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Morning Memo: Tillis likely a 'no' on immigration; Ellmers weighs Senate race

TILLIS LIKELY WOULD HAVE VOTED 'NO' ON IMMIGRATION BILL: House Speaker Thom Tillis said Thursday he likely would have voted against a bipartisan immigration measure approved by the U.S. Senate. The Cornelius Republican is making a bid to replace U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in the 2014 elections. Hagan voted for the bill. Tillis, after initially saying he hadn't looked at the bill, added that he shares "a lot of the concerns that Sen. (Richard) Burr has and Sen. (Jerry) Moran." Burr and Moran voted against.

Pressed on how he would have voted, Tillis said, "I'm not informed enough to know how I would go but most likely I would have taken the position of the majority the Republicans." The majority opposed the bill but 14, including Sens. Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and John McCain, voted in favor.

ELLMERS TO DECIDE IN NEXT TWO WEEKS ABOUT U.S. SENATE BID: Roll Call has the update -- Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., has pushed back her timeline to make a decision about the Senate race for another couple weeks. “I haven’t quite reached my full decision, but I think I know where I’m leaning,” Ellmers told Roll Call on Thursday between votes on Capitol Hill.

***More on Ellmers decision below, along with the disbandment of the Beard Caucus and more legislative news in the Dome Morning Memo.***

SOON: The second-term congresswoman has previously stated she is considering a primary bid to challenge Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., one of the 2014 cycle’s most vulnerable senators. Earlier this year, s spokeswoman told CQ Roll Call that Ellmers would make a decision by June. Ellmers now says she will announce her decision within two weeks.

IF SHE DOESN'T RUN … : When pushed on whom she might support in the primary if she didn’t run, Ellmers did mention one name. “I got a chance to meet Jim Cain, and I want to sit down with him,” Ellmers said. “I think he’s interesting.  There are some positives there.” Read story here.

SENATE APPROVE LANDMARK IMMIGRATION BILL: With a solemnity reserved for momentous occasions, the Senate passed historic legislation Thursday offering the priceless hope of citizenship to millions of immigrants living illegally in America's shadows. The bill also promises a military-style effort to secure the long-porous border with Mexico.

The bipartisan vote was 68-32 on a measure that sits atop President Barack Obama's second-term domestic agenda. But the bill's prospects are highly uncertain in the Republican-controlled House, where party leaders are jockeying for position in advance of expected action next month. Full story.

FOLLOW THE MONEY: National Journal looks at where the immigration pro and con campaign money was spent -- including in North Carolina. See here.

WILL IMMIGRATION BILL PLAY IN 2014 RACES: Given the split between Tillis and Hagan, it may. USA Today looks at the broader question in this piece.

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will take a main street tour in his hometown of Jamestown this morning before returning to a high-dollar retreat in Greensboro hosted by a nonprofit organized to boost his agenda. McCrory is expected to meet with the donors in a roundtable about state policy issues. House lawmakers went home for an extended break (see below) while Senate lawmakers will return Monday.

LEGISLATIVE SESSION REACHES A HALT: The N.C. General Assembly is grinding to a halt as frustration mounts about Republican lawmakers’ inability to reach a consensus plan to cut taxes. The impasse hits at a crucial time and now threatens other legislation, including bills to protect foster children and students riding school buses.

Hidden behind the scenes for days, the feud between GOP leaders escalated Thursday when the Senate took the unusual step of removing 41 House bills from its calendar, sending them to the clerk’s office and an indefinite future. The House later announced it would not hold full sessions the week of July Fourth – meaning lawmakers will return to Raleigh on July 8, weeks after they had hoped to adjourn for the year. Full story.

NC GOP CAN TAKE SOLACE: The notion that GOP lawmakers can't always get along isn't new. Check out this headline from South Carolina: "SC lawmakers override 46 of Gov. Haley's 81 budget vetoes." Haley was in North Carolina with Gov. Pat McCrory hours after the Republican-dominated legislature dismissed her. Maybe she offered him some advice. But she has one thing McCrory doesn't: line-item budget veto power. Not that it mattered in half the cases. Full story here.

BEWARE: MASS SHAVINGS EXPECTED: Led by House Speaker Thom Tillis, a so-called Beard Caucus of lawmakers and staffers has been growing their facial hair since June 9 to protest the length of the session. "Let's use humor to communicate a serious message," Tillis wrote on Facebook when it started.

Well the fun has come to an end -- just as the legislative session gets hairy. Tillis announced Thursday a "spousal sub-caucus" of the Beard Caucus said the members can shave, now that session will drag on for a couple more weeks. Tillis said he expected "mass shavings" this weekend. Before they ran to CVS for Bic's and shaving cream, the crew took one last picture. In case you missed the fun, check out the daily updates here.

FOXX CONFIRMED … : Anthony Foxx, who became the city’s youngest mayor four years ago, breezed into becoming the nation’s 17th transportation secretary Thursday morning after a 100-0 vote in the U.S. Senate. Full story.

… BUT WATT FACES POINTED QUESTIONS: Congressman Mel Watt defended himself at a Senate confirmation hearing Thursday from accusations he’s unqualified to head the federal agency that oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and signaled he supports moving the housing finance industry back toward the private sector.

And in a significant divergence from the policy of Fannie and Freddie’s acting regulator, Watt also said he might consider reducing borrowers’ principal on underwater mortgages. President Barack Obama nominated Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency in May. His pick has drawn sharp criticism from some Republicans, who favor keeping acting director Ed DeMarco. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told Watt he doesn’t think the congressman is qualified to head the FHFA. Full story.

PROSECUTORS WANT END TO HOME VISITS: About 150 felons - most convicted of far more mundane crimes - allowed to go home for a mid-June weekend, under a state prison policy that allows some minimum-security inmates without disciplinary problems to make home visits within a year of their release, to help them transition back into society. Convicted murderers, like any other offender, can serve out their terms in minimum-security prisons if they are not considered to be escape risks or dangerous. Those serving life sentences are still eligible for parole at some point, unless their sentence excluded that possibility.

The transition concept is widely accepted as important to keep ex-convicts from returning to prison. More than 2,000 North Carolina felons have been allowed home visits since 2008. But North Carolina’s prosecutors say until now they had no idea such a large number of inmates was being allowed to leave prison before their sentences were up, without any notice to their victims or prosecutors. They have begun a campaign to end the policy. Full story.

BILL GIVES MORE LICENSE PLATE MONEY TO CONTRACTORS: A state Senate bill that would give private license plate agencies more money – at the expense of county governments – is coming under scrutiny. Counties could lose a projected $4.8 million over 18 months if the bill becomes law, said Todd McGee, spokesman for the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, which advocates for counties. Full story.

NCGA ROUNDUP: Get a rundown on all the legislative news here.

DISPATCH FROM WASHINGTON --The Internal Revenue Service failed to subject liberal groups seeking tax-exempt status to the same rigid scrutiny as tea party groups and other conservative organizations, the agency’s acting chief and a Treasury Department inspector general confirmed Thursday.
Full story.


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