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IN THE NEWS: Obama tells GOP balanced budget is not his priority … Senate moves on government funding bill … Dems unveil budget … Ted Kennedy Jr. comes out, but for what job? ... New pope from Argentina


House Aide on Obama: ‘He’s Using Us as Props’

President Obama continues his Goodwill Tour 2013 today and tomorrow with stops at the Capitol to meet with House and Senate Republicans. But his recent outreach to the GOP isn’t changing the party leadership’s strategy.

“He’s using us as props,” said one senior House GOP leadership aide. “I don’t expect anything to come out of this.”

There’s never been much trust between congressional Republicans and Obama. After a White House official called the recent round of outreach “a joke,” there’s even less trust.

“They think the lunch is a joke? The only thing that’s a joke is how they’ve approached Congress for the last four years,” a senior Senate GOP aide said.

Republicans intend to hold fast to their strategy of using the debt-limit increase this summer to force the president to cut entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

“Until he’s ready to have that conversation, we’re going to stay where we are,” the House aide said.

Chris Frates


OBAMA TELLS GOP HE’S NOT LOOKING TO BALANCE THE BUDGET. At a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill today, Obama told House Republicans that he is putting the health of the economy above achieving a 10-year balanced budget. When asked if he would pledge to balance the budget, “the president tactfully said, ‘That's not my priority; my priority is not slowing the recovery down and the long-term economic health of the country,’" Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., told The Hill. Read more

  • Ahead of Obama’s visit, House members were warned not to take pictures of the president or to seek autographs.

AFTER SNAG, SENATE MOVES ON FUNDING BILL. The Senate opened debate Wednesday morning on a bill to keep the government funded past March. A final vote on the continuing resolution could come by Thursday, at which point it would be sent to the House. Read more

SENATE BUDGET GOES INTO MARKUP. Senate Democrats’ budget, which raises $1 trillion in new revenue over a decade while cutting $1 trillion in spending, went into committee markup this afternoon. Those numbers are far apart from those in Paul Ryan’s House budget, which cuts spending by $4.6 trillion without raising revenue “I am hopeful that the House of Representatives will join us at the bargaining table and we can work together toward the responsible and bipartisan budget deal the American people expect and deserve,” Sen. Patty Murray said in her opening statement. 

. Organizing for Action, the advocacy group spawned from the president’s reelection campaign, is having trouble getting some reliable Democratic donors to open their wallets, Bloomberg reports. “I’m just not ready to start writing checks; it’s only 60 days since President Obama got sworn in,” said one big Obama supporter. Meanwhile, Republicans continue to characterize the endeavor as selling access and the nonpartisan watchdog group Democracy 21 has said the fundraising might be illegal. Read more

  • Karl Rove’s American Crossroads came out with this scorching Web ad today, satirizing the group as “Organizing for Acce$$.”

OBAMA SKEPTICAL OF GRAND-BARGAIN PROSPECTS. Obama is skeptical that he can reach a grand budget bargain with Republicans, he tells ABC News in an interview airing Wednesday. “Ultimately, it may be that the differences are just too wide,” he said. “It may be that, ideologically, if their position is, ‘We can’t do any revenue,’ or, ‘We can only do revenue if we gut Medicare or gut Social Security or gut Medicaid,’ if that’s the position, then we’re probably not going to be able to get a deal.” Read more

  • Obama’s instincts may be right, as it seems increasingly unlikely that he will get any new taxes from this Congress, Politico reports.

RYAN PLAN DOESN’T CLOSE PATH TO A BIG BUDGET DEAL. Paul Ryan’s 10-year budget plan is hypocritical and unattainable, National Journal’s Ron Fournier writes. It’s fresh evidence that the White House and congressional Republicans are no closer to seriously addressing the nation’s debt crisis than they were before Obama broke out the steaks and Merlot. In interviews, White House and GOP congressional aides articulated credible paths to a so-called grand bargain on debt reduction. But they seem to have little hope of getting there. Read more

DCCC CRUISES TO RECORD FUNDRAISING MONTH. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee broke its fundraising record for the second month in a row in February, outpacing its Republican counterpart by $1.3 million and hauling in a total of $6.3 million, reports The Hill. The DCCC now has $7.6 million cash on hand, compared with $4.4 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee, although the DCCC carries $900,000 more in debt. Read more

WE HAVE A POPE! NOW FOR A POLITICAL STRATEGY. The College of Cardinals elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, to be known as Francis I, as supreme leader of the Catholic Church today -- he’s the first pope from the Americas. National Journal’s Brian Resnick and Elahe Izadi have some political advice for the new pope: focus on messaging, leverage your larger-than-life personality, and use social media wisely. Read more

HOUSE TO VOTE ON WORK REQUIREMENT WAIVER. The House will vote today on the Preserving Work Requirements for Welfare Programs Act of 2013, which rejects an Obama administration rule modifying waiver authority for states with regard to work requirements under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The matter became an issue during the presidential campaign, as GOP nominee Mitt Romney accused the president of “gutting” welfare reform. The Obama administration this week attacked Republicans’ efforts. Read more

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OBAMA’S FINAL STOP ON HILL TOUR. President Obama will be meeting with House Democrats and Senate Republicans Thursday on the final day of his Hill charm offensive. When he meets with Senate Republicans, “he’s expected to dine on Maine lobster, potato chips and blueberry pie, according to Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who’s responsible for the Thursday luncheon,” The Washington Post reports. Read more

A final vote in the Senate on a continuing resolution to fund the federal government could come as early as Thursday. The current stopgap bill expires March 27.

REPUBLICANS TO PUSH FOR DRILLING IN HEARING. House Republicans continue to push their drilling agenda with a House Natural Resources Committee hearing Thursday titled “America’s Onshore Energy Resources: Creating Jobs, Securing America, and Lowering Prices.” That push got a boost last week with the release of a Congressional Research Service report concluding that oil and gas drilling on public lands has declined under the Obama administration. Read more


"I felt it was a civic duty. I couldn't sleep after I watched it. I felt like I had a duty to expose it." -- the bartender who filmed Mitt Romney’s "47 percent video," who will reveal his identity tonight on MSNBC's Ed Show (Huffington Post)


Ted Kennedy Jr., son of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., is finally ready to enter the family business. In this week’s New York Times Magazine, Mark Leibovich writes, “This was somewhat unusual. When someone decides to ‘come out’ as a politician, it is typically in connection with a specific job.… My immediate question involved exactly what service Ted Jr. was being called to.” Leibovich examines where the Kennedy family sits in today’s society and how “Ted Jr.” might fit into this legacy. Read more


BLOOMBERG NOT HAPPY WITH ANTI-BLOOMBERG SODA BILL. Earlier this week, lawmakers in Mississippi passed a bill that would stop local communities from “copying two of [New York] Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s signature public health initiatives–limiting portion sizes or forcing restaurants to post calorie counts,” Politicker reports. But on Wednesday, the mayor expressed his displeasure with the legislation, calling it a “farce” worthy of Saturday Night Live. “How can somebody try and pass a law that deliberately says we can’t improve the lives of our citizens?” he said on CBS’s This Morning. “It’s just farce. Nobody would believe it if you wrote it in the book.” Read more


TWO YEARS IN IRAN: A PHOTOGRAPHIC RETROSPECTIVE. New Zealand photographer Amos Chapple made three trips to Iran, documenting his experiences over two years. Chapple “was amazed by the difference in Western perceptions of the country and what I saw on the ground,” he said. The Iranian government enjoys portraying its country as a cauldron of anti-Western sentiment. But “for ordinary Iranians … the government is a constant embarrassment. In the time I spent there, I never received anything but goodwill and decency, which stands in clear contrast to my experience in other Middle Eastern countries.” Check out rarely seen photos from an Andy Warhol exhibit at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, an antiques store with numerous trinkets depicting the former Shah of Iran, and the 18th-century Vakil Mosque. Photo gallery here

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