By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Sen. Rand Paul did the improbable with his marathon filibuster: He got the Senate, which likes to call itself the world's greatest deliberative body, to actually deliberate. Not in the Hollywood sense of a speech dramatically convincing lawmakers to change their minds. Maybe (probably?) not in actually changing policy, not with John Brennan still looking like he's on track for confirmation, and the administration's drone policies untouched. But Paul found a way to break through the modern media wackiness by talking and not stopping for a long while. In the process, he didn't do what most "filibusters" these days usually do - stop something from happening. Instead, he started a conversation, about anti-terrorism policies and civil liberties. Surely that's worth munching on Milky Ways for.
ABC's Z. BYRON WOLF: John Brennan is still likely to be CIA director. But Rand Paul's filibuster worked if you consider his audience was the GOP. When Mitch McConnell agreed to join in it put the establishment Kentucky leader on the same page as the improbably Tea Party senator. This does not mean that McConnell suddenly holds Paul's views on drones and targeted killing and the war on terror. And it is not clear if there will be enough votes to block Brennan if Democrats try to end debate tomorrow. But it does indicate that Paul's effort pierced through and establishment Republicans now joining with Paul may be feeling some heat on this from the Tea Party conservatives. (McConnell is up for reelection, don't forget). McConnell's support also upends the conventional party alignments in the war on terror since 2001. They have been increasingly strained during President Obama's presidency and escalation of the drone war and with the election of so many Republicans who never served under the last administration. But imagine if George W. Bush's Attorney General had, like Eric Holder, argued the government could kill a U.S. Senator in the U.S. You can easily envision a mirror image political argument with Democrats and Rand Paul mounting a filibuster.
ABC's TOM SHINE: Picture it: 26 people on bikes with a direct, simple message: "Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines." Organized by Newtown resident Monte Frank, a group called Team 26 will bike past Sandy Hook Elementary on Sunday with a police escort and then head to Washington, D.C. Baltimore Sun reporter Dan Rodricks reports that on the way they will stop in a small town in New Jersey to visit a parent of a victim of Virginia Tech, then go to Baltimore for a meeting with the mayor before heading to the nation's capitol on Tuesday. New York epidemiologist Megan Cea is joining the ride and Rodricks said she wrote this on her Facebook page: "I ride because I refuse to live in a world where the right to own an assault weapon trumps the rights of all Americans to go to the movies, walk through their neighborhoods, and send their children to school without fear they will never return home." This morning the Senate Judiciary Committee starts, what is expected to be many days of heated debate and numerous votes on several gun bills.
2016 LIKE IT'S TODAY: A new Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters finds that "Hillary Clinton would defeat three potential Republican presidential candidates if the 2016 presidential election were held today, with New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie second in a field of three Democrats and three Republicans … Vice President Joseph Biden and New York's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo would not fare nearly as well, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds. Former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State Clinton wins easily against any of the Republicans, topping Christie 45 - 37 percent; leading Rubio 50 - 34 percent and besting Ryan 50 - 38 percent." More from the poll: http://bit.ly/ZcRY6G
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX
" WHY WE'RE RAISING MONEY TO SUPPORT OBAMA AGENDA," a CNN Op-Ed by former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, the chairman of Organizing for Action. "There has been some confusion about what Organizing for Action is and is not. Organizing for Action is an issue advocacy group, not an electoral one. We'll mobilize to support the president's agenda, but we won't do so on behalf of political candidates. The president has always believed that special interests have undue influence over the policymaking process, and the mission of this organization is to rebalance the power structure.While Organizing for Action is a nonprofit social welfare organization that faces a lower disclosure threshold than a political campaign, we believe in being open and transparent. That's why every donor who gives $250 or more to this organization will be disclosed on the website with the exact amount they give on a quarterly basis. We have decided not to accept contributions from corporations, federal lobbyists or foreign donors." http://bit.ly/WVH1IF
WHITE HOUSE LUNCH BREAK: A senior administration official tells ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl that President Obama has invited Wisconsin Congressman and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan to lunch today at the White House. Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, will also be at the lunch. Obama delivers remarks and signs the Violence Against Women Act at the Interior Department this afternoon. He will be joined by advocates and members of Congress, as well as Vice President Joe Biden.
NORTH KOREA'S LATEST NUKE THREAT. An Associated Press bulletin from Seoul, South Korea reports: "North Korea is vowing a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States. The harsh rhetoric Thursday comes hours ahead of a vote by U.N. diplomats on whether to level new sanctions against Pyongyang for its recent nuclear test. An unidentified spokesman for Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry said the North will exercise its right for 'pre-emptive nuclear strikes on the headquarters of the aggressors' because Washington is pushing to start a nuclear war against the North."
WHITE HOUSE RESPONSE: On "Good Morning America" this morning ABC's Jonathan Karl read a quote from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: "Provocative rhetoric and actions won't bring North Korea closer to an end to sanctions, only compliance with its international obligations under the UN Security Council resolutions will." WATCH: http://abcn.ws/XUOe9z
OBAMA, GOP SENATORS BREAK BREAD. President Obama and Republican senators had a "good exchange of ideas" last night during their roughly two-hour-long dinner at the posh Jefferson Hotel, just blocks from the White House, a senior administration official told ABC's Mary Bruce and Alexandra Dukakis. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., gave the meeting a thumbs up as he exited the hotel, saying it was "just fine," "great" and "wonderful." McCain told reporters gathered across the street that it was a "very enjoyable evening," but declined to discuss specifics. Obama invited 12 GOP senators to break bread as part of a larger effort to jump start budget negotiations and try to cut a deal with rank-and-file Republicans. "The president greatly enjoyed the dinner," the administration official said. But did they make any progress? "We'll see," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told reporters. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., described it as a "good, constructive conversation." http://abcn.ws/12vxU3A
WHO DINED? Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.; Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind.; Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.; Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb.; Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.; Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.; and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
WHO PAID? The extremely rare meeting has also fostered a new point of contention: Who picked up the tab? According to the White House, President Obama paid for the meal out of his own pocket. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., however, claimed the bill was split.
KIDS TELL WASHINGTON: 'THE WHITE HOUSE IS OUR HOUSE! PLEASE LET US VISIT!' Hundreds of school kids who have dreamed of visiting the White House on their spring break are now dealing with disappointment. Their plans have been dashed, notes ABC's Devin Dwyer. Less than 24 hours after the Obama administration canceled all White House tours indefinitely, parents and children from across the country have been speaking out about their frustration with Washington's sequester. Their message to lawmakers? "The White House is our house! Please let us visit!" chanted a group of a dozen 6 th graders from Waverly, Iowa, on a call with ABC News' Jonathan Karl. The group from St. Paul's Lutheran School, just outside Cedar Falls, received the news of their canceled tour from Rep. Bruce Bailey's office earlier today. They are headed for Washington a week from Friday, after months of fundraising and building excitement. That sentiment was shared by kids, parents and would-be chaperones all across the country in interviews with ABC News. http://abcn.ws/13HrJJv
THE MOST CONVOLUTED SEQUESTER CONTROVERSY KNOWN TO MAN? In perhaps the most convoluted back-and-forth yet regarding whether the Obama administration has overstated the effects of automatic spending cuts, the Department of Agriculture says an employee's email has been misinterpreted and taken out of context by congressional Republicans and news reporters. The story began with a leaked email which seemed to indicate USDA had told one of its workers to make the sequester cuts as painful as promised, dismissing his request for leeway to spread the cuts out and avoid furloughing his employees. Republican Reps. Tim Griffith and Kristi Noem reportedly circulated the email, which came from a USDA field worker named Charlie Brown, who works for the Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in Raleigh, N.C. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was asked about it Monday before the House Agriculture Committee. USDA released a statement that "Several reports yesterday misrepresented a USDA effort to explain the impacts of budget cuts to an employee in USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)" and explaining the saga in detail. An agency official told USDA's side of the story in a conversation with ABC News' Chris Good on Wednesday. An official said that USDA not only granted the requested spending leeway, it had already planned to avoid the furloughs. Read more: http://abcn.ws/14vk9xh
FIVE QUESTIONS FOR FORMER ROMNEY ADVISER STUART STEVENS. This week we asked Mitt Romney 2012 campaign senior adviser Stuart Stevens to answer five questions about the recent presidential campaign, Twitter and what lies ahead for him. Here's an excerpt of the questions and answers, courtesy of ABC's Ben Bell. ABC: "Regarding this past presidential election, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wrote that you are 'indifferent to the facts' and have 'no sense of responsibility for a presidential campaign' that you 'dominated.' He also criticized Mitt Romney's endorsement of 'self-deportation' as a way to deal with illegal immigrants in the United States. What is your response to Gingrich and was it a mistake for Mitt Romney to embrace "self-deportation?" STUART STEVENS: "I have nothing but respect for Speaker Gingrich and his views on any subject. As for taking responsibility, I have said repeatedly that I take full responsibility for any campaign mistakes or missteps. The subject of immigration was debated in the primary and there is nothing to be gained revisiting these discussions. "Self-deportation" was a description of voluntary actions in contrast to forced federal deportation. I would leave it to those who are protesting the president's escalation of federal deportations to decide if they are happy with the status quo of forced deportation and if they believe the president's policies are working." Read the full Q&A: http://abcn.ws/Zdmg9q
HOUSE PASSES SIX-MONTH STOPGAP BILL TO FUND GOVERNMENT. The House voted yesterday to pass the continuing resolution and fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year, making a shutdown later this month doubtful, reports ABC's John Parkinson. The continuing resolution, known around Washington as a CR, is subject to sequestration levels in its entirety, setting the top-line overall rate of spending at $982 billion, down from $1.043 trillion the previous fiscal year. The vote on the CR passed 267-151 with mostly Republican votes, although once it became clear the bill would pass 53 Democrats decided to join the majority. Fourteen Republicans and 151 Democrats opposed the bill. http://abcn.ws/13FWCxA
@PeterBeinart: why Rand Paul's Brennan filibuster is everything the GOP's Hagel filibuster was not http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/03/07/rand-paul-is-giving-us-a-filibuster-tutorial-so-let-s-pay-attention.html …
@TomBevanRCP: @RealClearScott: 2016 Democratic Field May Not Wait for Clinton http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/03/07/2016_democratic_field_may_not_wait_for_clinton_117322.html#.UTiSkqGvkk4.twitter …