By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
OBAMA'S SUNSHINE STATE PITCH: President Obama travels to Miami today to promote his economic agenda. According to the White House the president will visit PortMiami where "he will tour a tunnel project before delivering remarks on ways to create jobs and strengthen the economy by investing in infrastructure." His remarks are scheduled for 2 p.m. ET. The president returns to the White House this evening.
THE PLAN: According to the Associated Press' Julie Pace, "Among the proposals Obama will call for: Higher caps on "private activity bonds" to encourage more private spending on highways and other infrastructure projects. State and local governments use the bonds to attract investment; Giving foreign pension funds tax-exempt status when selling U.S. infrastructure, property or real estate assets. U.S. pension funds are generally tax exempt in those circumstances. The administration says some international pension funds cite the tax burden as a reason for not investing in American infrastructure; $4 billion in new spending on two infrastructure programs that award loans and grants; A renewed call for a $10 billion national "infrastructure bank" - a proposal from his first term that gained little traction." http://bit.ly/Xnz668
REPUBLICAN RESPONSE: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio penned an Op-Ed in the The Miami Herald today pre-butting the president's visit under the headline: "Obama's Policies Don't Help Middle Class." Here's an excerpt: "President Obama should also listen to the stories of many of my neighbors to get a true sense of the effect more tax increases and spending hikes will have on our nation's middle class. By listening to them, he would learn that many aspects of policies like Obamacare have ended up hurting many middle-class families instead of helping them. He would find that the expanding role of our government has created uncertainty by establishing rules that many small businesses can't afford to follow. Miami is where I learned that America's private sector - if allowed to operate freely - is the greatest engine for prosperity and economic mobility the world has ever known." http://hrld.us/YH4gnU
THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK': In a special Easter Sunday broadcast, Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan comes to "This Week" Sunday. Plus, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., join the powerhouse political roundtable to debate all the week's politics, including the Supreme Court taking on the debate over gay marriage. And a special roundtable examines the intersection of religion and politics and the spiritual state of the nation. See the "This Week" page for full guest listings. Tune in Sunday: http://abcnews.go.com/thisweek
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Now probably isn't the time for members of Congress patting themselves on the back. But the pep-talk memo circulated by House Speaker John Boehner to his colleagues yesterday is remarkable in that it could have been sent at all. When you consider where House leaders started the year - coming off a rough election, forced to swallow a fiscal cliff deal that included tax hikes, with Boehner facing a mini-coup attempt - Republicans have a right to feel good about how the politics of spending have been handled in 2013. A month into the sequester, public backlash hasn't really developed, at least not yet. And by taking a grown-up approach to the potential confrontations, choosing battles carefully, Boehner and his conference have stayed united - and effective.
ABC's SARAH PARNASS: The number of Congressional Democrats who publicly oppose gay marriage dwindled this week as arguments in two Supreme Court cases drew national attention - and political pressure - to the issue. In a matter of four days, six Democratic senators issued statements indicating that their view of the marriage debate had changed in favor of allowing Americans to marry regardless of gender. Only nine of the 53 Democrats in the Senate continue to oppose marriage equality in some way, and of those, few come down staunchly on the side of preserving the traditional one-man, one-woman definition. (They are Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Tom Carper of Delaware, Bill Nelson of Florida, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Tim Johnson of South Dakota). Of the nine, some oppose DOMA, some have adopted a wait-and-see attitude, others are less specific. And some of those with more complicated stances on the issue tend to value a term President Obama once used to describe his views on gay marriage: "evolving." http://abcn.ws/YH0tXK
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: If anyone was wondering if and when Sarah Palin was going to weigh in on the 2014 midterm elections, that question was answered this week with a resounding "yes." In a video released by Palin's political action committee, SarahPAC, she revved up conservatives and Tea Party Republicans for 2014 with snippets of her CPAC speech from earlier this month as well as media coverage praising the speech and her string of successful past endorsements. It begins with praise from the mainstream media she is always quick to criticize. Those clips help push her view that she doesn't need a Fox News contract to get her point of view out there or to have the press talking about her. The other star of the video is new conservative superstar Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who introduced Palin at CPAC. "She is fearless, she is principled, she can pick winners," Cruz says in a clip from his introduction. It ends with the former Alaska governor's signature mama grizzly roaring and a warning to those who may think she won't be involved going forward: "We haven't yet begun to fight!" http://abcn.ws/XHYnDH
ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: Southern politics with a side of scandal. That was the theme of last night's debate between former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford and his opponent Curtis Bostic who are running in the Republican primary for the state's first district Congressional seat. "My faults are out - exposed - and all I can say, I have learned mightily from all of those mistakes," Sanford said at event, referring to the revelations of his disappearance in 2009 while serving as governor and extramarital affair with an Argentinean woman. Last night Bostic sought to label Sanford a "compromised candidate" whose biggest vulnerability in a race against Democratic challenger Elizabeth Colbert Busch (Stephen Colbert's sister) would be "trust." It's clear that if Sanford advances to the general election - and keen South Carolina political observers expect him to - expect the events of 2009 to get another public airing. "While my skeletons are certainly out there, they're out there." Sanford said last night, but that won't stop them from becoming the central issue of the race.
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
-L.A. ARCHBISHOP: ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS SHOULD BE GIVEN ACCESS TO THE AMERICAN DREAM. As the Archbishop of Los Angeles, José Gomez represents the largest archdiocese in the United States-a significant percentage of whom are Hispanic-and tells ABC's Senior National Correspondent Jim Avila in an exclusive interview that the 10-12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States deserve the opportunity to obtain full citizenship. "We have to give them the opportunity if they want to be citizens," says Gomez, who also serves as the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration. "If…they don't have the opportunity, then we will create a permanent underclass in our society, which is not fair, and it's not the American way." On the subject of the new pope, Gomez says the American continents, and especially the Latino community, are celebrating Pope Francis' ascension. "Having somebody from Latin America that can understand your culture, and your traditions, and the way that you worship, and the way you relate to each other I think is going to be a big encouragement for Catholics in the whole continent, and especially for Latinos," says Gomez. http://yhoo.it/163iik1
-GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS: Could Legalizing Same Sex Marriage Help Reduce the Deficit? This week the Supreme Court heard arguments in two landmark cases regarding same-sex marriage: Hollingsworth v. Perry, which deals with California's Proposition 8, and the United States v. Windsor, which deals with the Defense of Marriage Act. The court likely won't hand down a ruling in these cases for several months, but many of you had questions about the legal and economic implications of both cases and of course, about the potential outcomes. ABC's George Stephanopoulos took questions from Facebook and Twitter, including this one from Donna Lynn Lewis, who wrote in on Facebook: "My friend argues that it would somehow hurt the economy as far as benefits or social security, this doesn't make sense to me. Maybe you could explain what the financial effect would be for our society?" WATCH George's answer: http://abcn.ws/XeTRl9
NO ABORTIONS FOR 800 MILES. For women seeking abortions in North Dakota, there's only one place to go. Soon, it could close its doors, ABC's CHRIS GOOD reports. For more than a decade, women have driven for hundreds of miles, sometimes up to eight hours, to visit the Red River Women's Clinic in downtown Fargo - the lone abortion provider in North Dakota since 2001 - then getting back in their cars after the procedure to drive home. "It happens all the time," said Tammi Kromenaker, the clinic's director, reading off directions for a woman who was soon to travel six hours and 17 minutes from the heart of North Dakota's booming oil country. "They'll drive through a blizzard, they'll drive through a flood," Kromenaker told ABC News. "We've had women who've hit deer on the way here, who've had flat tires on the way here, and they'll come through hell or high water because they don't want to be pregnant." If a new law goes into effect, the Red River Women's Clinic will likely close - leaving one of the nation's largest swaths without an abortion provider. The area would include western North Dakota, eastern Montana and western South Dakota, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion-rights research group. http://abcn.ws/11UBK5R
POLITICAL GEOGRAPHY: To the east and south, the closest abortion providers to Fargo are three and a half hours away in Minneapolis, Minn., and Sioux Falls, S.D. To the west, the closest is in Billings, Mont., about 600 miles and eight-and-a-half hours away. Red River's closure would leave a stretch of more than 800 miles across the northern Great Plains without an abortion clinic. On Tuesday, North Dakota enacted the nation's most restrictive ban on abortions, prohibiting them as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The state overtook Arkansas, which passed a 12-week ban earlier this month, as the nation's least abortion-friendly state, and it's one of four states - including Mississippi, South Dakota, and Wyoming - with only one abortion provider. http://abcn.ws/11UBK5R
OBAMA: 'SHAME ON US IF WE'VE FORGOTTEN' NEWTOWN.' President Obama yesterday vowed to never forget the 20 children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre as he made an emotional and poignant plea for Congress to take action against gun violence, ABC's JIM AVILA and MARY BRUCE report. "The entire country was shocked, and the entire country pledged we would do something about it and that this time would be different," the president said as he stood in the East Room of the White House with 21 mothers working to combat gun violence in America. "Shame on us if we've forgotten. I haven't forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we've forgotten," he said, channeling the anger and frustration he expressed in the days after the December shooting in Connecticut. Adopting a somber tone, the president told the audience, which included the parents of victims of the Newtown shooting, that "we've cried enough" and it's time for Congress to act on the proposals put forth by Senate Democrats. "Tears aren't enough. Expressions of sympathy aren't enough. Speeches aren't enough," Obama said. "What we're proposing is not radical. It's not taking away anybody's gun rights. It's something that if we are serious, we will do. And now's the time to turn that heartbreak into something real." http://abcn.ws/11SR6nM
OBAMA TO CONGRESS: DON'T BE 'SQUISHY.' The president demanded that Congress not get "squishy" because time has passed since the deadly shooting and rebuked the "powerful voices" that oppose pending gun-control measures, saying they are "interested in running up a clock" and preventing tougher from happening. "They're doing everything they can to make all our progress collapse under the weight of fear and frustration. … Their assumption is that people will just forget about it," he said. http://abcn.ws/11SR6nM
REPUBLICAN SENATOR 'EVOLVING' ON GAY MARRIAGE. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is "evolving" on the issue of gay marriage, but she has stopped short of joining the other senator from Alaska, Mark Begich, D-Alaska, in endorsing it, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE notes. Following an address at the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, she said, "The term 'evolving view' has been perhaps overused, but I think it is an appropriate term for me to use," Murkowski said, according to the Chugiak-Eagle River Star. "I think it's important to acknowledge that there is a change afoot in this country in terms of how marriage is viewed." Murkowski said she is reviewing her stance on the issue. "It may be that Alaska will come to revisit its position on gay marriage, and as a policy maker I am certainly reviewing that very closely," Murkowski said, indicating that she had spoken to her two sons about the issue. http://abcn.ws/11RqHu7
RUSH LIMBAUGH: GAY MARRIAGE IS 'INEVITABLE.' In his radio show yesterday, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said defenders of traditional marriage have lost the battle, even though the Supreme Court won't hand down its decisions for another few months, according to ABC's SARAH PARNASS. "I don't care what the Supreme Court does, this is now inevitable," Limbaugh said, "and it's inevitable because we lost the language on this." Limbaugh took issue with the idea that the word marriage was already applied to gay couples. Therefore, he asserted, modifiers like "hetero" or "opposite-sex" are now at times added to denote a union between a man and a woman. "I maintain to you that we lost the issue when we started allowing the word 'marriage' to be bastardized and redefined by simply adding words to it - because marriage is one thing, and it was not established on the basis of discrimination. It wasn't established on the basis of denying people anything," the radio host said. "Marriage is not a tradition that a bunch of people concocted to be mean to other people with. But we allowed the left to have people believe that it was structured that way." http://abcn.ws/16l2NpP
WHAT WE'RE READING
"TEXAN'S PLANS PUT WALL STREET ON EDGE," by the Wall Street Journal's Patrick O'Connor. During Jeb Hensarling's first congressional bid, a man at a campaign stop in Athens, Texas, asked the Republican if he was 'pro-business.' 'No,' the candidate replied, drawing curious stares from local business leaders who had gathered to hear him speak, a former Hensarling aide recalled. 'I'm not pro-business. I'm pro-free enterprise.' Now, more than a decade later, that distinction has Wall Street on edge. The new chairman of the House financial services committee wants to limit taxpayers' exposure to banking, insurance and mortgage lending by unwinding government control of institutions and programs the private sector depends on, from mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to flood insurance. … In interviews, a half-dozen industry representatives expressed some level of anxiety about Mr. Hensarling's legislative agenda. However, because the chairman hasn't offered details yet, they were reluctant to speak publicly about his plans." http://on.wsj.com/YHiC83
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX
-GUN CONTROL GROUP RECALLS REAGAN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT. A new video out today observes the 32nd anniversary (tomorrow) of the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan and recalls his view that it might never have happened if a background check law were on the books, according to the group behind the spot, The United Network of Rational Americans - a new online advocacy organization for gun owners who support the Second Amendment and who also support universal background checks. According to a representative for the group, the video is "aimed at Republicans in Congress in the pocket of the big gun makers who oppose universal background checks despite near universal support from their constituents." The UNRA was created by Watchdog Causes, LLC, the founders of "Dogs Against Romney." WATCH: http://bit.ly/11UKPf1
@mckaycoppins: Obama now among the millions of Christians turning to fresh interpretations of the BIble to support marriage equality http://www.buzzfeed.com/evanmcsan/how-obama-decided-god-was-ok-with-marriage-equality …
@1bobcohn: Congratulations @mollyesque, winner of Robin Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting for @TheAtlantic work. http://newhouse.syr.edu/Newsroom/read_news.cfm?id=905 …