Sen. Bob Corker’s second thoughts on retiring

Posted at 11:51 AM, Feb 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-11 11:51:24-05

Here are the stories our DC insiders are talking about in this week’s “Inside Politics” forecast, where you get a glimpse of tomorrow’s headlines today.

1) Corker’s mulling over if he should reconsider leaving Congress

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker has had conversations with a few colleagues in recent days about whether he should reconsider his decision to leave Congress and not seek re-election this year, GOP sources tell CNN.

Whether it is a serious reconsideration, or just chatter with colleagues is the subject of some disagreement. There are also conflicting accounts of whether Corker has initiated the conversations, or whether he has had them with colleagues who are pushing him to think again.

But several sources say the issue has come up in recent conversations Corker has had with fellow Tennessean Sen. Lamar Alexander and with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, two of Corker’s friends.

It also came up at least once in a conversation with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, CNN is told, posing a bit of a dilemma.

McConnell likes Corker, and would have preferred that he sought re-election. But once Corker announced he was not running, the GOP establishment quickly rallied behind Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is already in the Senate race and has support across the party’s often fractious spectrum.

Plus, there is that feud Corker had with President Trump. Remember? Corker last year questioned the President’s competence, called the White House an adult day care center and suggested the President could stumble into a major war.

For that, he quickly earned the Twittter nickname “Liddle Bob Corker” and was the subject of a presidential tweetstorm that also suggested he “couldn’t get elected dog catcher.”

Given that history, CNN is told McConnell’s view is that if Corker is serious, he would need first and foremost to get the President on board.

Corker and the President of late do have a détente of sorts, and the senator has spoken more favorably about how the President uses his unpredictability to achieve results.

Still, one of the sources who has tracked the Corker conversations told CNN, “Trump will have no part in it.”

2) It’s infrastructure week, again

This week, in the wake of a new deficit-busting spending deal, Pres. Trump plans to unveil his infrastructure plan. Infrastructure week has become a running joke among those who cover the White House because every time Trump tries to talk about what the White House wants to do about one of the president’s biggest promises, he gets kicked off message and other headlines prevail.

As The New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis explains, the White House is hoping the infrastructure theme sticks this time.

“He’s going to make a personal appeal to Democrats to join him in doing this. But the acknowledgment inside the White House is that that is very unlikely — that Democrats consider this to be dead on arrival. They don’t have any incentive to really team up with the President on this, nor do they have any interest in the kind of plan that he’s proposing,” Davis reports. “This is not something that the Republican base is clamoring for, the way that tax cuts were. And so the likelihood that they’re going to be able to generate the momentum for something like this is quite a bit lower.”

3) Will Bannon blow off congressional investigators?

The House Intelligence Committee has been trying to get former WH Chief Strategist Steve Bannon back to the Hill to continue questioning him on all matters related to the Russia investigation. Bannon was supposed to show up for more questions last week, but he didn’t show up because the White House and the committee hadn’t agreed on the line of questioning. As Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian tells us, there’s actually bipartisan anger about Bannon’s no-show policy so far.

“They’ve issued a subpoena that has been extended three times. He’s supposed to be coming back to Capitol Hill this week. If he does not, we’re potentially looking at a show down. Because Democrats and Republicans on that committee are saying if we keep giving them a pass, our subpoenas aren’t going to be worth the paper they’re written on anymore,” Demirjian explains.

4) Coming soon: a paid family leave feud

Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s daughter and current White House senior adviser, has made it known that paid family leave is one of her legislative priorities. She is teaming with up with Senator Marco Rubio on this after their successful partnership on the child tax credit. Politico’s Seung Min Kim reports on Ivanka Trump’s agenda.

“What she is doing is always a source of fascination in Washington, but [I am watching] also Marco Rubio and his policy evolution, as we kick off this immigration debate this week, where Rubio had played such a key role five years ago,” Kim says. “He transformed himself into this very pro-family platform — this kind of new form of conservatism by pushing the child tax credit and the paid family leave. He is getting a lot of resistance from the left. But we’ll see how far he wants to push this this year.”

5) Reading midterm tea leaves

Political analysts keep talking about a possible blue wave for the 2018 midterm elections. But politics is always hard to predict and it’s even harder to know what’s coming in the new Trump era. As The Federalist’s Mary Katharine Ham reports, yes, Democrats may take the House but data shows it’s not all that dire for the GOP.

“There are interesting signs in recent polling: the closing of the generic gap ballot numbers in North Carolina recently. There is no enthusiasm gap found between Democrats and Republicans [there]. In talking to Republican operatives in purple-ish states like Colorado and North Carolina, you get feedback particularly from focus groups, that things are not nearly as bad at they expected. I think that’s something that Democrats need to think about. They’ve capitalized on organization and enthusiasm, but something’s not resonating in the way that they would hope it would.”