The Edge is National Journal's daily look at today in Washington -- and what's coming next. The email features analysis from NJ's top correspondents, the biggest stories of the day -- and always a few surprises. To subscribe, click here.
Is Gun Vote Really a Triumph?
How pathetic is it that a 68-31 Senate vote to debate a bill supported by 90 percent of the American public is considered a triumph? But that’s how it rolls these days with the world’s Greatest Deliberative Body.
Just a few days ago, pessimists–or maybe they were realists–wondered if the Senate would be able to cross even that threshold and progress to consideration of how to reduce gun violence.
It’s impossible to tell if this “victory” portends an actual legislative result in the end, given the political sensitivities of some senators and the prospect of either a House blockade or a package watered down to nothing by House conservatives.
But this is a moment to savor for lawmakers who stepped out of their comfort zones, led by Sens. Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin, and for the families of children and educators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, who walked the halls of Congress this week and whose faith in their elected representatives has not been misplaced. So far.
SENATE PROCEEDS TO DEBATE ON GUN-CONTROL BILL. With the help of several Republicans, Senate Democrats overcame the threat of a filibuster on gun control today, and the chamber will now begin the long process of debating amendments, Reuters reports. Democrats Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, vulnerable incumbents who are up for reelection next year, voted against the cloture motion, which is being scored by the National Rifle Association. Read more
BOEHNER DISAGREES WITH NRCC CHAIR’S ATTACK ON OBAMA BUDGET. House Speaker John Boehner told reporters today that he disagrees with National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., on Obama’s inclusion of “chained CPI” in his budget proposal, Talking Points Memo reports. Walden called the measure, which would tweak cost-of-living adjustments to slow the growth of social security benefits, a “shocking attack on seniors.” But many, if not most, Republicans support such a measure. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor also believes chained CPI should be on the table. Read more
REPORT: LIBERAL SUPER PAC BEHIND McCONNELL RECORDING. A liberal group is behind a leaked recording of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s campaign meeting that surfaced earlier this week, WFPL-FM in Louisville reports. Leaders for Progress Kentucky, a super PAC, were apparently able to hear and record the closed-door conversation in a hallway outside McConnell’s campaign office. McConnell had been heard strategizing about potential candidate Ashley Judd, who has since declined to run. McConnell had earlier accused Democrats of “Nixonian”-style bugging. Read more
- Politico notes that McConnell has seemingly turned most of his attention toward his reelection, leaving a power vacuum in the Senate just waiting to be filled.
McCARTHY TO TAKE ‘COMMONSENSE’ APPROACH TO CLIMATE CHANGE. President Obama’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, called climate change “one of the greatest challenges of our generation” and said she would address it with a “commonsense approach” at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Thursday, Bloomberg reports. She said addressing the problem does not have to undermine growth. “The economic exposure associated with climate change is quite large,” she said. “We believe we have opportunities in mitigating greenhouse gases in the future.” Read more
- Senior Republican aides believe that despite expected hostility from Republicans, McCarthy should probably win a narrow Senate confirmation, National Journal’s Coral Davenport reports.
SENATORS REACH DEAL ON FARMWORKERS. One of the final stumbling blocks on the Senate’s bipartisan immigration package has been what to do with wages and visa limits for foreign farmworkers, Reuters reported. On Thursday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., announced that a deal had been struck on “wages and the visa cap” but did not provide details. She said there were additional issues on farm laborers yet to be negotiated. The bill is expected to be introduced next week. Read more
U.S. ON HIGH ALERT AS NORTH KOREA PREPARES TO CELEBRATE. Although North Korea has dialed down its rhetoric as it prepares to celebrate the birthday of Kim il-Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, the U.S. and South Korea remained on high alert for a test missile launch today, Reuters reports. In Seoul, meanwhile, life proceeded with little hint of the specter of war. Also today, the South extended something of an olive branch to the North, with a government minister saying, “We hope the North Korean authorities come out to the dialogue table.” Read more
- The G-8 has vowed “significant measures” against the North in retaliation for any further weapons test (WSJ)
CROSSROADS GPS DEFIES FEC DEMAND. Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS is fed up with the Federal Election Commission, which demanded more donor information from the group for the fourth time this week, Talking Points Memo reports. The FEC’s demand for a list of donors who gave more than $200 garnered a firm refusal from the Crossroads’ treasurer. Read more
AN INTERACTIVE CHERRY-BLOSSOM FEATURE. Because you can’t get enough cherry blossoms, The Washington Post offers a fascinating interactive gallery of “before and after” photos of scenes around Washington’s Tidal Basin. See it here
KERRY TO SOUTH KOREA. As North Korea continues to be a trouble spot for U.S. foreign policy, Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Seoul on Friday to talk with leaders there. He’ll also travel to Beijing and Tokyo over the weekend. Read more
HEARING ON BUDGET TO FEATURE SEBELIUS. The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing Friday on Obama's 2014 budget proposal. Health and Humans Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will testify. Read more
“This is Gestapo kind of scare tactics, and we’re not going to stand for it.” --Sen. Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, on the recording published by Mother Jones (Washington Post)
GAY MEN IN CHINA FIND NEW SOLUTION TO CONTINUING FAMILY: MARRY A LESBIAN. In China, a word has emerged to describe a new aspect of companionship: xinghun, meaning “cooperative marriage.” A xinghun, “essentially, is a sham,” writes Zi Heng Lim for The Atlantic. “Both the husband and wife continue to have their own same-sex partners and may not even live together.” But these members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in China still feel compelled by social norms to marry a member of the opposite sex. There’s even a website helping “couples” come together, Chinagayles.com, where more than 20,000 matches have been made since 2005. “If you ask me whether I feel helpless, yes, of course I do,” said one gay man. “But what can I do? If I got together with my male partner, what would my parents do? They are very traditional. They won't be able to accept it.” Read more
PLAY OF THE DAY
BUDGETS, LASERS, NORTH KOREA, AND EWOKS. Late Night’s Jimmy Fallon is convinced that Obama’s budget is effective because neither Congressional Republicans nor Democrats are warming to it. Fallon wasn’t the only one taking shots at Congress, as the Late Show’s David Letterman made fun of John Boehner’s tanning regimen and The Tonight Show’s Jay Leno implied that Congress is lazy. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is the topic that will never die on late night, with Leno, Conan O’Brien, and Jimmy Kimmel taking shots at the North Korean leader. Stephen Colbert spent part of his show on the Navy’s new weaponized laser. After touting the American military might, Colbert noted that the United States could now work to destroy the Rebel Alliance, especially those working with the Ewoks. Watch it here
JAY-Z ALREADY RAPPING ABOUT CUBA. Less than a week after Republican lawmakers questioned the legality of a trip taken by Jay-Z and Beyoncé to Cuba, he issued an “Open Letter” this morning. That’s the name of a rap in which he brags that he’s “done turned Havana into Atlantic.” He goes on: “I’m in Cuba, I love Cubans/This communist talk is so confusing, When it’s from China, the very Mic that I’m using.” The song’s best line? “Obama said ‘Chill, you gonna get me impeached’/But you don’t need this s--t anyway/Chill with me on the beach.” Read more
- @LukeRussert Asked Boehner if immigration or gun control was a bigger priority, he answered deficit reduction
- @adamwinkler: One positive thing you can say about Manchin/Toomey is that it's so toothless, it can't possibly infringe anyone's Second Amend rights
- @JRubinBlogger: @BDayspring if Mother Jones acts as a political operative and not as journalists do they lose 1st Amendment protection for receipt of tape??
- @IsaacDovere: Washington 2013: Where flacks confirm things only off the record even after they've been tweeted from official accounts
- @daveweigel: After listening to the Jay-Z track I remain confused re: his feelings about communism
- @GovExec: Kid President and Obama Hang Out in Oval Office http://bit.ly/16VwUSW
- @LincolnsCottage: On 4/11/1865, #Lincoln gave his last public address. Read the transcript here