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Obama Abroad: No Fun There Either
You’d think this would be a pretty good day for President Obama.
First, he’s getting out of Washington, which can only be a blissful experience for him. Second, the president is leaving behind one badly weakened political adversary, the GOP, and flying off to meet another, Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister just barely pieced together a fractured coalition in time to greet—no doubt somewhat frostily—his “friend” Barack.
Still, Obama is not making this journey in a position of strength, either. It’s a strange accident—or is it?—that he is visiting Israel on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, the costs of which are still undercutting U.S. power.
At their meeting Wednesday, Obama and Netanyahu will wrangle over one of the many ill-effects of that misbegotten war: the empowerment of Iran. Obama faces an apparently imminent Israeli deadline. In a speech last September at the U.N., Netanyahu indicated that his “red line” for military action was Iranian enrichment of uranium that “by next spring, at most by next summer” would give Tehran enough for a bomb. Obama must now somehow persuade Netanyahu to wait longer.
That won’t be any fun either.
ETHICS PROBES FOR ROBERT ANDREWS, DON YOUNG. The House Ethics Committee announced Tuesday it was opening full-scale investigations into potential ethics violations by two lawmakers: Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska. Both cases involved the alleged use of official or campaign resources for personal purposes. The Andrews case has been public for months, but Tuesday’s announcement that the ethics panel had formed an investigative subcommittee means it has taken a more serious turn. The announcement on Young was the first indication of an active inquiry into the Alaska Republican. Read more
BOEHNER VOICES SUPPORT FOR HOUSE IMMIGRATION DEAL. House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that a secretive bipartisan group working on immigration reform in the House had come up with a plan that he approves of, The Hill reports. “They’re essentially in agreement over how to proceed,” Boehner said at a news conference, adding, “There’s a lot of issues here that have to be dealt with. I think what the bipartisan group came up (with), frankly, is a pretty responsible solution.” Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the group was “very close” to a deal that would include a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Read more
SENATE BILL WOULD REDISTRIBUTE CUTS. The Senate could pass a bill as early as today that would roll back sequester cuts on programs considered vital, The New York Times reported. Among the programs that would receive sequester relief are those for infant nutrition, child-care subsidies, and embassy security. Cuts would be shifted to programs deemed less vital or unnecessary, maintaining the overall size of the sequester. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., told the Times that she could only achieve a modest redistribution of cuts because of concerns that a more thorough bill would not pass the House. Read more
- Chart: Defense stocks (blue) have actually outperformed the S&P 500 (red) since the start of the year, a sign that investors either believe Defense cuts will be reversed or were not that harmful to begin with. See chart here
SANFORD, BUSCH FAVORITES IN TODAY’S S.C. PRIMARY. Former Gov. Mark Sanford is favored to win today’s Republican primary in the special election to fill the South Carolina House seat vacated by Republican Sen. Tim Scott, USA Today reports. Whichever of the 15 other Republicans running finishes second will face Sanford in an April 2 runoff. Elizabeth Colbert Busch, comedian Stephen Colbert’s sister, is the favorite in the Democratic primary. Read more
- Stephen Colbert told CNN’s Jake Tapper he has no problem breaking out of character to campaign on behalf of Elizabeth: “She’s my sister, and I’m willing to break the jewel of my own creation to try to do something for her.” (Washington Post)
REID: WHY I LEFT ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN OUT OF GUN BILL. Short answer: it doesn’t have the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. Long answer, Reid said the measure, “using the most optimistic numbers, has less than 40 votes. That’s not 60. I have to get something on the floor so we can have votes on that issue and the other issues.” Members will still be able to vote on the ban as an amendment. Reid says he hopes to hold votes on the gun bill in April following Easter break. Read more
CORDRAY, WHITE PASS COMMITTEE VOTES. The Senate Banking Committee approved the nominations of Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Commission and Richard Cordray to continue as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Politico reports. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, was the lone vote against White, citing her history as a defense attorney for big banks. Cordray’s nomination passed along party lines. Republicans, who want more congressional power over the CFPB, have threatened to block his nomination. Read more
CHEMICAL-WEAPONS ATTACK REPORTED IN SYRIA. Both the government and rebel forces are reporting a possible chemical-weapons attack in the Syrian town of Aleppo today, The New York Times reports. The state news agency blamed the opposition for the attack, while a rebel commander told Reuters that it was a government attack. There has been no independent confirmation that chemical weapons were in fact deployed. The government is known to possess a large arsenal of chemical weapons, but is it not known whether rebels have acquired a similar stockpile. On Tuesday the White House warned of “consequences” for the Syrian government if the claims are true. Read more
ZIENTS TO STAY AT OMB. Jeff Zients will continue to serve as acting budget director, and is now out of the running to become the U.S. Trade Representative, Reuters reports. Zients, once considered the front-runner for the trade post, will stay on because the president decided he needed Zients to stay in order to address the sequester. He will stay in his role until the confirmation of OMB nominee Sylvia Burwell. White House adviser Michael Froman is now back in the mix for the trade representative post. Read more
ON 10th ANNIVERSARY OF IRAQ INVASION, DOZENS KILLED IN ATTACKS. On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq, 52 people were killed and more than 180 wounded in attacks across Baghdad today, The New York Times reports. Most of the attacks were in Shiite neighborhoods. Read more
- This is how U.S. newspapers covered the start of the war in 2003. Sample: “GOOD MORNING, SADDAM,” from The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead
LANDMARKS, BEFORE THEY WERE FAMOUS. Want to know what a headless Abraham Lincoln Memorial looks like? What about half a Washington Monument? Whether or not you agree with the 1884 New York Times editorial that declares snootily, “The completion of the Washington Monument has at least the advantage of taking that structure off our minds,” you should check out this gallery of Washington landmarks under construction, compiled by National Journal. It also includes in-progress photos of the Treasury Department and the U.S. Capitol (1860). See the gallery here
** 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’S ISRAEL TRIP TO TREAD LIGHTLY ON SETTLEMENTS. President Obama makes his much-anticipated trip to Israel Wednesday, and his three-day itinerary will skirt “the morass of West Bank settlements,” as Reuters put it. During his trip, Obama will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Read more
DRONE HEARING IN SENATE. A hearing scheduled Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee will focus on domestic drone use. It is titled, “The Future of Drones in America: Law Enforcement and Privacy Considerations.” Drones have become a hot topic after Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., launched a filibuster objecting to the idea of armed drones targeting American suspects on U.S. soil. Read more
"This is the loudest gathering of Irishmen in Washington since the last time Joe Biden dined alone." – House Speaker John Boehner, at the Friends of Ireland luncheon.
BRINGING EXTINCT ANIMALS BACK. It may not quite be Jurassic Park, but the notion of bringing vanished species back to life—so-called “de-extinction”—is now within reach, Carl Zimmer writes in April’s National Geographic cover story. While the vicious Tyrannosaurus rex is out of the question, exotic wooly mammoths are a likely target. “But only my grandchildren will see them. … Mammoths breed very slow,” said Sergey Zimov, a Russian ecologist who thinks repopulating parts of Siberia with mammoths and other extinct mammals could help keep large swaths of land fertile. Of course, the practice is fraught with scientific and ethical questions. 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
REPUBLICAN SOUL-SEARCHING, PALIN, OBAMA AND … SATAN? The Republican Party’s recent soul-searching was a topic for late-night comedians, as David Letterman questioned the need to commission a report saying the party is too white, and Jimmy Fallon was quick to compare it to March Madness. Jimmy Kimmel also covered former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s speech at CPAC. And everyone was still talking about that History Channel miniseries that cast an actor as Satan who seemed to bear a striking resemblance to the president. Watch it here
WHY RAND PAUL’S CITIZENSHIP PITCH IS DOOMED. In his widely covered speech today, Rand Paul, R-Ky. made the now-standard case for more border security and a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants: “If you wish to live and work in America, then we will find a place for you.” He also made the well-worn argument that Republicans will continue to lose elections if they don’t win more Hispanic votes. Like others, he sees Hispanics as natural Republicans, but for the immigration issue. But all of the polling data suggest otherwise, as National Journal’s Matthew Cooper reports. Read more
PROFILE AT A GLANCE
- Why he is in the news: He’s a U.S. citizen and newly elected prime minister of the Syrian opposition
- Current Job: Organizer of humanitarian aid to Syria
- Born: 1963; Damascus
- Founded Coalition of Free Syria in 2011.
- Served as an executive at a Texas technology firm until last year.
- Earned a bachelors in mathematics and computer science from Purdue University in 1989 and an MBA from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1994.
- When Hitto was on a business trip, his son ran away from home and entered Syria to join the resistance.
- He has been heavily involved in running the Dallas-area Brighter Horizons Academy, an Islamic school.
- He is of Kurdish descent, which could help the opposition hold together Arabs and minority groups.