By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's RICK KLEIN: What's Jeb's angle? That's the question swirling in the immigration-reform world after the surprising news that Jeb Bush now opposes a path to legalization for illegal immigrants currently in the United States. That puts the former governor in opposition to the bipartisan group - yes, the one that includes Sen. Marco Rubio - now working the issue in the Senate, to promising results so far. (It also puts Bush in opposition to himself, as recently as last summer.) It's possible the politics of immigration reform shifted too quickly to comply with book publishing schedules, and that Bush was trying to nudge his party forward but misread the movement that's already occurred. It's possible (though less likely) that this is an early 2016 move. But in the shorter term, it's hard to see how Bush's reentry into the immigration debate is going to help a bill forward. Conservatives in the both the Senate and especially the House now have all the pretext they need to oppose a deal that includes a pathway to citizenship. Strip that from a bill, and Democrats will be under tremendous pressure to scuttle the whole effort - something many Republicans believe President Obama secretly wants to happen anyway, for political gain.
ABC-UNIVISION's JORDAN FABIAN: For years, Jeb Bush led the charge in prodding his own party to adapt on immigration and improve its outreach to Hispanic and immigrant voters. Now allies of immigration reform, who once championed the ex-Florida governor as a model Republican, are left wondering what exactly happened to their old flame. Bush outlined his proposal in his new book, which provides legal status for undocumented immigrants. But it would specifically bar undocumented immigrants from seeking full citizenship unless they first return to their home countries. Some would have to wait a decade before re-entering the U.S. That places Bush well to the right of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" plan in the Senate, which is backed by his former protégé, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) Just last summer, Rubio was the one holding out on a path to citizenship, while Bush was speaking in favor of it. That's a remarkable shift. Speculation has abounded as to what sparked Bush's reversal, whether it's boosting book sales or jockeying to run for president in 2016. But the more important question is: What impact will Bush's switch have on the immigration reform effort in Congress? Bush's comments could provide political cover for conservative fence-sitters to oppose the current framework being debated (i.e. "Even Jeb Bush opposes a path to citizenship.") But some close to the debate on the Hill in both parties aren't so sure. One senior Democratic aide, who requested anonymity to speak freely, said: "The process here is going to keep moving. He is not a member of Congress." Even if Bush's comments don't derail the process, that won't reduce the shock generated by his shift. "Jeb was always pointed out as someone who really got it. I assume he still does," the Democratic aide said. "It is unfortunate and disappointing."
ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Ahead of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC next week, it's worth noting not all conservative politicians are on board with the group despite the tendency of presidential hopefuls to address the confab. At news that his friend and fellow Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was uninvited after taking on John Boehner for pulling the vote on Sandy funding at the eleventh hour, New York Rep. Pete King's response to the snub was "if the Republicans start catering to CPAC then we are just signing our own suicide pact, and the fact that CPAC is the first step to the presidential nomination we have to end that." King added, "Chris Christie is the most popular across the board governor we have. He's conservative, he's balanced the budget, he's done tough budget reforms, he's pro-life and yet he has a 74 percent approval rating in a Democratic state. The fact that he is not being invited to CPAC because he fought for the aid that he's entitled to to save New Jersey shows Republicans if they give in to CPAC they have a death wish and it shows we should stop taking groups like CPAC so seriously." The executive director of the American Conservative Union Gregg Keller said in response that King's comments meant he "apparently didn't get the memo that CPAC is a conservative event, not a Republican event. That's what the first C in CPAC stands for." http://abcn.ws/WwMuA7
WHAT WE'RE READING
"INSIDE THE NRSC'S COMEBACK STRATEGY," by Roll Call's Kyle Trygstad. "The National Republican Senatorial Committee plans to expand its press operation to train campaigns earlier in the cycle on how to better handle the kind of candidate missteps that have plagued its party's nominees. The goal? To avoid what's become known in GOP circles as 'Todd Akin moments.' 'The campaigns that jumped off message not only infected themselves, they infected all the rest of the campaigns,' said Rob Collins, the new NRSC executive director, in his first extensive interview on the job. 'So in this age of fractured but continuous, three-dimensional communication, we have to constantly plan for that and train for that and build for that.' … While candidate control is often beyond the NRSC's abilities, the committee will ultimately be judged on whether the party can avoid such troubles and pick up the six seats needed for a majority in 2014. So for the past two months, incoming NRSC leadership surveyed senators, candidates and operatives from 16 winning and losing campaigns from 2010 and 2012. As a result, the NRSC's new leadership discovered its party lacked talented communications professionals in the field able to capably run a campaign press operation that could handle such situations." http://bit.ly/XSHHZY
HOUSE MOVES TO AVOID GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: House Republicans unveiled a stopgap measure yesterday to fund the federal government through the rest of the fiscal year, a move intended to mollify a deeply divided Congress that has fought through three years of bruising budget battles, reports ABC's John R. 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 $1.047 trillion the previous fiscal year. "The legislation will avoid a government shutdown on March 27, prioritize DoD and Veterans programs, and allow the Pentagon some leeway to do its best with the funding it has," Rep. Hal Rogers, the chairman of the appropriations committee, wrote in a statement Monday. "This CR package is the right thing to do, and it's the right time to do it." The bill is expected to be on the floor for debate on Wednesday and a vote on Thursday. http://abcn.ws/ZYmVdS
CHRIS CHRISTIE DINGS OBAMA'S SEQUESTER EVE 'PHOTO OP.' So much for the bromance. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie yesterday blasted President Obama over what he said was a failure of leadership to prevent the sequester, notes ABC's Devin Dwyer. "Real leadership would get this fixed. You get everybody in the room and you fix it, and you don't let them leave until you fix it," Christie said at a press conference in Jersey City. "That's what real leadership is, not calling a meeting two hours before the thing's going to hit to have a photo-op in the driveway at the White House," he said of Friday's eleventh-hour meeting. "That's not real leadership." Christie, who has downplayed the much-hyped impact from the automatic spending cuts, also said he's dumbfounded that both sides have failed to tackle the root causes of the deficit and debt problem. "Seems to me it should be pretty easy to fix," he said. http://abcn.ws/10694Wx
NOTED - TRUE OR FALSE?: "I don't think we're going to see much impact from sequester in New Jersey at all," Gov. Christie said yesterday, according to The Bergen Record's Melissa Hayes. "Christie said there is no evidence the $85 billion in spending cuts, known as sequester, will have a big impact on New Jersey and he accused President Obama of overplaying the impacts of sequester 'in a major way.' He said the proof is that no planes have fallen out of the sky, despite cuts to airport security and air traffic controllers. 'I don't believe that sequestration at one cent on a dollar is going to have a grave effect on anybody and that anybody is really going to notice it all that much, except for some of the federal employees who are going to be furloughed,' Christie said." http://bit.ly/Xnx590
BIDEN: WE'RE NOT BLUFFING ON IRAN. Tough talk from Vice President Joe Biden yesterday, warning that the U.S. is determined to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, reports ABC's Dana Hughes. "Big nations can't bluff," said Biden at a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a group that lobbies in favor of Israel. "Presidents of the United States cannot bluff. And President Barack Obama is not bluffing." The Obama administration has employed a "dual track" strategy on Iran, continuing diplomatic negotiations while imposing harsh sanctions on the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Biden told AIPAC that Iran has a limited time for negotiations. "We're not looking for war. We're looking to and ready to negotiate peacefully, but all options, including military options, are on the table," he said to a cheering crowd. http://abcn.ws/WICKrW
WOMAN SAYS SHE WAS PAID TO LIE ABOUT CLAIM OF SEX WITH SENATOR. Allegations that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had sex with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic were a lie, according to a young woman who signed an affidavit saying she was paid to make the false claims in the week before last year's elections. ABC's Brian Ross and Rhonda Schwartz report that last fall, Republican operatives, who insisted on anonymity, helped arrange the woman's appearance, along with two additional women, in back-to-back, on-line interviews with ABC News and a conservative news website, the Daily Caller. The woman, who was not present when her affidavit was revealed at a press conference by an attorney in the Dominican Republic Monday, said her performance last year was arranged by a Dominican lawyer who had her rehearse statements and promised to pay her well. "I never slept with Mr. Menendez nor Mr. Melgin," the woman, Nexis de los Santos Santana, said in her sworn statement, adding she did not know the Senator or the doctor."So therefore I don't have any relationship of any kind with the aforementioned people." In her interview with ABC News before the election, she said her name was Michelle Rodriguez and that she had come forward because Menendez had paid her only $100 of the $500 she had expected. She now says she was coached to make the claim. http://abcn.ws/15uwkgl
@aseitzwald: "Where the hell was this Jeb Bush during the campaign?" Romney adviser tells @MarcACaputo http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/04/3266978/jeb-bush-no-citizenship-path-for.html …
@JesseFFerguson: Washington Post reports that "anxiety is rising among House Republicans" about new Ryan budget and Medicare. http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/republican-goal-to-balance-budget-could-mean-deep-cuts-to-health-programs/2013/03/04/94632f92-840b-11e2-9d71-f0feafdd1394_story.html?hpid=z1 …
@CoryBooker: "The most important thing to remember is this: To be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become." W.E.B. Du Bois