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Lawmakers Leave Work in Lurch
Congress is on vacation again.
It is the traditional two-week Spring break. Lawmakers prefer the word “recess” over “vacation,” because they will be meeting constituents and giving speeches back home. That’s work. But their primary job is legislating, and Congress departed Washington with plenty undone.
First, the “sequestration” spending cuts left hanging during the last congressional break are still in place, their impact mounting. Congress also managed to pass a budget resolution keeping the government open, declaring a temporary cease-fire on budget fights.
That makes time for post-vacation work on gun safety and immigration.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., promises an April vote on a gun-regulation bill that includes a provision on universal background checks. Loosening immigration laws is an issue with a bit more consensus than guns, but senators left town before drafting legislation.
The House has been in session just 36 days in 2013, the Senate just 33.
SENATE SET TO PASS BUDGET. Senate Democrats are likely to approve their first budget resolution in four years today, The Hill reports. The chamber began voting on amendments Thursday night, and set the final vote for late Friday or early Saturday. Majority Leader Harry Reid is hoping to move that vote earlier rather than later, saying he won't let the 400 or so proposed amendments all reach the floor. "GOP senators have proposed a majority of the 400-plus amendments, and seem eager to play out a process that the Senate has not undertaken in four years," The Hill writes. Read more
OBAMA, IN JORDAN, INDICATES $200 MILLION FOR SYRIA REFUGEE CRISIS. After his high-profile tour of Israel, President Obama came to Jordan on Friday to discuss with King Abdullah the civil war in neighboring Syria. Obama said he is working to deliver the country an extra $200 million in aid this year, the Associated Press reports. The war has pushed 400,000 refugees into Jordan, fueling fears that extremists will gain a foothold within the country. Obama said the additional aid will fund humanitarian programs. Read more
- @markknoller: At news conference with Pres Obama, Jordan's King Abdullah says issue of asylum for Pres Assad "beyond my pay grade."
CONSERVATIVE WEB SITE UNDER SCRUTINY FOR MENENDEZ-PROSTITUTION STORY. The Washington Post reports: “A top Dominican law enforcement official said Friday that a local lawyer has reported being paid by someone claiming to work for the conservative Web site The Daily Caller to find prostitutes who would lie and say they had sex for money with Sen. Robert Menendez,” a New Jersey Democrat. The lawyer told investigators that a man named “Carlos” was willing to pay him $5,000 to find women to make claims about Menendez. For its part, The Daily Caller and its editor, Tucker Carlson, vehemently denied the allegation and said that no money had changed hands. Read more
PRIEBUS BLAMES ‘IDIOTIC STATEMENTS’ FOR 2012 LOSSES. Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus blamed candidates’ “idiotic statements” for the party’s poor 2012 showing and made specific reference to Mitt Romney’s statement during a Republican primary debate that he would like to see illegal immigrants “self-deport,” The Hill reports. “If you go around and you say a lot of biologically stupid things and you poison the well, and you create a caricature or you allow a caricature to become reality, you’re not going to win an election,” he said. Read more
BEN CARSON DOWNPLAYS LIKELIHOOD OF PRESIDENTIAL RUN. Ben Carson, the African-American neurosurgeon who has become a darling of the conservative movement of late, is downplaying the likelihood of a presidential run without ruling it out, The Washington Post reports. “If a year and a half goes by, and people are still clamoring for me to do that, and there’s no other very good candidate, I would certainly have to seriously consider it,” he said on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper, but added “the likelihood of that is incredibly small.” Read more
FCC CHIEF ANNOUNCES RESIGNATION. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced Friday he will leave the commission "in the coming weeks," The New York Times reports. Genachowski is known best for his ambitious efforts to expand broadband Internet service and to sell airwaves for mobile companies. Genachowski's departure was expected, though timing was uncertain since the chairman said he did not want to leave the commission with two Democrats and two Republicans. The announcement earlier this week that a Republican commissioner would step down cleared the way for his departure, and Obama will name both successors. Read more
- National Journal’s Brian Fung writes that Genachowski has some unfinished business — like net neutrality — that will have to be taken up by a successor.
SANTORUM-GINGRICH 2012 TICKET ALMOST CAME TO BE. Bloomberg Bussinessweek reports of an alliance between 2012 Republican also-rans Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich that almost came to be. As Mitt Romney took the lead in last year’s GOP primary, the two men sought to consolidate conservative discontent with the front-runner by joining forces and announcing the formation of a ticket during a nationally televised debate. But the two could not agree which of them would top the ticket before Romney pulled out a win in the Michigan primary and rolled to an insurmountable lead. Members of both the Santorum and Gingrich camps are convinced the move would have changed the outcome of the primaries — and the general election. Read more
- @EricKleefeld: Santorum and Gingrich almost formed unity ticket. Platform would've been "Offending Every Swing Demographic Ever."
SUPER BOWL CHAMP A CONGRESSIONAL INTERN. Wide Receiver Torrey Smith, of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens has been interning this month for Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. According to the team’s website, Smith said he was “handling files, reading letters, relaying them, typing up what sponsors say, printing stuff.” He said the work was “fun.” Smith, who was a criminal justice major at the University of Maryland, worked mostly out of Cummings’ Baltimore office but made some trips to the Hill. Read more
** A message from API: A tax on energy is a tax on everything. New energy industry taxes will cost jobs, undermine energy security and raise energy costs for everyone in this tough economy. Learn more at EnergyTomorrow.org.
OBAMA DOES SOME SIGHTSEEING. President Obama wraps up his trip through the Holy Land on Saturday with a tour of the ancient Jordanian city of Petra – famous for its rock-cut architecture and water system (Smithsonian magazine says it is one of the 28 places to see before you die) — before returning to the U.S.
"If I shoot it, I'm gonna eat it." – Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), interviewed by National Review, about hunting a lion in Zimbabwe which "wasn't particularly tasty. It was kind of chewy, but I ate it too."
HOW A LAW BECOMES GUTTED. The Washington Monthly takes you inside the arcane – and surprising – journey a signed law takes through the rule-making process. Author Haley Sweetland Edwards takes a look at the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, and finds that it is slowly being pecked away by moneyed interests. “Industry lobbyists are well aware that they don’t need to outright kill a rule; they need only to maim it,” Edwards writes, “and it’s as good as dead. In fact, it’s better than that: it’s on the books, the newspapers cover it — it looks like a success for financial reform — but industry remains as unfettered as it was before.” Read more
* A message from API: New energy industry taxes will cost jobs and raise energy costs for us all. More at EnergyTomorrow.org.
PLAY OF THE DAY
GEORGE W. BUSH, THE PAINTER, PART II. On NBC, The Tonight Show’s Jay Leno had exclusive video of the heckler yelling at Obama during a speech he gave this week in Jerusalem. Leno and Late Night host Jimmy Fallon also touched on recent moves by the Republican Party to find more voters in minority groups. On ABC, Jimmy Kimmel spent some time on a hacker’s newest release of former president George W. Bush’s paintings to Gawker. Watch it here
MAP: THE GLOBAL STATE OF DRONE ADOPTION. Only four countries — The U.S., U.K., Italy, and China — operate armed drones. But most of the rest of the world — 66 countries on six continents (including Botswana, Ethiopia and Colombia) — already operate unarmed drones, like the Shadow, a U.S. robot that weighs about 400 pounds and can stay aloft six hours. Though many countries are seeking armed drones, very few operate aircraft like the U.S.-made Reaper, a large vehicle capable of carrying 16 guided missiles and remaining airborne for 24 hours. See the map here
AMERICA TURNS ON PUNXSUTAWNEY PHIL. As much of the country bundles up against lingering winter weather, everyone is suddenly ready to blame Punxsutawney Phil. On Feb. 2, the groundhog emerged from hibernation and didn’t see his shadow, meaning an early spring was near. But that hasn’t happened, so Michael Gmoser, the prosecuting attorney for Butler County, Ohio, filed an official indictment against the miniature meteorologist, calling for the death penalty. But perhaps Gmoser should do more research. According to Stormfax.com, Phil is only correct 39 percent of the time. And he has only seen his shadow 16 out of 116 times. Even TV weathermen can only accurately predict the high temperature within three degrees up to two days out. So what to do? PETA, suggests a robotic groundhog. Maybe remodel one of these weather planes into a groundhog? Switch to examining a persimmon seed? Or maybe just wait for the app for that. Read more