparsely attended conference for the other criminal case, one of more than 1,200 stemming from the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. If she is stateside, Chutkan added, that will be because “I’m in trial in another matter that has not yet returned to my calendar.”

COLD WATER — Former President Donald Trump blasted the Senate’s bipartisan border bill this morning, calling the legislation, which would tighten asylum standards and automatically shut down the southern border to illegal crossings if encounters reached a certain daily threshold, a “great gift to the Democrats, and a Death Wish for The Republican Party.”

“Only a fool, or a Radical Left Democrat, would vote for this horrendous Border Bill, which only gives Shutdown Authority after 5000 Encounters a day, when we already have the right to CLOSE THE BORDER NOW, which must be done,” Trump posted on Truth Social. Some Trump surrogates have made similar arguments in recent weeks as details about the agreement began to emerge.

ROYAL WORRIES — King Charles III has cancer, Buckingham Palace announced today, sending shockwaves through the British establishment.

The 75-year-old monarch — who ascended to the British throne in September 2022 following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II — will continue with his royal duties but is stepping back from “public-facing” aspects of the role, the palace said.

The form and nature of Charles’ cancer have not yet been disclosed.

MAJOR RESET — After weeks of rumors, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested he is planning to reset the government and military leadership of Ukraine.

“If we want to win, we must all push in the same direction, convinced of victory — we cannot be discouraged, let ourselves down — we must have the right positive energy,” Zelenskyy told Italian website RaiNews on Sunday, in response to multiple reports he is planning to dismiss his top general, Valery Zaluzhny. “I have something serious in mind, which is not about a single person but about the direction of the country’s leadership,” he continued.

Zelenskyy said Ukraine needs a change of leadership, and “not just in a single sector such as the military” — suggesting a reshuffle of top officials in government may be imminent. “So, you can’t say we would replace a single person,” Zelenskyy added.

An ongoing rift between Zelenskyy and Zaluzhny has seen both leaders differ in their public descriptions of the future of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

SELF-BRANDING EXERCISE — Want to be a writer? Get on TikTok. Visual artist? Make sure you’ve got a lot of Instagram followers. Middle manager? Make sure your LinkedIn is updated and you’re connecting with the right people. Modern life — or modern work — is all about self-promotion. How has that impacted how we work? And what does it mean to have to brand yourself rather than your work? These are questions that have been batting around since the early 2000s in earnest. Rebecca Jennings explores them and more in detail in a piece for Vox.

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