Biden to Rome - Vice President Joe Biden will lead the U.S. delegation to the Pope's inauguration mass, a White House official confirms to Mary Bruce.
No Budget, No Cry - Yesterday President Obama told George Stephanopoulos, basically, it's not a big deal if there isn't a budget. There's no way to get one that balances in 10 years, there may be no way to bridge the partisan gap, and there's no immediate debt crisis.
Transcript here - http://abcn.ws/YaBYij
That was the framing for his charm offensive trip up to Capitol Hill as the white smoke poured out of the chimney at the Vatican.
Jon Karl reports, first off, that the president got a standing ovation. There was also some levity: "The president informed the group that there was white smoke at the Vatican, and Rep. Billy Long of Missouri yelled out, 'Does that mean the White House is open for tours?' Obama responded: 'No, but the Vatican is.'" http://abcn.ws/Ybx2ts
But was there much in the way of headway? More Karl:
"Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma accused Obama of being too focused on defeating Republicans and asked, "Can we agree that we need to get to a balanced budget in 10 years?" The president responded by saying that domestic spending had already been cut deeply, and that balancing the budget too quickly would hurt the economy."
"Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, asked if Obama and Republicans agreed on some entitlement reforms (specifically, means-testing for Medicare and reducing annual cost-of-living increases for Social Security), why couldn't those things be done now? The president said he would agree to those reforms only if Republicans agreed to raise tax revenues by closing loopholes, because we have to ask 'everybody to sacrifice.'"
'Heard it Before' - Here's what Boehner said later: "'I heard what the president had to say. I've heard it before. I thought it was good for all of our members to hear it so they have an understanding of where he's coming from,' Boehner said. 'We got big problems in our country. They need to be addressed. We're willing to get them addressed. I hope the president continues his outreach.'" http://abcn.ws/15NbXLk (John Parkinson)
You can sort of feel what the White House is getting at with the charm offensive. They at least want to look like they're trying to work together.
Here's what Jay Carney said today:
"We understand when Washington is dysfunctional - as Washington was dysfunctional when Republicans made the decision to allow the sequester to be implemented - that the American people look at that and say, enough already. They want positive action. They want bipartisan cooperation. And when Washington is dysfunctional, everybody in Washington looks bad. "
13 Republicans You Won't See at CPAC Tomorrow - The conference, which begins on Thursday, is mainly a debutante ball for upcoming presidential hopefuls and GOP stars. The headliners always make news; this year, Mitt Romney will deliver a speech, as will Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Rand Paul. Others, like Sen. Ted Cruz, will participate in smaller events off the main stage. This year, some notable names have been left off the list. There's only so much space, and organizers couldn't invite everyone. http://abcn.ws/WmHmBu (Chris Good)
Compelling Testimony - Military Sexual Assault Victims Testify - Former Army Sgt. Rebekah Havrilla, who was raped by a fellow service member while serving in Afghanistan, recounted on Capitol Hill today how she sought guidance from an Army chaplain after she unexpectedly encountered her assailant a year after the assault, and the chaplain told her it was "God's will" that she was raped. http://abcn.ws/10H2h2c (Saenz)
State Department Advice to Spring Breakers - Yahoo!'s Olivier Knox has this fun little nugget: "In a triumph of optimism over experience, the department urges revelers to 'avoid underage and excessive alcohol consumption.'" '""Overdoing it" leads to the majority of arrests, accidents, violent crimes, rapes, and deaths suffered by American students on spring break,' it says. 'As in the U.S., disturbing the peace, lewd behavior, littering, driving under the influence, drinking on the street or on public transportation may all be considered criminal activities by local authorities-is it worth it?'" - http://yhoo.it/XJhh0x
State Dept Briefing on Syria/New Fuel Sanctions - At today's State Department briefing, spokesperson Victoria Nuland explained the new sanctions targeting Syrian fuel exports. She said the sanctions target the sale of Syrian fuel on the open market by state-owned companies so that it can continue to fund its military machine. She explained they are not directed at the import of heating oil, cooking oil, etc. by non-US entities into Syria so as not to hurt the Syrian people. (Luis Martinez)
Mitch McConnell Ad Targets Women, Judd Supporters Say He Has a Problem With Women Voters - There's nothing like getting a head start. His re-election contest may be 20 months away, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., possibly fearing an Ashley Judd candidacy, already has an ad targeted specifically at women voters that will run this week in his home state. http://abcn.ws/WaUs69 (Shushannah Walshe)
Obama: Gap Between Parties May Be 'Too Wide' for a Grand Bargain on Budget - In an exclusive interview with ABC News, President Obama spoke on a range of high-profile issues, including his outlook for the on-going budget negotiations, whether the Chinese government is behind the recent spate of cyberattacks against U.S. companies, North Korea's nuclear threats, same-sex marriage, and the conclave to select the next pope. - http://abcn.ws/ZJqOon (George Stephanopoulos)
47 Percent Filmer Will Come Out of Hiding - http://abcn.ws/10GQDo6
'Twilight,' 'Law and Order' Actresses Say 'No More' to Domestic Violence - A week after President Obama signed a bill reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, celebrities took to the Hill today, introducing a symbol they hope will advance the fight against domestic violence in the same way the pink ribbon did for breast cancer. http://abcn.ws/13TIykg
An Immigration Hawk Strikes a New Tone in the House - Fusion's Ted Hesson interviews Virginia Rep. Goodlatte (whose name you will hear again during the immigration debate) - "I have always talked about the immigration issue in the context of, 'We're a nation of immigrants,'" Goodlatte told ABC/Univision in an interview. "There's not a person that I speak to that can't go back a few generations or several generations and find someone in their family who came here lawfully to better their lives for themselves and their family. And yet we're also a nation of laws. "That's the challenge that we face right now," Goodlatte added. "Finding the way to promote both of those ideals." - http://abcn.ws/14WrdDf
Large Racial Gap Marks Trust on Immigration - Slightly more Americans trust Barack Obama than congressional Republicans to handle immigration, but with neither side garnering a majority and vast differences in preferences between whites and nonwhites in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. Americans overall divide by 45-39 percent between Obama and the Republicans in Congress in trust to handle the issue; the rest are undecided or trust neither side. Whites favor the GOP over Obama on immigration by 47-36 percent, while nonwhites (blacks, Hispanics and others) prefer Obama by a broad 71-16 percent. http://abcn.ws/10NzfBQ