The Note's Must-Reads for Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Note's Must-Reads are a round-up of today's political headlines and stories from ABC News and the top U.S. newspapers. Posted Monday through Friday right here at

Compiled by ABC News' Jayce Henderson, Amanda VanAllen Carrie Halperin and Rachael Berman

IMMIGRATION REFORM ABC News' Jonathan Karl: " Rubio and Obama: Are They Talking Immigration Yet?" President Obama made his first direct overture to Republicans on immigration tonight, placing calls to the three key GOP players on the issue in the Senate: John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio. The calls come after Rubio called a White House immigration plan that leaked over the weekend "half-baked and seriously flawed". LINK

The Hills' Justin Sink: " Obama seeks to repair rift with Republicans on immigration reform" President Obama reached out to key Senate Republicans on Tuesday in an effort to smooth the waters over immigration reform. Obama placed calls to Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) Tuesday afternoon after the Republican senators accused the White House of undermining bipartisan negotiations in the Senate with the weekend release of the administration's own immigration bill. LINK

BUDGET Bloomberg's Margaret Talev and Roger Runningen: " Obama Pressures Congress for Deal to Avert Automatic Cuts" President Barack Obama stepped up pressure on Congress to avert a "brutal" automatic $1.2 trillion in budget cuts set to kick in March 1, saying it would harm the economy and curtail vital services. Obama said that if the spending reductions take effect, the U.S. may lose hundreds of thousands of jobs, military readiness would be damaged, aid to state and local governments would shrink and the ability of the government to respond to natural disasters or other emergencies would be diminished. LINK

Bloomberg's Gopal Ratnam: " Pentagon Budget Stuck in Last Century as Warfare Changes" The Obama administration foresees 21st century wars fought with fewer boots on the ground and more drones in the air, while the Pentagon continues buying weapons from the last century. In his Feb. 12 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said America no longer needs to deploy tens of thousands of troops to occupy nations or meet the evolving threat from new extremist groups. Cyber-attacks are the "rapidly growing threat," he said. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Kathleen Hennessey and Christi Parsons: " Obama urges GOP against 'meat cleaver' spending cuts" President Obama on Tuesday pressured Republicans to prevent "meat cleaver" spending cuts from slashing crucial federal services, effectively starting the clock on the final scramble to stave off automatic reductions due to hit next week. Standing with uniformed police officers and firefighters at the White House, Obama issued grave warnings about the impact of the across-the-board cuts on such public servants - cuts he and Congress approved in 2011 as a mechanism to force compromise on debt and deficit reduction. LINK

The Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb: " Sequester just over a week away, but blame game has already begun" The fight between President Obama and congressional Republicans over the automatic spending cuts that start next week is shifting from one about stopping them to one about assigning blame if they happen. Obama on Tuesday surrounded himself with firefighters and other first responders at the White House, where he said Republicans would be at fault if the spending reductions take effect and cost the jobs of emergency personnel. The campaign-style event marked the beginning of what aides described as an intensifying push to pressure Congress to postpone the cuts - or to blame Republicans in Congress if it doesn't. LINK

Politico's Scott Wong: " Lawmakers protect home turf from sequester" In some lawmakers' minds, there's no stopping the sequester. So they're making a plea to the Obama administration: Just don't cut in my backyard. With the automatic budget cuts set to strike all aspects of the federal government March 1, members of the House and Senate are beseeching administration officials - both in private and during public hearings - to spare key programs and employment hubs back home. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Janet Hook and Collen McCain Nelson: " Rhetoric Turns Harsh as Budget Cuts Loom" With less than two weeks to go before the latest fiscal face-off, rhetoric heated up Tuesday as the political parties exchanged fire over whom to blame if looming spending cuts take effect.With Congress in recess this week, Republican and Democratic leaders sent lawmakers home armed with fact sheets about the $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts due to start March 1, and talking points on how to blame the other side. LINK


The New York Daily News' Dan Hirschhorn: " Missouri lawmaker wants to ban even PROPOSING new gun laws" The conservative backlash to the specter of new gun control measures has reached new heights, with a Missouri state lawmaker pushing to make it illegal for his colleagues to even propose gun control laws. State Rep. Mike Leara, a St. Louis Republican, introduced legislation Monday that would make it a felony for his fellow lawmakers to introduce any bill "that further restricts an individual's right to bear arms. LINK

SUPREME COURT The New York Times' Adam Liptak: " Supreme Court Takes Case on Overall Limit to Political Gifts" The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a challenge to federal campaign contribution limits, setting the stage for what may turn out to be the most important federal campaign finance case since the court's 2010 decision in Citizens United, which struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions. LINK

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