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- "Senate negotiators have reached an agreement on extending unemployment-insurance benefits to the 2 million jobless Americans who have not received their checks since the program expired in December. ... Because of next week's recess, a vote is not expected until after senators return to Washington on March 24. ... A Senate deal is still far from guaranteed to pass the House, where Republicans have expressed opposition to extending the benefits." (National Journal)
- In NH SEN, former Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) "has begun seeking campaign staff while aggressively courting New Hampshire's political elite, marking what local Republicans consider his first serious steps toward launching a ... campaign." Brown "is expected to launch an exploratory committee to enter the race as soon as Friday." (AP)
- Also in NH SEN, American Crossroads (R) is making a $600,000 ad buy. The "contrast ad" on Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) will run "for a week, starting Tuesday, on statewide broadcast." (Politico)
- In IA SEN, the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund endorsed Rep. Bruce Braley (D). (release)
- Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) endorsed state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) in MS SEN and Midland University President Ben Sasse (R) in NE SEN on Thursday. (releases)
- In NC SEN, physician Greg Brannon (R) "must pay two investors in his failed startup company more than $450,000, according to a final judgment entered Tuesday. The judgment follows a Wake County jury verdict Feb. 18 finding Brannon bore sole responsibility for giving misleading or false information in 2010 to investors regarding a mobile application being developed by Neogence Enterprises, a now-defunct tech company he helped start." (Raleigh News & Observer)
- In FL-13, former state CFO Alex Sink (D) said "she is 'keeping an open mind' about running against" Rep. David Jolly (R) "again in November." (Tampa Bay Times)
- In ID-02, Rep. Mike Simpson (R) launched his first TV ad, which attacks "personal injury lawyer" Bryan Smith (R) "for his attempt to smear Mike Simpson's conservative record." The ad "is backed by a $27,000 buy on broadcast and cable." (Roll Call)
- In MI-12, EMILY's List (D) endorsed Democratic National Committeewoman Debbie Dingell (D). (release)
- In CO GOV, former Rep. Bob Beauprez's (R) 2006 CO GOV running mate, Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland (R), endorsed one of his primary opponents, former state Sen. Mike Kopp (R). (Denver Post)
- In PA GOV, former Department of Environmental Protection secretary John Hanger (D) "ended his campaign" on Thursday, citing businessman Tom Wolf's (D) "startlingly effective" TV ad campaign. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Hotline editors weigh in on the stories that drive the day
• Scott Brown was planning a Senate run long before the FL-13 special election, but the demographic and political makeup of New Hampshire is awfully similar to the Pinellas County district. Voters over the age of 45 made up 69% of the 2010 midterm electorate in New Hampshire -- 19% over the age of 65 -- with both electorates predominantly white (Whites over 45 make up nearly half of FL-13). In 2012, President Obama won 52% of the vote in New Hampshire, and 50% in FL-13. And David Jolly defeated a well-known, personally well-liked former statewide officeholder. That's not dissimilar to Jeanne Shaheen's profile in the Granite State. -- Josh Kraushaar
• New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's likely GOP challenger Rob Astorino said he won't accept a spot on the Independence Party line, saying "they don't stand for a thing." The move is less consequential for the governor's race and more so in the state's many competitive House races. Candidates typically tout the party's endorsement as proof of their moderation, but it has received heavy criticism in recent years for its reputation for cross-endorsing powerful incumbents or candidates with money, absent partisan allegiances or defined issue positions, leading many to boycott the group. Republicans hoping to embrace the Independence Party line like Michael Grimm in NY-11 or Matt Doheny in NY-21 could be in a tough spot if their guy at the top of the ticket has called their bluff. -- Karyn Bruggeman
HAIR OF THE DOG
"Americans Spent Record $56 Billion on Pets in 2013" (NBC News)
FRESH BREWED BUZZ
- "In Georgia, a Senate race is central to Democrats' hopes" (Los Angeles Times)
- Sasse "provided early 'strategic advice' to former Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt's health care consulting firm while the firm pitched itself to clients in early 2010 to help implement the Affordable Care Act. ... The extent of Sasse's involvement with Leavitt Partners is unclear — both the Sasse campaign and Leavitt's firm insist he was never paid by the firm. ... Sasse and Leavitt have until now denied the Senate candidate had any involvement in Leavitt Partners." (Politico)
- CA-17 candidate Ro Khanna " is bringing one of" President Obama's "most successful Silicon Valley-style campaign strategies home in what could be the first House campaign in the country using 'big data' to target exactly whose doors are worth knocking on." (San Jose Mercury News)
- "2014 House Landscape: Welcome to '2010 Lite'" (Cook Political Report)
- House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday invited Pope Francis to address a joint meeting of Congress. (release)
- "You're kidding me!" -- Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), on Palin's endorsement of McDaniel, his primary challenger (Politico)
- "A deep-pocketed group of Republican donors and former GOP lawmakers is joining a gay rights coalition to push the ... House to vote on a bill banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity." (USA Today)
- The Rhode Island state Senate "voted unanimously Wednesday to pass a pair of bills that set the stage for a Constitutional Convention, should Rhode Island voters want one." The bills "now go to the House. ... But even if the bills don't pass," Secretary of State Ralph Mollis (D), "who is running for lieutenant governor, is on record as saying he will put the question on the ballot." (Providence Journal)
- Former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine's (D) "son Jeffrey committed suicide in Mexico, succumbing to the depression that had plagued him for years." (Newark Star-Ledger)
- Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) underwent "surgery to correct the source of an abnormal heart rhythm ... in Detroit and 'is resting comfortably,' a spokesman said Thursday." (Detroit News)
- "You can call yourself Republicans. That's fine, because that's your voter registration. Don't call yourself Reagan Republicans. Ronald Reagan would never, would never let this kind of aggression go unresponded to by the American people." -- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), criticizing GOP senators blocking an Ukrainian aid package (Washington Post)
- Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) "is getting help from actor Martin Sheen as he makes his push to raise Illinois' minimum wage." (AP)
- "It's about time that South Carolina [says] 'Hey, we're tired of the ambiguously gay senator from South Carolina.'" -- SC SEN candidate Dave Feliciano (R), referring to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (Columbia State)
PLAY OF THE DAY!
- Today's weather, from the National Weather Service: Mostly sunny. Warmer with highs around 60. South winds 10 to 15 mph.
- The House returns at 9 a.m., while the Senate convenes at 10:30 a.m. for a pro forma session.
- Obama, Vice President Biden and Boehner attend the Congressional St. Patrick's Day luncheon with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. (U.S. Capitol, 11:30 a.m.)
- The National Archives releases 4,000 pages of Clinton White House records. (1 p.m.)
- The Capitals host the Canucks on Friday. (Verizon Center, 7 p.m.)
- The Wizards host the Nets on Saturday. (Verizon Center, 7 p.m.)
- The Capitals are back in action on Sunday against the Maple Leafs. (Verizon Center, 3 p.m.)
- Have an event for us to highlight? Email us!
- Montpelier, VT is the only state capital in the country without a McDonald's.
- The winner is Jim Barnett. Here's today's Swizzle Challenge: "Who was the first president to have his veto overridden?" The 3rd correct e-mailer gets to submit the next question.
NJ'S EARLY BIRD SPECIALS
- Democrats Are Addicted to Koch, Too
- Older White Voters Will Haunt Democrats All Year
- Detroit's New Mayor Has the Best Job in Politics
- Grand Canyons in Arizona
- You Don't Need a Weatherman
"If you want to keep your handicap in golf don't run for president. So I expect strokes." -- Biden, speaking at the American Ireland Fund Gala on Thursday night (CNN)
"Folks, let me tell you this – Joe Biden disputes a lot of those facts, but Joe Biden told me that he was a good golfer. And I've played golf with Joe Biden, I can tell you that's not true." -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), at the 2012 Republican National Convention (ABC News)
Adam Wollner, Editor