By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
As President Obama and Republican Congressional leaders sit down to lunch today, their respective parties last night showed just how tough this new era of bipartisanship will be.
Neither party could muster the votes needed to pass an extension of the Patriot Act, the country’s counterterrorism law. In a 277-148 vote, the House of Representatives fell a few votes short of the two-thirds majority necessary to extend several key provisions of the law. http://abcn.ws/gpLpmn
The provisions of the act, which has been something of a legislative hot potato since it was first passed in the wake of Sept. 11, deal with roving wiretaps, granting authorities wider access to records and property during terrorism investigations, and so-called “lone wolf” provision, which approvesurveillance of suspected terrorists not linked to a specific terrorist organization.
Republican leaders said they plan to hold another vote on the measure before the end of the month.
Both the White House and the GOP leadership supported the extension, and it’s sure to be a topic of discussion when President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet Speaker Boehner, Republican Leader Eric Cantor and Republican Whip McCarthy today.
“I think that the president looks forward to discussing all issues, foreign and domestic,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday, previewing today’s lunch. “Obviously, without a doubt there'll be, I think, a heavy discussion on the economy and on spending.”
BOTTOM LINE: The defeat of the Patriot Act extension says more about the majority's trouble counting votes than it does about a Tea Part insurrection. After all, of the 26 GOP "no's" just 8 were freshman. Even Tea Party favorite, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., voted with the GOP leadership. Yet some senior members, like Georgia’s Jack Kingston and Florida’s Connie Mack, were part of the coalition of the unwilling. It was also clear that many members simply felt unprepared for this vote.
And, let's not forget that Democrats bucked President Obama here too. While the Blue Dogs and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., voted with the wishes of the White House, the bulk of the Democratic caucus, including Pelosi voted “no.”
The official line from Republican Whip McCarthy’s office: “Democrats in Congress voted to deny their own administration’s request for key weapons in the war on terror,” spokeswoman Erica Elliott told the Note.
The Blue Dogs, who have been having a rough go of it lately, could also use this vote to help leverage some power, especially on the budget vote where their 25-vote bloc could help give House Speaker John Boehner and his fellow Republicans cover to lose some of their own folks.
NAPOLITANO ON THE HILL. While elements of the Patriot Act the FBI deems important to national security are in jeopardy for the time being, keep an eye today on Janet Napolitano. The Homeland Security Secretary and National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter will speak this morning at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the threat from Islamic fundamentalists and other issues.
EGYPT UPDATE. “Egypt's protesters were defiant Wednesday after a warning from Vice President Omar Suleiman that if protesters don't enter negotiations, a ‘coup’ could take place causing greater chaos, raising alarm of crackdown. Organizers of the mass demonstrations, now in their 16th day, sought to widen their uprising,” according to a dispatch from the Associated Press. “Suleiman's sharply worded warning deepened protesters' suspicions of his U.S.-backed efforts to put together negotiations with the opposition over reforms. The protesters insist they will only enter dialogue after President Hosni Mubarak steps down, fearing the regime will manipulate talks and conduct only superficial changes without bringing real democracy. Suleiman, a military man who was intelligence chief before being elevated to vice president amid the crisis, has repeatedly said Egypt is not ready for democracy. ‘The culture of democracy is still far away,’ Suleiman said in a meeting Tuesday night with newspaper editors.” http://abcn.ws/euURuv
Who Will Lead Egypt? ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour and Jake Tapper tackle the remaining uncertainty about the situation in Egypt as well as the line from the White House on “Good Morning America” today. http://abcn.ws/gErx19
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl interview Ron Reagan, author of the new book, “My Father at 100: A Memoir.” Also on the program, Paul Singer, investigative reporter from CQ Roll Call. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
GOP’S ABORTION PUSH. “For more than 30 years, both sides of the U.S. abortion debate have agreed that no taxpayer dollars should be used to fund the procedure, except in instances of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger,” ABC’s Devin Dwyer and John R. Parkinson report. “The legal underpinning of the agreement, known as the Hyde Amendment, has been attached to appropriations bills for federally-funded health services, including Medicaid, every year since 1976. Now House Republicans want to make those restrictions tighter — and permanent — with several new pieces of legislation meant to ensure no federal funds even indirectly support abortions performed nationwide. The ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,’ debated Tuesday before a panel of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, would formally codify the Hyde Amendment, creating what supporters call a clear and consistent national policy.” http://abcn.ws/fv0I7E
OBAMA'S DEFICIT NUMBERS. "President Barack Obama's approval rating for handling the federal budget deficit has gone from bad to worse in recent months, even as his ratings on all other major national issues have generally held steady. Currently, 27% of Americans approve of Obama on the deficit, down from 32% in November, while 68% disapprove," according to a recent Gallup Poll. "Overall, Obama is doing much better on international issues than domestic ones. Among eight issues on which Obama was rated in the new poll, Americans give the president the highest approval ratings on foreign affairs and the situations in Egypt and Afghanistan. The deficit, the economy, and taxes rank among his lowest ratings, alongside healthcare policy." http://bit.ly/gNmTKW
GIFFORDS’ OFFICE CARRIES ON. “Over the past month, [Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’] aides have been forced into one of the worst crisis management tests ever faced by a congressional office,” Politico’s Jonathan Allen writes. “Even the outpouring of support can be a logistical nightmare: Giffords’s district office has logged nearly 20,000 contacts in the month since the rampage. They deal with these challenges by answering the oft-repeated question: ‘What would Gabby want?’ At the center of the entire Giffords operation is her 30-year-old chief of staff, Pia Carusone, who has been running Giffords’s Tucson and Washington offices from spartan side rooms at Houston’s TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital with her BlackBerry, a Mac computer and a tiny, 3-by-5-inch reporter’s notebook containing four weeks’ worth of daily to-do lists. She cadged the notebook from an FBI agent in Arizona when she realized she needed to keep track of all her tasks.” http://politi.co/f0hF7k
RAHM WIDENS LEAD. A Chicago ABC 7 News poll of the city’s mayor's race shows Rahm Emanuel with a “54 percent share” … suggesting an “overwhelming lead, nearly quadrupling second place Gery Chico at 14 percent; Miguel del Valle was third at 8 percent followed by Carol Moseley Braun at 6; others at 3 and undecideds at 15 percent. The ABC7 poll suggests that if the vote had been held during the survey, Emanuel had enough support citywide to win the election after the first round. … ‘Certainly if the election were the days that we were polling, it would have been 'one and done,' pollster Richard Day of Richard Day Research told ABC7. ‘He gets majority with white voters. He gets a majority with African-American voters and a near majority with Hispanic voters.’ Of the African Americans surveyed, 53 percent said they would vote for Rahm Emanuel, rejecting the black political leadership's call for a black consensus candidate.” http://bit.ly/g6DVIi
GRASSLEY ON 2012. “Sen. Chuck Grassley will pick a horse in the 2012 GOP presidential primary but told Roll Call on Tuesday that the candidate he backs must meet very specific criteria: win beyond Iowa,” Roll Call’s David Drucker reports. “The Iowa Republican said during a brief interview that he has laid out his condition to those potential GOP presidential candidates who have sought his counsel about running in a campaign that kicks off with the quadrennial Hawkeye State presidential nominating caucuses next year. Grassley did not endorse a GOP candidate in the 2008 primary. ‘Here’s what I’ve been telling people that have come to me,’ said Grassley, who was elected to a sixth term last November. ‘I’ve said, I’m not going to make up any mind until at least well into the summer, and what I’m looking at isn’t just the guy that I think is the most ideal candidate to be president, because I want to know that they’ve got the resources, if they win Iowa, to go beyond Iowa.’” http://bit.ly/hWMVKc
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