By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- OBAMA IN VEGAS: President Obama maps out his immigration plan at this afternoon in Las Vegas where, a senior administration official tells ABC’s Reena Ninan, he will focus largely on what he’s discussed before. The president won’t put forward a bill — instead he’ll support the Senate’s principles outlined yesterday and explain what else needs to be done. The White House feels Las Vegas is a community symbolic of the growing Latino population in both the state and the nation and since immigration reform is a pledge the president made during the campaign, the White House says he wants to deliver.
- EL DIABLO IS IN THE DETAILS: Even the senators who wrote the immigration reform proposal outlined yesterday admitted there’s lots of work still ahead. One land mine: Some Republicans want to link getting green cards to whether the border is secure. Border security still a gray issue. If the Gang of Eight’s efforts fall apart the president’s team will step in with its own proposal, Ninan notes.
- SECRET CONGRESSIONAL GROUP WORKING ON IMMIGRATION ALTERNATIVE: A separate bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House of Representatives is on the verge of finalizing its own designs for comprehensive immigration reform, ABC’s John Parkinson reports. The discussions, which top aides close to the talks discussed on the condition that they not be identified, are described as “Washington’s best-kept secret.” Multiple sources say those involved in the talks include Democratic Reps. Xavier Becerra (California), Luis Gutierrez (Illinois), Zoe Lofgren (California), and Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (Florida), Sam Johnson (Texas) and John Carter (Texas). The House’s not-yet-finalized proposal is expected to address five general areas of immigration reform, according to aides close to the negotiations. Secure the border, implement a permanent E-verify system nationwide, reform the visa system, address the predicament of how to handle immigrants already in the country illegally in a “fair” and “legal manner” while determining how to handle those who have applied for legal immigration and are currently waiting in line, and reform the immigration system for future applicants. http://abcn.ws/WnjOfh
ABC’s RICK KLEIN: What could possibly go wrong? The bipartisan Senate proposal is on the table, with boldfaced names like McCain, Rubio, Graham, Schumer, Durbin, and Menendez signed on. The House isn’t far behind. And the president takes up the mantle himself today, as he lobbies the public to force action at last on immigration reform … Wait, this could get interesting, after all. The White House has had mixed results with letting Congress handle the details of much of anything. But these are the kinds of details that members of Congress from both parties have spent months if not years wrestling through; witness the twin failures of immigration reform, in 2006 and 2007, under the leadership of a different president. The real question for the White House: Will heavy involvement — and pushing in directions the Gang of Eight doesn’t want to go — be more harmful for helpful?
ABC’s MICHAEL FALCONE: At yesterday’s bi-partisan news conference announcing the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform principles, Sen. John McCain’s answer about why Republicans were so eager to move on the issue was telling. “Elections, elections,” the Arizona senator said. “The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens.” He’s right: Hispanic voters are becoming a larger share of the electorate and GOP presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, won just 27 percent of the vote among the group compared to 71 percent who supported President Obama. There was also something striking about watching Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the immigration reform group, launch into Spanish during the press conference. Neither Rubio’s language skills nor his familiarity with the immigration issue are breaking news, but I imagine it will give other potential 2016 Republicans pause.
ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Currently, the prevailing theory about Sarah Palin is that because she doesn’t have the megaphone of Fox News anymore, the “Palin moment” is now officially over. It might be true, but there have been so many “Ends of Sarah Palin” that it’s almost hard to keep track. She was over when she lost the 2008 campaign, she was over when she quit the Alaska governorship, she was over when she decided to do a reality show, she was over when she decided not to run for president. Now she’s over because she severed her ties with Fox. But the reality is different. Even after she decided to resign as governor and to pass up a 2012 presidential bid, people who both love her and hate her still just couldn’t get enough information about her. Palin still got an incredible amount of coverage and her voice was heard — loud and clear. It’s yet another example of what she’s able to pull off that others who came before or after just aren’t: She’s been written off since Day One, but she keeps coming back.
ABC’s JASON RYAN: The FBI has released new gun background check data yesterday showing that the week after the Newtown massacre (December 14, 2012) was the busiest for gun background checks ever, followed by the week President Obama announced new gun control proposals on January 16, 2013. As ABC News has reported, gun sales have been booming since Newtown. After previously denying journalists access to gun data, National Instant Check System figures show that overall in December 2012 there were more than 2.78 million background checks carried out to purchase firearms surpassing the previous record from November 2012 when more than 2 million checks were performed. The number of total sales during the first month of the new year will be released in the first few days of February.
VIDEO OF THE DAY: MEET DEFIANT DEMOCRAT, HEIDI HEITKAMP. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., defied the odds in November when she won the closest senate race in the country, and now that she’s arrived in Washington, she’s defiant as ever. But now, instead of defying the pollsters, she’s defying the Democratic caucus by taking divergent opinions on issues central to the President Obama’s second term agenda, ranging from gun control to the environment. Heitkamp, who says growing the economy is her top priority, is concerned that the president is changing his focus to issues like climate change and gun control. “I think, you know the one thing that has gotten lost by everyone is one of the best ways that we can perform here is by getting people back to work, making sure that this economic recovery, slow as it is, gets amped up and moves forward,” Heitkamp tells ABC’s Jonathan Karl, host of “Politics Confidential.” “It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been such a big proponent of the Keystone Pipeline. There’s a shovel ready, private sector jobs program, good paying jobs.” WATCH: http://yhoo.it/TQOxTJ
IMMIGRATION REFORM PLAN INCLUDES A PATHWAY TO CITIZENSHIP. The Senate’s plan does not grant undocumented immigrants automatic “amnesty,” rather it requires them to go through an arduous process that includes undergoing a background check, paying fines, back taxes and learning English and American civics over the course of a number of years, reports ABC-Univision’s Jordan Fabian. The new law would grant eligible undocumented immigrants permission to live and work in the U.S. legally, but would not confer permanent legal status, or a green card, until the border is deemed to be secure. Young people brought into the U.S. illegally as minors and some agricultural workers would face an easier path to citizenship. “We will never put these people on a path to citizenship until we have secured the border,” New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said yesterday. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who helped lead the last effort on a comprehensive immigration bill in 2007 said, “We have been too content for too long to allow individuals to mow our lawns, grow our food, clean our homes, and even watch our children while not affording them any of the benefits that make our country so great.” http://abcn.ws/YBGY4Q
OBAMA TALKS GUN VIOLENCE WITH POLICE CHIEFS. President Obama is enlisting the help of police chiefs from communities devastated by mass shootings as he continues a public push for Congress to act on his proposals to curb gun violence, ABC’s Mary Bruce notes. “No group is more important for us to listen to than our law enforcement officials,” the president told reporters before a White House meeting yesterday with sheriffs and police chiefs from across the country. “They are where the rubber hits the road.” The president and members of his cabinet met with the police chiefs who responded to the deadly shootings in Aurora, Colo., Oak Creek, Wis., and Newtown, Conn, along with representatives from the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association. “I welcome this opportunity to work with them; to hear their views in terms of what will make the biggest difference to prevent something like Newtown or Oak Creek from happening again,” Obama said.
CHICK-FIL-A CEO AND GAY ACTIVIST FIND COMMON GROUND. The leader of a national gay-rights group says he’s coming out-as a friend of Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy, ABC’s Chris Good reports. “I’ve gotten to know Dan, he’s gotten to know me. He’s shared concerns about young people, about Chick-fil-A being used for certain purposes,” Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, told ABC News. Last year, Cathy sparked a national controversy by telling a radio host that “we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.” Windmeyer said that Cathy called him last year, during the heat of the controversy that led national gay-rights groups to protest Chick-fil-A. Cathy reached out seeking advice and understanding, Windmeyer said. Windmeyer was a guest of Cathy’s at this year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl between LSU and Clemson at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The activist also says Chick-fil-A has stopped donating to anti-gay groups, according to his review of the company’s 990 tax forms. http://abcn.ws/WxuchC
GOVERNMENT WASTE IN THE SPOTLIGHT. The Government Accountability Office is due to produce its biannual report on the areas of the government that present the highest risk for squandering tax payer dollars in the next couple weeks. Though the GAO does not preview this list ahead of time, ABC’s Sarah Parnass takes a look at what might be targeted: http://abcn.ws/113uncb
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@JoshDorner: 4 years ago today, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It was opposed by all but 8 Congressional Republicans.
@kjplotkin: RT @BobbyJindal: Let’s Meet, Mr. Presidenthttp://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/bobby-jindal-to-fix-medicaid-listen-to-governors/2013/01/28/ff5c8e5e-6711-11e2-85f5-a8a9228e55e7_story_1.html …