By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Say this about the Gang of Eight: They're getting used to taking fire - and not only from outside the gang. The immigration bill was always going to follow a tortuous path in the Senate. But the extent to which the gang itself seems split - mostly, though not entirely, between Sen. Marco Rubio and his colleagues - doesn't bode well for the prospects of the bill's forward progress. And Rubio himself is hearing it from conservative critics, with Ann Coulter calling him the "Jack Kevorkian of the Republican Party," and Erick Erickson asking, "Is he being played or is he playing us?" Boxes (fences?) are being constructed that will be hard to escape, as Senate debate moves ahead. These challenges would have come up anyway in the House. But the idea of a strong, united Senate vote pressuring the House looks less likely by the very long day.
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: On the eve of the six-month anniversary of the Newtown massacre, any serious talk of gun legislation has all but fizzled on Capitol Hill. The families say they won't give up, but the path forward seems unlikely at best - at least for now. Sen. Joe Manchin, the Democratic architect of the plan to expand background checks, is gently suggesting that Mayor Bloomberg would be better off spending money trying to correct the misimpressions in the bill rather than trying to punish the Democrats who voted against the measure.
ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ: As Newtown parents met with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., just two days before the six month anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, they had one simple message for lawmakers: "We're not going away." The parents who lost their young children said these have been the most painful six months of their lives and vowed to advocate for tougher gun laws to ensure other families do not feel a pain similar to theirs. But as the Newtown families made their presence known on Capitol Hill, so did the National Rifle Association, releasing a new ad targeting one of their own members - Sen. Joe Manchin. The NRA is hitting the airwaves in West Virginia with a $100,000 ad buy targeting the senator they once heaped praise on. The ad, which features footage of Manchin's 2010 campaign ad in which he shoots a cap-and-trade-bill, accuses the senator of abandoning his commitment to the second amendment and ties Manchin to President Obama and Michael Bloomberg. "Now Manchin is working with President Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Concerned? You should be," a narrator in the ad says.
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX
-ROBERT GIBBS, BEN LABOLT FORM NEW AGENCY. Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and former Obama campaign national press secretary Ben LaBolt announced today that they are joining New Partners Consulting and launching strategic communications firm called The Incite Agency. According to a release, "The Incite Agency will offer its clients services such as message and brand development, strategy and planning, media relations, crisis communications and social and digital engagement. Incite's approach will build on the lessons Gibbs and LaBolt have learned managing complex communications challenges in today's news environment, where a tweet can be just as impactful as a news story." Gibbs served as White House Press Secretary from 2009-2011. And before joining the Obama campaign, LaBolt worked in the White House and also served as Communications Director for Rahm Emanuel's mayoral campaign in Chicago.
-DEMOCRATS ALLEGE AN 'AKIN-LIKE' GOP 'ASSAULT ON WOMEN'S HEALTH CARE'. In a new memo out today from the Democratic National Committee's National Women's Outreach Director, Democrats assert that "when it comes to women's health, the Grand Old Party is the just the same old extreme party it's always been." The outreach director, Simone Ward, wrote: "Yesterday, Republicans from Washington, DC to Madison, WI and Austin, TX began waging a new war on women's health by acting on additional unnecessary and insulting state and federal legislation that further restricts a woman's ability to make the health care choices that are right for her. This, just weeks after the GOP's infamous 'autopsy' report acknowledged the Republican Party's problems with women and pledged to change. Just yesterday, the GOP-led House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that if enacted would ban all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for cases of rape, incest or when the mother's health is at risk." Read the full memo: http://bit.ly/19sDB4K And the Democratic super PAC, American Bridge, is re-launching the website, ItsNotJustAkin.com. According to the group: "After originally launching the site ahead of last year's GOP convention, we're updating it with 22 new Republicans (for a total of 42) because it's clear that the War on Women not only hasn't gone away, but is as active as ever." http://itsnotjustakin.com/
-MARTIN O'MALLEY ENDORSES CORY BOOKER. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a potential 2016 Democratic presidential contender, officially endorsed Newark Mayor Cory Booker in his U.S. Senate bid. "I enthusiastically endorse Cory Booker to be the next U.S. Senator from New Jersey. Mayor Booker is a results-oriented leader who will bring the type of commonsense leadership to the U.S. Senate that Washington needs right now. … We need more entrepreneurial, collaborative, results-driven leaders like Cory Booker in the U.S. Senate, not more politics as usual. I plan to work hard to get him elected."
U.S. FEARS NSA LEAKER WILL DEFECT: U.S. intelligence on the trail of rogue contractor Edward Snowden are now treating the NSA leak case as a possible foreign espionage matter, raising fears that the 29-year old computer whiz may be attempting to defect to China with a trove of America's most sensitive secrets, ABC's BRIAN ROSS and JAMES GORDON MEEK report. "I think there is a real concern about that," a senior U.S. official familiar with the hunt for Snowden told ABC News on Thursday. In an interview Wednesday with Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, Snowden said his country "had been hacking into computers in Hong Kong and [in China] for years." Snowden's remarks alarmed intelligence officials, who considered those statements as much of a betrayal as his alleged leaking of highly classified files to two newspapers last week.
ON THE AGENDA: President Obama meets with John Dingell at the White House this morning, as Congress prepares to celebrate him as its longest-serving member, ABC's MARY BRUCE notes. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden will be on Capitol Hill this afternoon for a reception honoring Dingell. In the evening, the president speaks at a LGBT Pride Month celebration at the White House.
SENATE PANEL REJECTS GILLIBRAND'S SEXUAL ASSAULT PROPOSAL . The Senate Armed Services Committee has voted against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's bill that would have taken military commanders out of the process of reviewing sexual assault cases, ABC's LUIS MARTINEZ reports. Instead, the committee voted for an alternative proposal by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., calling for automatic reviews of a commander's decision not to prosecute a sexual assault case. Last week, the Joint Chiefs of Staff came out against the proposal by Gillibrand, D-N.Y., saying it would undermine good order and discipline. Earlier Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the Senate Budget Committee that he was opposed to the legislation. Hagel said he is a firm believer in accountability and, "if you don't hold people accountable then you're not going to fix the problem. You can pass all the laws you want and that isn't going to work." But even some of the most outspoken critics of sexual assault in the military said they could not vote for Gillibrand's legislation. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a former prosecutor, said she respected Gililbrand "with all of my heart" and wanted to do away with sexual assault in the military but she said she couldn't vote for Gillibrand's bill. http://abcn.ws/12nCb8E
REP. FRANKS CLARIFIES RAPE COMMENT. Rep. Trent Franks, who has come under fire for comments he made during a committee markup on his bill to ban all abortions after 20 weeks without exception, worked to clarify that his point, however jumbled, was that "pregnancies from rape that result in abortion after the sixth month are very rare." ABC's JOHN PARKINSON reports that during the committee markup yesterday, Franks, R-Ariz., said, "The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low." Democrats quickly pounced on the comments. "Keep in mind the comments taken completely out of context," Franks told three reporters in the Speaker's Lobby this evening during votes. "This had nothing to do with the way that they tried to portray it. This bill doesn't do anything to protect the unborn child until they enter the sixth month. By then all questions related to rape or incest are pretty much long since dealt with." Franks blamed Democrats for distorting his comment for their political advantage, complaining that Democrats will "talk about anything except six-month babies being tortuously murdered." http://abcn.ws/11bAXMm
MASSACHUSETTS GOP CANDIDATE CALLS FRANKS A 'MORON.' Gabriel Gomez, the Republican candidate for the open Massachusetts Senate seat, has harsh words for "moron" (his words) Republican Rep. Trent Franks, who said that the rate of pregnancies resulting from rape is "very low," ABC's ABBY PHILLIP writes. "I think that he's a moron and he proves that stupid has no specific political affiliation," Gomez told ABC News of his fellow Republican. Gomez said he will not support the bill Franks has sponsored, which proposes a national ban on abortions after 20 weeks. Gomez said he is personally anti-abortion, and would not "change any laws" or make it more difficult for women to get abortions. "I have no idea what goes into the mind of a moron like that," he added. "These kinds of comments only come from a moron and they shouldn't be tolerated one bit." http://abcn.ws/1bwDYrC
ACTIVIST WHO SECRETLY RECORDED MITCH MCCONNELL STILL IN LIMBO. It has been nearly two weeks since a liberal activist and freelance journalist named Curtis Morrison publicly admitted to secretly recording Sen. Mitch McConnell earlier this year. But federal authorities have yet to say whether he is being prosecuted, AB C's MICHAEL FALCONE, JON KARL and JACK DATE report. "Earlier this year, I secretly made an audio recording of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the most powerful Republican on the planet, at his campaign headquarters in Kentucky," Morrison wrote in a May 31 Salon.com article. "The released portion of the recording clocks in at less than 12 minutes, but those few minutes changed my life." Morrison said he leaked the recording to Mother Jones, which published them in April. Despite being questioned by the FBI two months ago, Morrison said in an interview with ABC News on Wednesday that he had no idea when he might be charged with a crime. "I'm not a person that can predict what the Department of Justice is going to do," he said. The FBI declined to comment, as did the McConnell campaign. http://abcn.ws/13YessJ
WHAT WE'RE READING
- " BOEHNER SINGS KATE UPTON HIS BIRTHDAY SONG," by the National Journal's Chris Frates. "Supermodel Kate Upton got a birthday surprise from House Speaker John Boehner when he serenaded her with his trademark birthday song. So how did the House speaker and a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model end up in the same room? Funny story. Turns out a couple members of his leadership team, including Rep. Fred Upton, were in an elevator at the New York City Mandarin Oriental on their way to a fundraiser when Upton starting talking. Suddenly, a young woman turned around asking, 'Uncle Fred?' Turns out the younger Upton lives in the hotel's residences and recognized her uncle's voice, a source familiar with the exchange said. Kate Upton joined her uncle and his co-workers at their fundraiser for about an hour and that's where Boehner sang his famous ditty. 'This is your birthday song. It doesn't last too long. Hey.'" http://bit.ly/11WXRT3
-" WHAT'S REALLY AT STAKE IN THE FIGHT OVER STUDENT LOAN REFORM?" a Roll Call Op-Ed by former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. "The consequences of the massive amounts of debt we're asking students to take on don't end at dreams deferred. A recent report from the New York Federal Reserve found that people with student loan debt were less likely to be homeowners before the age of 30 and were less likely to purchase a vehicle than previous generations. Student loan debt, which has tripled since 2004, is even deterring many of the 'first global' generation from getting married and having children. Moreover, 41 percent of those struggling with student debt say that loan payments have forced them to postpone contributions to retirement accounts. Today's student debt loads are a threat to the already precarious retirement security of Americans for decades to come. … Yet, on July 1, this bad situation is set to get even worse. If Congress fails to act, federal student loan rates will double, simultaneously increasing the burden on young people and continuing to hamper the future growth of our economy." http://bit.ly/1byekme
@DonSeymour: My look at the triple threat facing young Americans: rising student loan costs, higher premiums, & fewer jobs: http://www.speaker.gov/general/triple-threat-young-americans-rising-student-loans-higher-premiums-fewer-
@jonathanweisman: Key on Guns Round 2: can Ayotte, Begich, Heitkamp find bckgrd check they can accept & that gun control groups believe is worth the fight?
@HotlineJosh: My latest column: Republicans actively disregarding the RNC's recommendations from March http://www.nationaljournal.com/columns/against-the-grain/three-signs-republicans-haven-t-learned-any-lessons-from-2012-20130613 …