By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
HURDLE JUMPING: Sen. Chuck Schumer said yesterday that while there is not a final deal on immigration legislation just yet, the bi-partisan "Gang of Eight" senators working on immigration reform has reached a "substantive agreement" on the major components of an immigration plan, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ AND CARLOS BOETTCHER report. "It is not a done deal. We have to draft the legislation. We have to have the group of eight sign off on the specific language, but we have substantive agreement on all the major pieces now between the eight of us," the Democrat from New York said in an interview with ABC News Sunday. On Friday, business and labor leaders came to an agreement on a visa program for low-skilled immigrant workers, a major turning point in the debate on immigration reform. "The fact that business and labor have come to an agreement overcomes the last major substantive hurdle we've had in our negotiations," Schumer told ABC News. http://abcn.ws/Z2ohSa
THE DEAL: In what the AFL-CIO described as the "W-Visa" program, 20,000 visas would be available for low-skilled workers beginning in April of 2015. The number of available visas would increase gradually in the following years but would never go above 200,000 or dip below 20,000 in any given year. Only 15,000 visas would be allocated to construction jobs each year.
RUBIO PUTS ON THE BRAKES: But Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of the members of the bipartisan group working on immigration, said over the weekend that reports of a final deal being reached are "premature," and he called for more hearings and discussion on the topic of immigration so that a "healthy public debate" is conducted. "Arriving at a final product will require it to be properly submitted for the American people's consideration, through the other 92 senators from 43 states that weren't part of this initial drafting process," Rubio said in a statement Sunday morning. "In order to succeed, this process cannot be rushed or done in secret." http://abcn.ws/Z2ohSa
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: Is Senator Marco Rubio trying to stop or slow down the immigration bill? When he issued a statement on Sunday that it was "premature" to suggest an accord between business and labor groups signaled broader agreement on the bill, eyebrows were raised among others involved in the immigration debate. What is he up to? It is an attempt, a Rubio aide says, to ease perceptions that immigration reform is a done deal. Critics still point to the secrecy surrounding the 2007 immigration debate. This time, Rubio and others are calling for a more open and transparent process to litigate concerns. It remains an open question if that will help - or happen.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Watch Marco. Of all the members of the Gang of Eight tackling immigration reform, the most interesting player by far has been and will continue to be Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. His written statements - carefully crafted, more-carefully timed - suggest an inside player who is extremely cognizant of outside perceptions, and who's not intent on straying far from the political center of gravity. His was the only "Gang" voice urging caution over the weekend, calling reports of a deal "premature." And while continuing his private talks, he included a warning that "this process cannot be rushed or done in secret." So far, Rubio has been able to draw the public praise of both Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. - but that can't last. Rubio's ultimate support for an immigration bill remains very much an open question; not coincidentally, the prospects for such a bill ultimately passing are unclear as well.
ABC's DEVIN DWYER: Don't be fooled by the headline-grabbing optimism about an immigration reform deal. While big progress has been made on principles, passage of a bill is far from a foregone conclusion. Six years ago, after a bipartisan group of senators forged a similar compromise, then-President George W. Bush famously declared: "I'll see you at the bill signing." He later ate his words. Conservative activists who led the 2007 anti-"amnesty" rebellion are mobilizing to do it again, and their GOP allies in the Senate appear eager to buy them some time. Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who has been skeptical of the "Gang of Eight" plan, on Sunday praised Sen. Marco Rubio's caution against a "rush to legislate." Sessions said he wants hearings on immigration to take "months - not weeks," setting up a clash with Democrats who want to proceed with speed. Reformers fear any significant delay in drafting and voting on legislation could kill momentum behind a deal.
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
ISAF COMMANDER: AFGHANISTAN NOT READY TO STAND ON ITS OWN, BUT WILL BE IN 2014. As commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, Jr. has one of the toughest jobs in the military: preparing Afghanistan to stand on its own by 2014 when the last international troops are set to pull out of the country. Gen. Dunford says Afghanistan isn't yet strong enough to provide for its own security but is optimistic about the country's future. "The conditions are not yet set for a stable and secure Afghanistan in the long term from which Al Qaeda and other international extremist groups will not be able to conduct attacks on the West," the general tells "On the Radar's" MARTHA RADDATZ. To see more of the interview with Gen. Dunford, including his thoughts on how civil society will fare following the troops' withdrawal, check out this episode of "On the Radar." WATCH: http://yhoo.it/XlRgG6
READY, SET, ROLL. This morning, the First Family participates in the 135th annual White House Easter Egg Roll, reports ABC's MARY BRUCE. This year's event is focused on promoting health and wellness with the theme, "Be Healthy, Be Active, Be You!" It will include cooking demonstrations, various sporting events, storytelling and, of course, rolling. Musical guests include Jordin Sparks, Austin Mahone, Coco Jones, Sesame Street, and The Wanted.
CORY BOOKER JOKES JOB DROVE HIM TO DRINK - COFFEE. Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker answered viewer questions from Facebook and Twitter for an ABC News' web exclusive before joining the "This Week" roundtable on Sunday. After Booker discussed his future Senate plans, his time as Newark mayor, and his Twitter routine, he admitted to a few other personal habits. He's a self-proclaimed 'Trekkie,' loves Ben & Jerry's ice cream, late night television, and believes that his job "drove him to drink" - but coffee is the vice in question. "I did not drink coffee before this job. I always say this job drove me to drink," Booker told ABC'S KAYE FOLEY. We also asked Booker: How many hours a day do you spend on Twitter? BOOKER: "I guess it's so seamless that I don't really think about it that way. So it's like going from meeting to meeting, or waiting for people to come into the office. A lot of it happens in the early morning when I wake up or late at night, which gives a lot of my followers this idea that I don't sleep. But if I wake up… like this morning around four o'clock, I'll start checking my Twitter and responding to people." http://abcn.ws/YVudmM
REP. PETER KING COMPARES NORTH KOREAN GOVERNMENT TO 'ORGANIZED CRIME FAMILY.' Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. joined the "This Week" roundtable on Sunday and had this to say about the North Korean government: "As far as I see, this is not even government. It's more like an organized crime family running a territory. They are brutal, he is brutal, his father was brutal, his grandfather was brutal. I don't see any purpose at all in [direct talks with North Korea] at all. It would demoralize our allies in Asia, certainly in South Korea, and it would - to me - serve no constructive purpose whatsoever." More Sunday Sound from "This Week": http://abcn.ws/13IWe2P
CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN ON GAY AND LESBIAN OUTREACH: 'WE'VE GOT TO DO BETTER.' During an interview for "This Week," Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan told ABC'S GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS that the Catholic Church's very nature means it will be - from time to time - out of touch with the concerns of its followers. "Sometimes by nature, the Church has got to be out of touch with concerns, because we're always supposed to be thinking of the beyond, the eternal, the changeless," Dolan said. "Our major challenge is to continue in a credible way to present the eternal concerns to people in a timeless attractive way. And sometimes there is a disconnect - between what they're going through and what Jesus and his Church is teaching. And that's a challenge for us." Dolan was responding to a question from Stephanopoulos about a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, which found that 60 percent of Catholics "describe the church as 'out of touch' with the views of Catholics in America." Stephanopoulos also asked Dolan what the Catholic Church can say to gays and lesbians, who feel unwelcomed by the Church, which does not support same-sex marriage. "Well, the first thing I'd say to them is, 'I love you, too. And God loves you. And you are made in God's image and likeness. And - and we - we want your happiness. But - and you're entitled to friendship.' But we also know that God has told us that the way to happiness, that - especially when it comes to sexual love - that is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally," Dolan said. "We got to be - we got to do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people. And I admit, we haven't been too good at that. We try our darndest to make sure we're not an anti-anybody." http://abcn.ws/16aJduq
WHAT WE'RE READING
SUSANA MARTINEZ WATCH: " New Mexico Makes Strong Move To Compete For Jobs," an Op-Ed in the Las Cruces Sun-News by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez: "At the beginning of the session, I called on the Legislature to pass reforms making New Mexico more competitive with neighboring states. … I'm pleased that by passing the New Mexico Jobs Package, we reached a bipartisan compromise that will help our economy grow by leveling the playing field with surrounding states. The New Mexico Jobs Package cuts the business tax rate from 7.6 percent to 5.9 percent. The 7.6 percent rate is the highest in the region and at 5.9 percent, New Mexico will be more in line with neighboring states. This will help attract new job-creating businesses to our state and help existing businesses grow. The new reforms will also spur manufacturing by ending the practice of penalizing New Mexico manufacturers for exporting their goods to other states or countries. New Mexico leads the nation in export growth, and this tax reform will help build upon our success by encouraging existing manufacturers to expand while attracting new employers to our state." http://bit.ly/YqpDKQ
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX
-DEMOCRATIC SUPER PAC ANNOUNCES NEW HIRES. An announcement from the super PAC, American Bridge: "Today, American Bridge 21st Century President Rodell Mollineau announced the hires of Jessica Mackler and Eddie Vale. Mackler has joined the Super PAC as Vice President-Campaign Director. Vale will serve as Vice President-C-4 Director of the affiliated non-profit American Bridge 21st Century Foundation as well as a Senior Advisor to the PAC. … Mollineau also announced new, expanded roles for American Bridge alums Steven D'Amico, Kelli Farr and Chris Harris. D'Amico, who led the presidential and vice-presidential research teams last cycle, will serve as Research Director & Senior Advisor. Farr, who managed American Bridge's tracking program in the 2012 cycle, will expand her portfolio as Tracking Director & Senior Advisor. And after focusing on outreach to national press since early 2011, Harris will lead overall communications efforts as Communications Director & Senior Advisor."
-HOUSE SUPER PAC MARKS APRIL FOOL'S DAY. "House Majority PAC's top 10 GOP targets have done and said some crazy, outlandish, ridiculous and just downright nonsensical things. And on April Fools' Day, House Majority PAC created a website compiling local news coverage about them all in one place: www.GOPHouseOfFools.com," according to an announcement from the group. The PAC's targets include, Reps. Michele Bachmann, Mike Fitzgerald, Michael Grimm, Joe Heck and more.
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