By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- OBAMA HONORS CRITICALLY ILL MANDELA: At a press conference today in Senegal, President Obama spoke about Nelson Mandela as “my personal hero” and somebody who inspired him to become politically active, ABC’s JONATHAN KARL, MARY BRUCE and STEPHANIE SMITH report. Obama recalled that his very first political speech came at an anti-apartheid rally at Occidental College when he was 19 years old (Obama writes about this in his book, “Dreams from My Father”). “If and when he passes from this place,” Obama said. “His legacy will be one that lingers on.” Mandela, Obama said, “gave me a sense of what is possible in the world when righteous people of good will work together on behalf of a larger cause.” Obama is currently scheduled to travel to South Africa tomorrow. Later today President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama tour Goree Island. In the evening, they attend an official dinner with President Sall of Senegal at the Presidential Palace. http://abcn.ws/11PzsA4
- A DAY OF BICKERING OVER IMMIGRATION: Tempers flared in the Senate yesterday as some Republicans pressed for the consideration of more immigration amendments after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid proposed votes on 32 amendments today, ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ reports. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, took to the Senate floor Wednesday to call for a separate vote on his amendment, which aims to toughen requirements in the E-Verify program. “This is about making the underlying bill work. I do not believe that it will work if we do not have strong workplace verification, simply,” Portman said. Reid, D-Nev., grew heated over Portman’s vote proposal, pointing out that the Ohio senator was offered the opportunity to include his plan in the Hoeven-Corker agreement. “I’ve been very patient today, but I’ve just about had it on this,” Reid yelled on the Senate floor. “This senator from Ohio was offered to put this in the bill. He turned it down and we’re spending all this time here because he’s been aggrieved in some way? He had the opportunity to put this amendment in the bill as it’s offered. “Enough of this!” Reid said. More where that came from: http://abcn.ws/17hMvP3
- HOW THE VOTE WILL WORK: The Senate’s final vote on the immigration reform bill could come as early as today, but perhaps tomorrow. Here’s how the process is likely to work: At 11:30 a.m. Eastern, there will be a series of key votes: A vote on the substitute amendment to the immigration bill and then a vote to invoke cloture on the full immigration bill. If cloture is invoked, the 30-hour clock will run as if cloture had been invoked at 7:00 a.m., setting an expiration time of 1:00 pm Friday, when the final vote would be conducted. But an agreement could be reached to return some of the cloture time and a final vote on the full bill could come as early as Thursday afternoon. Stay tuned.
ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: The immigration vote in the Senate, whether it comes today or tomorrow, will be a significant and sweeping moment — but only another step in a long and uncertain road. The Senate had hoped that passing a bill by a large margin would press the House into action. The opposite may be true, with the House feeling emboldened and newly relevant in putting the brakes on what many conservatives see as a costly and rushed bill. Supporters of immigration reform have recruited more senators to back the legislation, but it’s clear opinions among many conservatives outside the Senate haven’t changed. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., underscored this point yesterday, when he essentially begged his one-time Tea Party admirers for forgiveness in advance of his vote on the bill. No matter what the fate of immigration reform is, Rubio and others will own their positions going forward.
ABC’s JIM AVILA and SERENA MARSHALL: Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act makes passing immigration reform just a little easier. How do the two collide? Under DOMA the federal government did not recognize marriages of same-sex couples, thereby preventing them from accessing federal benefits-including the ability to sponsor a spouse for a visa. Sen. Patrick Leahy’s, D-Vt., introduced an amendment allowing gays and lesbians to sponsor their partners for immigration in the same way married heterosexual couples would be able to do. But Republicans on the “Gang of 8″ objected and threatened to scuttle the entire compromise. Leahy withdrew his bill but had been threatening to bring it back before the final vote. Yesterday, however, Leahy said on the Senate floor there is no need for his special amendment to protect gays and lesbians and will not be seeking a floor vote on his amendment: “With the Supreme Court’s decision today, it appears that the anti-discrimination principle that I’ve long advocated will apply to our immigration laws and to bi-national couples and their families can now be united under the law.” http://abcn.ws/1244ZOF
ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ: After Texas Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis held a marathon filibuster that squashed Republicans’ efforts to pass abortion restrictions, Gov. Rick Perry showed he’s ready to fight back, calling for a second special session to start on July 1 to have another go at the abortion legislation. But one question that remains is when Perry will tell the country whether he’ll run for governor in 2014. Perry, who has served as governor of Texas for 13 years, has long said an announcement would come after the special session at the end of this week. But now that he’s called for a second special section to pass the abortion restrictions, his decision could be delayed. “The governor is focused on addressing the issues on this call. Future plans will be announced at the appropriate time,” Josh Havens, a spokesperson for Perry, said in an e-mail to ABC News.
OBAMA WON’T BE ‘SCRAMBLING JETS’ TO CATCH EDWARD SNOWDEN. President Obama said at a news conference today in Senegal that the manhunt for NSA leaker Edward Snowden will someday make for a great TV movie, but he is not getting personally involved in the effort to get him back, ABC’s JONATHAN KARL reports. Obama said he has not called President Putin and did not call Chinese President Xi to ask that Snowden be turned over “because I should not have to” — expelling a criminal should be a routine legal matter. “No, I am not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker,” Obama said. While he is still concerned that Snowden could release more classified documents, Obama suggested most of the damage is already done. “I get why this is a fascinating issue,” Obama said. “But in terms of U.S. interests, the damage was done with the first leaks.” His primary focus, he said, is fixing the NSA to be sure leaks like this do not happen again. But the president also said his administration has had “useful conversations” with Russian government and is pressing hard to get him turned over. http://abcn.ws/11KJjuF
DOMA WIDOW EDIE WINDSOR: COURT RULING GAVE LATE WIFE ‘DIGNITY’. Four years after the death of her wife Thea Clara Spyer, Edith Windsor, the 84 year-old widow whose story led to the fall of the Defense of Marriage Act, was finally able to celebrate the historic moment with her memory. “I looked at her picture and I said ‘Honey it’s done!’” Windsor told ABC News’ Diane Sawyer. “I know what she would say, she would say, ‘You did it honey!’” The Supreme Court yesterday struck down a critical part of DOMA, allowing legally married same sex couples to have the same federal rights as heterosexual couples, ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP notes. That case rested on Windsor’s powerful story of fighting for equal recognition by the federal government after the death of her wife in 2009. Windsor said she cried as she heard the news coming out of the court. Later, the president of the United States himself called. “I spoke to the president this morning and he was absolutely charming,” Windsor said. “He congratulated me and I thanked him for what he had done-for speaking up.” After 40 years together, Windsor and Spyer married in Canada in 2007. Two years later, the state of New York, where Windsor and Spyer lived together, also began recognizing same sex marriages and that same year Spyer died. Because of DOMA, when Spyer died, Windsor was hit with a massive federal estate tax—a penalty heterosexual married couples would not have been subject to. http://abcn.ws/18gUxed
NANCY PELOSI ON MICHELE BACHMANN: ‘WHO CARES?’ Members of Congress favoring marriage equality for homosexuals exulted over Supreme Court rulings that furthered that cause yesterday, ABC’s JOHN PARKINSON writes. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi trumpeted the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act as an “extraordinary day.” “Equal protection will not simply be a promise unfulfilled; it will be a promise kept,” said Pelosi, D-Calif., as she joined the LGBT community of Congress for a news conference. But not every member of Congress was pleased with the decision. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said marriage is something only “God will define.” “The Supreme Court, though they may think so, have not yet arisen to the level of God,” Bachmann said. When presented with Bachmann’s response to the decision, Pelosi scoffed, grumbling, “Who cares?” http://abcn.ws/18gMw8V
CANTOR CALLS FOR DIVERTING CAMPAIGN FUNDING TO CHILDREN’S HEALTH CARE. In a time of continued calls for austerity, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor may have softened the Republican image this week by laying out legislation that would end taxpayer funding of presidential campaigns and party conventions and divert the money to pediatric disease research. And, as ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE notes, members of both sides of the aisle are crying foul. “We believe in medical research and discovery and we believe that pediatric medical research is and should be a national priority,” Cantor said, adding he believes it will also “address health care costs and bring them down” because the funding will help to find cures. “In times of fiscal stress especially we are called upon in Congress to set priorities, and there are a lot of reasons why medical research and in particular pediatric research should be a priority,” Cantor said, adding that the number one reason is, “It’s just the right thing to do.” The bill was initially introduced in April on World Autism Awareness Day, with about 100 co-sponsors that included a handful of Democrats. The legislation has opponents from both sides of the aisle. Emily Goff, research associate in domestic policy of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, says the money should be used to pay down the deficit. http://abcn.ws/14YijZ3
RAND PAUL: ON GAY MARRIAGE GOP NEEDS TO ‘AGREE TO DISAGREE’. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told ABC’s JEFF ZELENY he believes the Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act was appropriate, and that the issue should be left to the states. He praised Justice Anthony Kennedy for avoiding “a cultural war.” “As a country we can agree to disagree,” Paul said yesterday, stopping for a moment to talk as he walked through the Capitol. “As a Republican Party, that’s kind of where we are as well. The party is going to have to agree to disagree on some of these issues.” The comments from Paul, a likely GOP presidential candidate in 2016, highlight how the party’s field could divide over gay marriage. Many Republicans have been unusually muted in their reactions to the Supreme Court rulings yesterday. Paul said he agreed with Kennedy, whom he called “someone who doesn’t just want to be in front of opinion but wants government to keep up with opinion.” He said Kennedy “tried to strike a balance.” http://abcn.ws/14xGxHy
RICK PERRY CALLS SPECIAL SESSION TO CONSIDER ABORTION RESTRICTIONS. Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced that the Texas state legislature would head into a second special session starting July 1 after efforts to pass abortion restrictions failed, according to ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ. “Texans value life, and want to protect women and the unborn,” Perry said in a statement. “We will not allow the breakdown of decorum and decency to prevent us from doing what the people of this state hired us to do.” The initial bill, which would have closed nearly all clinics performing abortions in the state, failed in the legislature after Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis launched a filibuster lasting more than 12 hours, forcing a vote after the midnight deadline of the special session. The bill would ban all abortions after the 20-week gestation mark and would require clinics to adhere to stricter regulations, including upgrading facilities and reclassifying the clinics as surgical centers. http://abcn.ws/1co0rrg
STUDENT LOAN DEAL FACES LONG ODDS IN SENATE. A bipartisan group of lawmakers will introduce a compromise student loan proposal today aimed at preventing a massive increase in student loan interest rates on July 1. The proposal, which was hammered out over the past week by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Angus King, I-Maine, Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., draws from formulas for setting future interest rates that have been proposed by President Obama and House Republicans in a bill they approved last month. Interest rates for subsidized undergraduate loans, which are currently fixed at 3.4 percent, will rise to 6.8 percent on July 1 unless Congress acts, ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP and JEFF ZELENY note. The Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act ties interest rates on new student loans to the 10-year Treasury note and adds an additional 1.85 percent to subsidized and unsubsidized undergraduate Stafford loans. The proposal adds 3.4 percent to the Treasury rate for graduate Stafford loans and 4.4 percent for PLUS loans, which are issued to parents of students. But the new bipartisan proposal still faces opposition from Democrats in the Senate. A spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid said Wednesday that the bill could not pass the Senate. Some Democrats, including Chairman of the Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, has expressed an unwillingness to hammer out a long-term compromise now, preferring to temporarily extend the current rates for another two years, buying Congress more time to deal with the issue. http://abcn.ws/19D5jcA
WHAT WE’RE READING
“IDENTITY CRISIS: PRESIDENT OBAMA VS. CANDIDATE OBAMA,” an ABC News Op-Ed by Republican strategist Joe Brettell. “While scandals currently swirling around President Obama’s administration may have different features, all of them seem to underscore the detached, professorial style that has become his president’s trademark. Whether it was the IRS targeting conservative groups, the Justice Department monitoring the activities of journalists, a botched response in Benghazi that cost American lives or questionable fundraising activities from Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at HHS, if the president is to be believed, he is completely in the dark about a number of activities, all of which seem to be conveniently helpful to his legislative and political agendas. Now, it would seem, voters are beginning to take notice. A CNN poll released last week showed that more than half of Americans believe IRS targeting was coordinated inside the White House, while the president’s popularity rating, once seemingly made of Teflon, has begun to tumble. … True to form, he seems to prefer campaign-style rallies that are made for television to the personal touch of vote wrangling. Even recently, as the president played retail politician in an effort to gain support for gun control legislation in the Senate, the visits have had a formal, forced air, with each side taking the role of a married couple staying together for the kids.” http://abcn.ws/12mThlu
@russellberman: Timing of legalization could determine whether House & Senate can strike deal on #immigration http://thehill.com/homenews/house/308097-timing-of-legalization-becomes-key-to-reform-chances …
@thegarance: Seems potentially powerful for Obama to praise Doma ruling from Africa, given local mores in many nations there.
@Chris_Moody: House GOP Deputy Whip Roskam says it’s “a pipe dream” to think the House will pass the Senate immigration bill as a whole.