By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
THE PROOF IS IN THE POLLING: Popularity of the U.S. Congress, while weak overall, has gained sharply among Hispanics, likely reflecting its current efforts on immigration reform, a new ABC News-Washington Post poll has found. ABC News Pollster Greg Holyk notes that Congress by far is the least popular of the three, with just 30 percent of Americans viewing it favorably. But that jumps to 56 percent among Hispanics, up by a steep 21 percentage points from November 2011 - the only group in which it reaches majority popularity. Congress' favorability rating is up by 7 points from late 2011, but well off the majority popularity it enjoyed in the late 1980s. http://abcn.ws/XdnimV
BORDER GANG: A comprehensive immigration overhaul bill is not expected until mid-April at the earliest, but four members of the Senate Gang of Eight - the team of bipartisan senators tasked with creating an immigration bill - will visit the Arizona-Mexico border today, reports ABC's Jim Avila and Serena Marshall. The two Arizona senators - both Republicans and Gang of Eight members, Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake - will host Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York and Michael Bennet of Colorado for a tour along the border in Nogales, part of the Tucson sector. The location for the tour sits in rural Arizona, a trouble spot on the border because of a funneling-effect resulting from tougher controls in cities like El Paso, Texas and San Diego, Calif. The visit comes in advance of the pending immigration legislation to bring 11 million undocumented on a possible path to citizenship. http://abcn.ws/13wBlrx
MCCAIN'S STRAIGHT TALK: At a Monday town hall meeting, Sen. McCain said the team has made progress in "a number of areas" that he is "encouraged" by, but there are still areas on which the team has been unable to come to agreements. "I don't know if we can achieve agreement or not," he said. "We have been working, literally, night and day. We may not succeed." http://abcn.ws/13wBlrx
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Nobody likes Congress, basically ever - except Latinos, right now. The most interesting piece of the new ABC News/Washington Post favorability poll is that 56 percent of Hispanics say they view Congress favorably, an astounding 21-point jump since the last time the question was polled, in late 2011. No other demographic group shows a similar spike. The only plausible explanation is optimism around immigration reform, whether justified or not (though certainly colored by the tone of coverage in American Spanish-language and other Latino-geared media). It adds to the urgency around comprehensive reform, on a day that members of the Senate's Gang of Eight tour the US-Mexican border. This optimism will turn into something less than pretty, if Latino voters feel like their voices aren't heard, and relatively soon.
ABC's MATTHEW DOWD: The acceptance of gay marriage has come a long way in only a few short years mainly because we now have a generation of voters who have come of age in a time of their friends and acquaintances being openly gay their whole lives. And this generation of folks each has parents like myself who have watched their children bring friends who are openly gay into their homes, and have also learned a more compassionate way. It has just taken our leaders a while to catch up where the country is already headed on this issue. Whenever we have a decision in life and the choice boils down to one of reacting to fear or following love, the divinely inspired journey we are each on demands that we follow love if we desire a soulful and compassionate society. It seems the average citizen out there understands this much better than our leaders, and gay marriage is a perfect example of this in today's politics. More of my reflections on the topic of leadership and motivation in light of the gay marriage debate: http://abcn.ws/ZVcAA2
ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: With prominent women running in mayoral races in cities around the country like Los Angeles, Houston and Albany, N.Y., a front-page New York Times profile yesterday of perhaps the most well-known of the bunch, New York City Council Speaker and mayoral contender Christine C. Quinn, sparked intense reactions. The story, by The Times' Michael M. Grynbaum and David W. Chen, listed example after example of Quinn's temper and verbal tirades over the years - directed at both colleagues and enemies alike. "She has threatened, repeatedly, to slice off the private parts of those who cross her," the reporters noted. One former city official described being on the receiving end of one of her outbursts: "It's just old-fashioned screaming, in a way that you just don't hear that much." More than a few have called the article sexist, pointing out that many a male politician has engaged in similar - and even worse - behavior. But others took a different view. For example, gender scholar Peggy Drexler offered her take in the Daily Beast: "In the end, the question shouldn't be, 'Is this piece sexist?' but whether the qualities that have made Quinn an effective, and thus far successful, leader will serve her going forward." Notably, Quinn, herself, is on the record taking responsibility for her leadership style: "I don't think being pushy or bitchy or tough, or however you want to characterize it, is a bad thing," she told The Times. "New Yorkers want somebody who's going to get things done."
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
ROB REINER: MEATHEAD COULD HELP GET ARCHIE BUNKER TO BACK GAY MARRIAGE. Meathead says even his bigoted, cantankerous father-in-law Archie Bunker would be on the side of gay marriage if the sitcom "All in the Family" were still on the air today. "Oh absolutely, and I think we'd be screaming at each other pretty good," says actor and film director Rob Reiner, who played the role of Michael "Meathead" Stivic. "I would think Archie would be convinced if one of his friends or one of his daughters, not the daughter I was married to, but if he had a child who was gay, I think he might be convinced, yes." Reiner spoke to ABC's Rick Klein and Terry Moran on the steps of the Supreme Court after the Court heard oral arguments on the case weighing California's Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Reiner has been a key player in fighting Proposition 8 ever since it passed in the 2008 election. He co-founded the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group that has steered the legal battle against the ballot initiative all the way to the nation's highest court. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/15TIjSQ
TODAY AT THE SUPREME COURT: DOMA DAY
Today the Supreme Court will hear a challenge to a federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defines marriage as between one man and a woman. The law denies federal benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married in their states. DOMA was passed in 1996 with wide majorities in both the House and the Senate. ABC's Ariane De Vogue outlines the key issues in the case: http://abcn.ws/Yf1wPe
JURISDICTIONAL ISSUES: Because the government believes that DOMA is unconstitutional, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) led by House Republicans, stepped in to defend the law. Paul D. Clement is BLAG's lawyer. The DOMA case presents two jurisdictional questions. Because both the government and BLAG believe the justices should reach the merits in the case, the Supreme Court appointed a Harvard Law professor Vicki Jackson to argue the jurisdictional questions. The first question is whether the Court has the jurisdiction to hear the case given that the United States government agrees with the challengers to DOMA that it is unconstitutional. The second jurisdictional question before the Court involves whether BLAG has the legal right to bring the case. While BLAG argues that it has an interest in defending the enforceability of statutes the House has passed, Jackson says there has to be a concrete threat against institutional prerogatives. She says that to allow BLAG to have "standing" violates the separation of powers akin to transferring to the House the executive's power to take care that laws are faithfully executed.
THE MERITS: Similar to the arguments of supporters of Prop 8, Clement argues that in passing DOMA, Congress had a good reason to support traditional marriage. He targets the "tendency" of opposite-sex relationships to produce "unintended and unplanned offspring." Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group lawyer Paul D. Clement says that Congress was acting rationally when it passed DOMA: "Government from time immemorial has had an interest in having such unintended and unplanned offspring raised in a stable structure that improves their chances of success in life and avoids having them become a burden on society." But the government argues that DOMA violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution. "The law denies to tens of thousands of same-sex couples who are legally married under state law an array of important federal benefits that are available to legally married opposite-sex couples," writes Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli.
Live Updates from ABC News: Day 2 of Gay Marriage at the Supreme Court http://abcn.ws/WVDYhc
DAVID PETRAEUS APOLOGIZES FOR AFFAIR. David Petraeus apologized in front of an audience of about 600, who welcomed him with a standing ovation, for an extramarital affair with his biographer in his first public speech since resigning as the head of the CIA, reports ABC's ANTHONY CASTELLANO. "Needless to say, I join you, keenly aware that I am regarded in a different light now than I was a year ago," Petraeus said Tuesday night to an audience of mostly veterans at the University of Southern California's annual ROTC dinner at a hotel in Los Angeles. "I am also keenly aware that the reason for my recent journey was my own doing. So please allow me to begin my remarks this evening by reiterating how deeply I regret - and apologize for - the circumstances that led to my resignation from the CIA and caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters," Petraeus said. The decorated war hero and former four-star general has remained out of the public eye since his affair with writer Paula Broadwell was revealed in November. http://abcn.ws/WVEb40
MORE FROM TODAY'S ABC NEWS-WASHINGTON POST POLL. Fifty-five percent of Americans overall hold a favorable opinion of the Supreme Court, which is hearing arguments on gay marriage, a major civil rights issue, this week. That's despite some less-than-popular recent opinions; the public divided on the court's ruling on health care reform in 2012 and broadly opposed its 2010 decision on political campaign financing. Obama, for his part, is seen positively by 57 percent of Americans, near his more than three-year high, 60 percent, in January. That's despite the fact that his job approval slipped from a three-year peak of 55 percent in January to 50 percent earlier this month. The two assessments can differ; the first measures basic goodwill while the latter is more performance-based. http://abcn.ws/XdnimV
OBAMA NAMES FIRST FEMALE SECRET SERVICE DIRECTOR. President Obama is appointing veteran Secret Service agent Julia Pierson as the agency's first female director, reports ABC's MARY BRUCE. Pierson will take over the helm from Mark Sullivan, whose leadership came under intense scrutiny after the agency became mired in a prostitution scandal last year. During preparations for a presidential visit to Cartagena, Colombia, last April, more than a dozen agents and officers allegedly solicited prostitutes, raising serious questions about the agency's male-dominated culture. "Julia is eminently qualified to lead the agency that not only safeguards Americans at major events and secures our financial system, but also protects our leaders and our first families, including my own," President Obama said in a written statement. "Julia has had an exemplary career, and I know these experiences will guide her as she takes on this new challenge to lead the impressive men and women of this important agency." http://abcn.ws/10LZOoP
"WHAT WOULD THE SENATE'S BUDGET LOOK LIKE WITH ALL 500-PLUS AMENDMENTS?" by Yahoo! News Columnist Chris Wilson. "The federal budget the U.S. Senate passed in the raw hours of Saturday morning contained so many proposed amendments that some of its amendments had their own amendments. The chamber voted on only a few dozen of the 572 amendments that were filed to the 94-page bill, consigning the rest to the congressional equivalent of Bartleby's dead letter office. Legislation is the source code for America, written out by Congress as commands that the executive branch executes. Like any sufficiently complex program, a lot of proposed edits never make the final version. In that spirit, this interactive version of the Senate budget includes almost every amendment at the exact place in the bill where it proposes to make a change. Think of it like Microsoft Word's track changes feature applied to legislation." Check it out: http://yhoo.it/YCmyXu
WHAT WE'RE READING
"PROGRESSIVES MUST FOCUS OUTSIDE D.C.," a Politico Op-Ed by Democracy for America Chairman Jim Dean. "The only way progressives can overcome this clear Republican advantage is by applying the same shoe leather we've used for years to win national races and take these state legislatures back. That's why Democracy for America is launching its Purple to Blue project, a national, multi-year effort to win state House and Senate chambers across the country by making so-called 'purple' state legislative seats decisively Democratic. And we're starting right here in Virginia. Forget about the 'Republicans are dead' stuff. If we allow the status quo to continue, the consequences for our country will be dire. And, honestly, the situation in the states right now is deeply troubling already. … We're not the first group to focus on state legislatures, and even victory in all five of our targeted districts won't flip Virginia's House of Delegates. However, that's why our Purple to Blue project is so important: It gives us a chance to figure out what works ahead of the critical state races happening in Michigan, Pennsylvania and elsewhere in 2014. It is also a critical step in preparing for the big fight in 2015 for the Virginia State Senate." http://politi.co/108hloX
@CPHeinze: If Dem donors commit to non-Hillary candidates at this point, "the former president would take that very personally." http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/03/hillary-clinton-president-2016-campaign-money-omalley-cuomo …
@etchaStech: Year of the Woman Mayor continues: @emilyslist backs Kathy Sheehan for Albany. #ladymayors http://blog.timesunion.com/localpolitics/14319/pro-choice-group-emilys-list-backs-sheehan-for-mayor/ …
@DonGonyea: Every single person on my crowded red line train car this AM looked hung over. It's only Wednesday.