By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
RAND'S LATEST STAND: Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky yesterday endorsed a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, adding his voice to the debate as separate groups on Capitol Hill search for a way forward on the thorny political issue. In his first major speech on the subject, ABC's Shushannah Walshe notes that Paul did not use the word "citizenship" in remarks before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington, but he suggested that people who are in the country illegally should be able to stay without returning to their home countries. He sought to clarify his remarks in a conference call with reporters this later this afternoon, saying, "If they want to be citizens, I am open to debate as to what we do to move forward." http://abcn.ws/11f6Tkf
WHAT'S IN A NAME? Paul acknowledged that he was shying away from "pathway to citizenship" language because it's polarizing and detrimental to the debate. "I think we are trapped," Paul said. "The immigration debate has been trapped and it's been polarized by two terms: 'path to citizenship' and amnesty. "So everybody who doesn't want anything to move forward calls every proposal that somebody else wants 'pathway to citizenship' or 'you are granting amnesty.' Can't we have reform and just not call them by certain names that discourage the process from going forward?" When asked on the call whether he would support a Senate bill to give a pathway for current undocumented immigrants to get a green card, he said, "Yeah, I would, as long as they don't get in a new line." http://abcn.ws/11f6Tk
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS - MICHAEL BLOOMBERG PRAISES RAND PAUL: "Senator Paul's speech today helps move the immigration debate forward in a positive way, and it shows that broad bipartisan agreement is attainable on reforms that will secure our borders, create a path to citizenship for those here illegally, and allow us to attract the talent we need to grow our economy and create more American jobs," said Michael Bloomberg, New York City Mayor and Co-Chair of the pro-immigration reform group, The Partnership for a New American Economy.
ABC's JONATHAN KARL: In an blunt interview with ABC News at the Presidential residence in Jerusalem, Israeli President Shimon Peres told me that if there is to be a military strike against Iran - and he strongly implied it would come to that - it would be the United States, not Israel, that takes the lead. When I asked if a military strike would be necessary to stop Iran, Peres told me: "The one that can decide that and the one who has the capacity to implement it clearly, is the United States of America. Israel should not go alone when the United states is determined and clear on it." And Peres told me repeatedly that believes Obama would order a military strike if diplomacy fails. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/ZvdJOt
ABC's JIM AVILA: Rand Paul says he is open to putting the 11 million undocumented immigrants to work legally, but doesn't want to use the word "citizen." His plan would allow a probationary work period, followed by a green card, and then finally full rights without a return to the immigrant's home country, he said. "As long as they don't get in a new line, they would just get in the current line," he told reporters yesterday. "As long as those here want to work, I'd get them work visas as long as they want to apply, get in the normal … not a new pathway, it's an existing pathway." Paul says he is still having trouble with the whole concept of rewarding those who came into the country illegally, but concedes the party needs Latino votes. "We need to show up and ask for their votes - say the Republican Party is not hostile to you as a person," he said. So it seems the senator is for immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship, as long as you don't call it that. http://abcn.ws/ZR7wtN
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Some questions for Rand Paul: Is his stand on immigration bold or is it just a politically motivated step to look open to a critically important voting bloc ahead of 2016? Is he right that words like "pathway to citizenship" and "amnesty" have become so loaded that they shouldn't be used or should we expect our leaders to say exactly what they mean? Is the dance over language necessary or would it have been more powerful for Paul to come out and say he supports an arduous process for undocumented immigrants to get green cards (meaning under current law they would be eligible then to become voting citizens)? We are far from 2016, but the answers to these questions will come soon enough.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: President Obama may not miss them while he's gone. But is Congress actually … working? There won't be a government shutdown. The budget process, for all its messiness, is looking like it will produce actual Senate and House budgets. Immigration reform's prospects have rarely seemed brighter, with Republicans showing flexibility on a citizenship path. Even the gun-control push, while losing the assault-weapons ban, is moving - mostly the way it's meant to, with the majority likely to get a chance to work its will. Sanity and stability have hardly been returned. But we may look back on the sequester as a low point, from which there was only one direction to bounce.
WHAT WE'RE READING
"CUCCINELLI LINKS FIGHTS AGAINST SLAVERY, ABORTION," by the AP's Bob Lewis in Richmond, Va. "Virginia Democrats are reaching for the hottest of hot-button issues nearly eight months before this year's gubernatorial election, slamming Republican Ken Cuccinelli for equating slavery abolition to today's anti-abortion movement. A Democratic Party tracker's video shows Cuccinelli last summer telling a small gathering of religious conservatives that "the truth demonstrates its own rightness" through American history starting with opposition to slavery 150 years ago and continuing to abortion now. Democrats sought to use the video to attack Cuccinelli as being too extreme. Cuccinelli spokeswoman Anna Nix called it Democrat Terry McAuliffe's effort to shift the race away from job creation toward divisive issues." http://bit.ly/ZYGwtB
MATT DOWD: REPUBLICANS NEED TO ADMIT THEY ARE OUT OF TOUCH. ABC News Political Analyst Matthew Dowd writes: "I thought I would take my opportunity to discuss the Republican National Committee's Growth and Opportunity Project and Chairman Reince Priebus' recent comments, as well as the comments of some conservatives in response to the report. I read through the whole report, and heard much of the response, and a few things struck me: Like most reports, or books by Malcolm Gladwell, it could have been summed up with many less pages and words. It probably just needed 15 pages instead of 100, but like most folks in Washington, D.C., the report's intended audience weighs substance by the pounds of paper. And to paraphrase what Mark Twain said: If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter. The best reports, meetings and articles are those that are succinct, clear and don't go on and on. … My concern with this report is that it seems to be saying that the fault in connecting with this 21st century America is a public relations or a communications problem, that the party is behind in technology and tactics, or that the process of electing candidates is flawed. While all this may be true, the bigger imperative is Republicans need to enunciate values, a message, and policies that fit where America is today." http://abcn.ws/Yo74pP
MARK SANFORD PASSES FIRST TEST IN SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE RACE. On Tuesday night, Mark Sanford won first place in a 16-way GOP primary to retake the House seat he held from 1995 to 2001, as the disgraced former governor attempts a political comeback for the ages. But ABC's Chris Good notes that Sanford's comeback journey has just begun: His "win" on Tuesday earned him a spot in an April 2 runoff, as mandated when no candidate tops 50 percent, and his final Republican opponent isn't yet known. A recount could begin as early as Friday to determine whom Sanford will face, according to the state Election Commission. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, former Charleston County Council member Curtis Bostic led state Sen. Larry Grooms by 493 votes (.8 percent), placing their race for second within the state's one-percent margin for mandatory recounts. If Sanford wins on April 2, he'll face Elizabeth Colbert Busch, the Democratic candidate who won her own primary on Tuesday, in a May 7 general election.
-WHAT HE SAID: Delivering an acceptance speech of sorts last night, Sanford kept campaigning. "It matters, I think, that I was rated number one in the entire U.S. Congress by the National Taxpayers Union," Sanford said. "I think it matters that I was the first governor in the United States of America to turn back stimulus money at a time when it was not popular."
RICK PERRY 2016? Texas Gov. Rick Perry will announce whether he is eyeing a 2016 presidential bid later this year, a spokesman for Perry told ABC News' Arlette Saenz. But first, Perry will decide whether he will run for a third full term as governor in 2014. Perry will decide about the gubernatorial bid this summer and "will probably make a decision about 2016 later in the year," Perry spokesman Josh Havens said. The Texas governor first announced his time frame in an interview with Shark Tank, a political blog. Perry, who is the longest consecutive serving governor in the country, ran for president in 2012. He entered the race several months after all of his opponents and just six weeks after having major back surgery. http://abcn.ws/Xo0Ra4
SENATE DEMOCRATS DROP ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN FROM GUN BILL. Senate Democrats yesterday dropped a controversial proposal to ban assault weapons from a gun control bill they plan to introduce on the floor of the Senate in April, ABC's Sunlen Miller reports. The decision to drop ban indicated that Democrats could sense that the overall bill likely had no chance of passing with an assault weapons language included. "I'm not going to try to put something on the floor that won't succeed," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "I want something that will succeed. The worst thing in the world would be to bring something to the floor and it dies there. I am working to put something together than can get 60 votes on the floor." Reid guessed that the measure, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., had support from fewer than 40 senators, far less than the 60 votes needed for passage The assault weapons ban will still get a vote. It will be voted on as a standalone measure as an amendment to the base gun control bill. But stripping it off the base bill leaves it vulnerable and decreases the chance of it passing, as it will not receive the same support that it could have if it was bundled with the other less controversial measures. http://abcn.ws/WBTLli
@ChadPergram: Obama jokes with Netanyahu that "It's good to get away from Congress" when he arrives in Israel.
@emily_bittner: Dems ready to slam GOP on Ryan budget - The Hill http://thehill.com/homenews/house/289177-dems-ready-to-slam-gop-on-ryan-budget …
@JeffreyGoldberg: Here's a link to my @TheAtlantic profile of King Abdullah: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/monarch-in-the-middle/309270/ …