By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's RICK KLEIN: If there's nothing stirring, at least everyone will leave having mixed it up a bit. But President Obama is sure acting like he thinks there's a window here for something big on the budget. With meetings resuming today on the Hill, the president may wind up spending more direct time with rank-and-file members of Congress in this two-week span than he did over his first four years in office. The release of competing budget plans is an unlikely time for compromise to begin; Senate Democrats want higher taxes on the rich, and House Republicans want to repeal Obamacare, just for starters. But at least they're putting pen to paper, and at last they're having conversations.
ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ: The Senate Judiciary Committee resumes its consideration of three gun measures Tuesday: the assault weapons ban, universal background checks, and a bill to enhance safety in schools. But while a new ABC News-Washington Post poll out today shows 91 percent of the public favor universal background checks and 57 percent support the assault weapons ban, the two measures are expected to receive major protest from Republicans on the committee. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is forced to introduce his bill without any Republicans signed on board after talks faltered last week when Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said he could not sign onto the measure. While the bill might make its way out of committee this week, it might fail in the full Senate without the support of Republicans and moderate Democrats.
ABC's DEVIN DWYER: Somewhere yesterday anti-Nanny State crusader Sarah Palin let out an audible cheer. "Victory in NYC for liberty-loving soda drinkers," Palin tweeted, after a state court blocked the city's ban on super-sized sugary drinks. Judge Milton Tingling gave reason to celebrate, blasting the restrictions as "arbitrary and capricious" and warning government overreach could be "more troubling than the sugar-sweetened beverages" themselves. But the smack down isn't silencing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who told David Letterman: sugar-fueled "obesity is going to bankrupt this country." He's all for a ban to help people make the right decisions… just so long as it doesn't touch his favorite snack: "As long as you don't ban Cheese Its. Cheese Its are okay. That's my addiction," he said.
ABC's TOM SHINE: Today's New York Times editorial page says reporter Aaron Glantz of the Center for Investigative Reporting found a photo in an inspector general's report from last August that showed a V.A. office in Winston-Salem, N.C. "which was so deluged with claim folders that they appeared to have the potential to compromise the integrity of the building." Glantz says the V.A. has spent four years and $537 million on a new computer system yet 97% of V.A. claims are still filed on paper. The editorial says the average wait for a veteran filing disability claims is 273 days and in the big cities like New York the wait can be as long as 642 days. The backlogged claims now total 900,000 and the paper says they will reach a million by the end of this month.
VIDEO OF THE DAY
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO DICK CHENEY. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has a reputation for secrecy, but for a new documentary coming out this Friday, he gave an unprecedented level of access to filmmaker RJ Cutler. The documentary, "The World According to Dick Cheney," chronicles Cheney's four-decade-long career. In an interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl, Cutler says he's not sure what ultimately convinced the former vice president to agree to the documentary, but it seems that he may have been partially convinced by the planned name for the documentary. "What I offered him was the opportunity to be the central driving voice of a film told his story and that was my goal, to put his voice at the center of the film," Cutler tells Politics Confidential. "I told him that I was planning to call the documentary The World According to Dick Cheney, and he liked that." WATCH: http://yhoo.it/ZiepFK
OBAMA HEADS TO THE HILL IN SEARCH OF A DEAL. President Obama kicks off three days of rare meetings on Capitol Hill today as he attempts to convince Congress to reach a deal to rein in the nation's deficit, ABC's Mary Bruce reports. Obama will make the trip up Pennsylvania Avenue this afternoon for a meeting with the Senate Democratic caucus. Over the course of this week, the president will woo Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate as he tries to cut a deal. While in the past, the president has focused on bringing his deficit reduction message directly to the American people, he is changing tactics and engaging rank-and-file lawmakers instead. After Congress and the White House failed to reach a deal to avert $85 billion in across-the-board sequester cuts, and just months after the bitter battle over the "fiscal cliff," the president is hoping to capitalize on a brief lull before the next fiscal deadline. http://abcn.ws/10A6AfE
SOME GUN MEASURES BROADLY BACKED… While Senate negotiators struggle for a deal on mandatory background checks at gun shows, a new ABC News-Washington Post poll out today finds vast public support for the measure, as well as for a committee-approved step to make illegal gun sales a federal crime. ABC Pollster Gary Langer notes that a smaller majority, 57 percent, also continues to favor banning assault weapons, a measure said to be less likely to prevail in Congress. Support has declined slightly for a fourth proposal, the National Rifle Association's suggestion to place armed guards in public schools. http://abcn.ws/W52cqc
… BUT THE POLITICS SHOW AN EVEN SPLIT. With a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled for today, this ABC News-Washington Post poll also shows a sharp political divide on gun control: Americans split evenly, 42-41 percent, on whom they trust more to handle the issue, Barack Obama, who's been pushing such measures, or the Republicans in Congress, many of whom have been resisting them. That result reflects the crosscurrents in attitudes on gun control. On one hand the public supports "stricter gun control laws in this country" in general by a fairly narrow 52 to 45 percent, essentially unchanged recently and down from its levels in most of the previous two decades. But support is higher on some specifics; a nearly unanimous 91 percent favor mandatory background checks on gun show sales, and 82 percent support making illegal gun sales a federal crime. Notably, even among opponents of stricter gun control in general, 85 and 73 percent, respectively, support these measures. http://abcn.ws/W52cqc
WHO'S GOT THE GUNS? Forty-two percent of adults in this survey, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, report that they or someone in their house owns a gun, essentially steady in ABC-Post polls since 1999. Gun ownership is far more prevalent among Republicans, 62 percent, dropping to 42 percent among independents and 26 percent among Democrats. It's more than twice as common among conservatives as among liberals, and nearly doubly common in rural compared with urban areas. Attitudinal differences follow those patterns. People in gun-owning households prefer the Republicans in Congress over Obama to handle gun control by 56-26 percent; those in non-gun homes prefer Obama by almost an identical margin, 58-26 percent. Compared with non-owners, people in gun households are 37 percentage points more apt to oppose gun control in general and 23 points more likely to oppose banning assault weapons. More from the poll: http://abcn.ws/W52cqc
WILL THOMAS PEREZ BE THE ONLY LATINO IN OBAMA'S CABINET? President Barack Obama is expected to tap Thomas Perez, the head of the Department of Justice's civil rights division, to serve as his next labor secretary. ABC-Univision's Jordan Fabian notes that the appointment would make Perez the only Latino in the president's second-term cabinet. Multiple media reports have indicated that Perez is Obama's likely pick to become the next head of the Department of Labor. Perez, 51, previously served as Maryland's labor secretary between 2007 and 2009 before joining the U.S. Justice Department. The White House declined to comment on these reports. If selected and confirmed by the Senate, Perez would replace former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, who resigned from the administration in January. Another Latino cabinet official, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, is expected to leave his position by the end of this month. Ernest Moniz, Obama's nominee for energy secretary, is the grandson of Portugese immigrants from the Azores islands. http://abcn.ws/10E9zr3
TODAY IN ASHLEY JUDD SPECULATION. Top national Democrats say it doesn't matter if Ashley Judd runs for Senate in Kentucky. Even without her Hollywood star and fundraising capability, they say taking out the Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is their "top priority," reports ABC's Shushannah Walshe. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Executive Director Guy Cecil said Monday that Judd is one of "a handful of quality candidates in Kentucky" and "there's actually a deep bench." Cecil wouldn't discuss the committee's recruitment strategy on a conference call with reporters, but he did mention Judd as well as Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes as possible candidates. "Quality candidates would include folks like the secretary of state and folks like Ashley Judd," Cecil said, calling McConnell "one of the most unpopular senators in the country." http://abcn.ws/10xCklC
GOP ON JUDD: As for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, they say their "first priority" is the "protection and retention of Republican Senators," but spokesman Brad Dayspring also pointed out the many issues Republicans will pounce on (or already have pounced on) if Ashley Judd does take on the senate minority leader. "It's unclear whether or not the Democrats will have a candidate at this point," Dayspring said in a statement to ABC News. "It's difficult to envision how a fading Hollywood star, who currently lives in Tennessee, believes that having children is 'unconscionable,' and that coal is 'unacceptable,' would be able to relate to folks in Kentucky, so it's no surprise the DSCC is having second (if not third) thoughts." http://abcn.ws/10xCklC
IS POLITICS KILLING THE HARLEM SHAKE? ABC's Chris Good tackles some important questions: Will politics kill the Harlem Shake? Or will the Harlem Shake help politics finally to transform itself into a dance-party venue, which is what politics always should have been? One problem with cool things is that, eventually, they catch on too widely, everyone starts copying them, and suddenly they're not so cool anymore. The Harlem Shake is one of those things; it's a super-inclusive, funtastic, deep-bass-driven party time - but at some point, its cachet could reach a limit. Maybe it won't, but the possibility looms. Politicians might not be helping matters. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio started it all by asking via Twitter who, in the U.S. Senate, would be likeliest to appear in a Harlem Shake video. Last week, the campaign staff of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell - one of America's most stoic legislators in public persona - decided to Harlem Shake things up and recorded a video at Churchill Downs. A day earlier, the Orlando Sentinel spied some Florida State senators recording a Harlem Shake video at the state capitol in Tallahassee. For Shake-lovers, this could be worrisome: Are partiers worldwide prepared to share the Shake with such a superficially stodgy province, a GOP Senate campaign and a bunch of old guys in the Florida legislature? http://abcn.ws/Y6HA0e
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX:
-SEN. SHAHEEN ENCOURAGED BY CHUCK HAGEL. From a press release from U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who along with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., wrote to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel last week to express concerns about overturning the sexual assault conviction of Lieutenant Colonel James Wilkerson: "I was encouraged to receive a prompt response from Secretary Hagel acknowledging the magnitude of this case and reaffirming his commitment to ending sexual assault in our armed forces," Shaheen said in a statement yesterday. "There is much work to be done in the fight against sexual abuse, and this case sets a potentially dangerous precedent that cases of sexual assault may not receive the attention they deserve. Victims must know they will receive support regardless of the circumstances. If the message we send to survivors is that their cases will be disregarded, fewer will report the crimes committed against them and the epidemic of sexual assault will persist and multiply."
@jimacostacnn: Charm offensive cont'd: AZ Sen Flake's office confirms president called him yesterday to talk immigration reform
@jonward11: Thing that jumped out in Ryan's wsj oped: spending will increase by 3.4 percent a yr under his budget http://m.us.wsj.com/articles/a/SB10001424127887323826704578353902612840488?mg=reno64-wsj …
@RealClearScott: ACU chairman Al Cardenas on Trump CPAC blowback: "We even invited a select number of those with whom we disagree." http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/03/12/trump_invite_governor_snubs_pose_risk_for_cpac_117389.html …