By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
Sometimes the hardest part of governing in Washington is keeping everyone marching in the same direction — a lesson that Democrats are once again learning this week.
On the budget, it appears that some members of the Congressional Blue Dog coalition are warming to an idea put forward by House Republicans to slash discretionary spending by $32 billion this year. As The Hill’s Erik Wasson notes, Democrats’ willingness to consider it, suggests that “some of the coalition’s members are willing to defect from their party and vote for the plan despite the vocal opposition of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).” http://bit.ly/ijY9yX
Relations between the two factions within the Democratic Party continue to be strained. “There has really been no communication whatsoever,” Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., complained in an interview with MSNBC yesterday. “We still do not have any connection between the Blue Dogs and leadership.”
Meanwhile, on the Senate side, a small group of Democratic leaders are threatening take matters into their own hands on the issue of health care. Several moderates Democrats, including Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Ben Nelson, D-Neb., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., are reportedly considering whether to introduce legislation that would do away with the individual mandate contained in the health care law.
“And it’s not just health care,” Politico’s Manu Raju writes. “The senators are prepared to break with the White House on a wide range of issues: embracing deeper spending cuts, scaling back business regulations and overhauling environmental rules.” http://politi.co/fswf2Y
On top of all of that, it’s also the end of an era for a once powerful symbol of Democratic centrism, the Democratic Leadership Council. “The issues the DLC has championed continue to be vital to our country and the DLC will continue to impact them in its next phase,” DLC founder Al From said in a statement on Monday.
As the DLC faced decline over the last few years, like-minded groups like Third Way have stepped in to fill the void. Third Way’s Vice President of Public Affairs Matt Bennett noted that his organization “is proud to carry on” the DLC’s legacy.
And although the Obama administration likely hoped to be focusing entirely on their domestic agenda at this point, the situation in Egypt continues to confound. As the AP’s Matthew Lee reports: “After several days of mixed messages, the administration coalesced around a position that cautiously welcomes nascent reform efforts begun by newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman that may or may not result in Mubarak's resignation before September, when elections are to be held.” http://abcn.ws/hLNtLD
THE RUMSFELD FILES. “Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared that his biggest regret in office was not convincing President Bush to accept his resignation after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, and said the country and the Pentagon probably ‘would've been better off’ if he had left office in 2004,” ABC’s Rick Klein notes. “In an exclusive interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Rumsfeld also said the enhanced interrogation techniques he approved for use on the so-called ‘20th hijacker’ — including forced stress positions and removal of ‘comfort items’ — produced invaluable intelligence. But his biggest regret was staying in office during what he calls a period of ‘damaging distraction,’ as photos of abused detainees at Abu Ghraib circulated around the globe. He twice wrote letters of resignation to the president, but was convinced to stay on both times. ‘That was such a stain on our country,’ he told Sawyer. ‘To think that people in our custody were treated in that disgusting and perverted and ghastly way — unacceptable way.’” http://abcn.ws/fG8VJ5
ON JOHN MCCAIN: In an interview today on “Good Morning America” Rumsfeld told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that “McCain and I are not a good fit.” Rumsfeld had some critical words for the Arizona senator in his new memoir, “Known and Unknown.” And it’s clear there is no love lost between the two. McCain responded on “GMA” last week: “And thank God he was relieved of his duties and we put the surge in otherwise we would have had a disastrous defeat in Iraq,” McCain told Stephanopoulos. http://abcn.ws/fnawue
BOTTOM LINE: Rumsfeld’s comments will do little to change any minds about Iraq. It’s clear he has no interest in trying to re-litigate or re-define his role in the execution of the war. But what's also remarkable is how this issue — which defined 2004 and 2008 presidential elections — has now been essentially sidelined.
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Amy Walter and Rick Klein sit down with freshman Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., for a discussion of his first few weeks in office as well as Republican priorities in Congress. (Lankford is a “true freshman” — this is his first elected office.) Also on the program: An update on the situation in Egypt with ABC News’ Jim Scuitto in Cairo. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’. “Rep. Jane Harman's sudden resignation Monday sets up her coastal Los Angeles-area district to host the first special election of the 2012 cycle,” Roll Call’s Kyle Trygstad and Jessica Brady report. “It took only a few hours for bold-named Democrats to emerge as potential candidates for the 36th district once news broke Monday morning of Harman's decision to leave Congress to run the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The California Democrat's move won't be official until today, but already members of both parties were setting expectations. … In Los Angeles, City Councilwoman Janice Hahn announced Monday afternoon that she is running for the seat, ensuring a top-tier Democrat would enter the race. … California Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D) is strongly considering a bid as well. Her candidacy would set up a high-profile special election, with more candidates possibly on the way.” http://bit.ly/dTdjg7
HEALTH CARE ACCOUNTABILITY. The advocacy group, Americans United for Change, is partnering with the Daily Kos to run radio ads against Republican lawmakers who voted to repeal the health care reform law. Two targets: Rep. Charlie Bass, R-N.H., and Rep Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. “Equal protection. It’s the American way. But when it comes to health care protections, Congressman Charlie Bass thinks he deserves better than you,” the New Hampshire ad says. “Congressman Bass gets affordable health care, with protections against insurance companies cutting him and his family off. No lifetime limits. No annual caps. No preexisting conditions. But last month Bass voted to deny you and your family these same protections. The ads will run on stations Bow, Keene, New London and Lebanon. http://bit.ly/eIttia The ads against Ryan in Wisconsin will run in Milwaukee, Racine and Janesville for a week. http://bit.ly/eBDf41
REAGAN KIDS REJECT HEIRS TO LEGACY. “Channeling Ronald Reagan has become an obsession of the nation's leading conservative political figures, including many who are likely candidates for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012,” ABC’s Christiane Amanpour and Devin Dwyer report. “But ask the 40th president's three surviving children — Michael and Ron Reagan and Patti Davis — whether any of their father's potential Republican successors could claim the Reagan mantle, and they say no way. Is Sarah Palin the next Ronald Reagan? ‘You've got to be kidding me,’ Patti Davis said in an interview with ABC News' ‘This Week.’ … Ron Reagan, Davis' younger brother and a political liberal, said no one matches up.” http://abcn.ws/eEO9pk
NOTE RADAR: Most Expensive Gas Ever – Gas prices spike across U.S. to record high in February. http://abcn.ws/hUzDxv
@marcywinograd: With Harman resigning I am considering a run — though interested in speaking with Bowen abt forging new economy for 36th
* Get The Note delivered to your inbox every day.