By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: The White House is teetering ever closer to having a security problem - a national security problem. The skepticism from the left and the right is intensifying, prompting President Obama to sit down today with a bipartisan group of lawmakers for a rare talk about the National Security Agency's sweeping surveillance programs. The administration has struggled to persuade Congress how the widespread collection of phone records has thwarted specific acts of terrorism. When Edward Snowden initially exposed the NSA program, many members of Congress voiced their support, but that has steadily given way to deep questions. In hopes of containing the fury - if it's not already too late - the president is inviting some of the more skeptical lawmakers to the White House to do what his administration has struggled to do for the last two months: Convince them the program is vital. It seems to be a far tougher sell than the West Wing anticipated.
ABC's TOM SHINE: It's called the August Recess. Actually it should be called the August-plus-first-week-of-September recess: Five weeks away from their duties in Washington, subsidized by taxpayers. And when Congress gets back they have only nine work days in September. It's not like they have nothing to do. There's that pesky little constitutional requirement to fund the government by October 1, which some members hope to use to shut it down, there's immigration, and the Farm Bill. Then there's the budget. House Republicans shamed Senate Democrats into passing one, something they had not done for years, but now refuse to meet with them to work out the differences. So tomorrow after the House votes for the 40th time to kill Obamacare, members will run down those steps headed to the airport to get out of town as fast as possible.
ABC's DEVIN DWYER: A noteworthy observation on President Obama from a longtime admirer, campaign donor and "college friend" of David Axelrod: Amazon Kindle Singles editor David Blum, who interviewed Obama on Tuesday and wrote about the experience, says his idealistic impression of the president was dashed after meeting him in person. "Asked repeatedly to reference personal, life-defining moments as a means to distill his mission into human terms, I was surprised to see President Obama - the author of two touching and deeply affecting memoirs before he became our President - deflect any attempt at self-analysis or narrative building," Blum writes. "He instead dove into battle with those who would thwart him, and seemed fit less for reflection that for a fight. I wondered why the man who once saw hope as 'audacity' - a personal mission - now viewed it as little more than a slogan." Blum's assessment mirrors a common criticism that Obama can be detached and overtly political, despite efforts to appear otherwise. http://amzn.to/134IF8w
BEER SUMMIT II? PAUL EXTENDS INVITE, CHRISTIE TOO BUSY. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., suggested a new way for him and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to sort out their ongoing feud - over an ice-cold beer - but Christie, campaigning for re-election in the Garden State, said he can't squeeze in a brewski with Paul into his schedule, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE and ARLETTE SAENZ report. "We're going to have to patch things up," Paul said in an interview on Fox News' "Your World with Neil Cavuto" yesterday. "If we can sit down, I'm inviting him for a beer - anytime he would like to come down and sit down at the pub right around the corner from the Senate. "It hasn't been formalized," Paul added. "I just thought of it. So we'll formalize it, we'll put it in writing. But I think we should sit down and have a beer and mend things." Christie said if he finds himself in D.C. he will "look him up," but suggested that would be unlikely. "I don't really have time for that at the moment. I'm running for re-election," Christie said in a tense tone Wednesday evening in the weekly "Ask the Governor" radio show on New Jersey 101.5. Besides his focus on running for re-election, Christie said he is busy with the business that "comes on the desk of a governor when you are responsible for actually doing things and not just debating."' Paul and Christie, both potential Republican presidential contenders for 2016, have engaged in a war of words since last week as the two have criticized each other's stances on issues ranging from national security to pork barrel spending. http://abcn.ws/11vuQ5f
HILLARY CLINTON SUPER PAC ATTRACTS DONORS FROM OBAMALAND. Hillary Clinton's super PAC is up and running with millions in the bank, and some of it comes from President Obama's biggest financial backers in 2012, ABC's CHRIS GOOD and SHUSHANNAH WALSHE report. The group Ready for Hillary, created by supporters of the former secretary of state, raised $1.25 million in its first full quarter of existence. Its mission is to promote the still-non-existent presidential candidacy of Clinton, who is widely considered a top White House contender in 2016. Yesterday, the group released its list of donors. While more than 10,000 people gave money to the group, its list of donors who gave more than $200 includes 20 people who also bundled campaign contributions for President Obama in 2012. They donated just over $200,000 to the pro-Hillary cause, after collecting a combined $10.8 million for Obama in the last election cycle. http://abcn.ws/15xz9O4
-NOTABLE NAMES: One notable Ready for Hillary donor is Jerry Lundergan, former head of the Kentucky Democratic Party, friend of the Clintons, and father of Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic secretary of state in Kentucky who is running for U.S. Senate against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Lundergan gave the group $25,000. Another $25,000 donor is James Hormel, of the Hormel Foods family and former U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg under President Bill Clinton. Former Hillary Clinton advisor Harold Ickes gave $2,500. Ellen Tauscher, the former Democratic congresswoman and State Department envoy on missile defense, gave $2,500. Both Ickes and Tauscher publicly signed on with Ready for Hillary. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten gave $1,000, as did Democratic analyst Hilary Rosen. Pollster Celinda Lake also gave $1,000, as did Arab American Institute founder James Zogby. Former Democratic Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, who also has expressed her public support for Hillary Clinton in 2016, gave $500.
PRESIDENT OBAMA REMINDS DAUGHTERS THEY ARE 'NOT THE NORM'. Trying to maintain a sense of normalcy in the White House can't be easy, especially when raising two daughters. President Obama and the first lady are constantly reminding Malia, 15, and Sasha, 12, of their "slightly unreal environment" and that their circumstances are "not the norm," according to the president. "They shouldn't expect to be the norm," Obama told Amazon's Kindle Singles editor David Blum in an interview, ABC's MARY BRUCE writes. "One of the advantages we have is that we still have family members who are not only middle class, but we've got some family members who are poor," he explained. "Malia and Sasha have cousins who know what it's like to struggle and know what it's like to have to scrape by. They know that those kids are just as worthy as they are, they just haven't had as much luck." http://abcn.ws/1687G4J
TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE. President Obama meets with a bipartisan group of lawmakers this afternoon to discuss their concerns about the National Security Agency, ABC's MARY BRUCE reports. Obama sits down with Senators Durbin, Feinstein, Chambliss, Wyden and Udall, and Representatives Rogers, Ruppersberger and Sensenbrenner. Later, the president hold a bilateral meeting with President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi of Yemen. The agenda includes "efforts to enhance democratic governance and support economic development in Yemen, further strengthen our counter-terrorism partnership, and enable the return of Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo Bay who have been designated for transfer," according to the White House. In the evening, the president hosts a reception for the 50th Anniversary of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law.
WHY ONE SENATE VOTE TOOK FIVE HOURS. For the first time in seven years, the Senate confirmed a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Wednesday after an almost record-setting procedural vote that took five hours, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. The Senate voted 53-42 to confirm Todd Jones as director of ATF Wednesday evening. The Senate held open its cloture vote on Jones' confirmation for five hours as it waited for Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., to fly back to Washington, D.C. from North Dakota to cast the needed 60th vote to move forward to a final vote. She finally cast her vote at 7:01 p.m., five hours after the cloture vote started. According to the Senate Historian's Office, the record time a Senate vote has been held open in recent history occurred in 2009 when the Senate waited for five hours and 15 minutes for Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, to fly from his mother's funeral to Washington to cast his vote for the $787 billion stimulus package. Yesterday's cloture vote fell about 15 minutes short of that record. http://abcn.ws/14jyG5v
STUDENT LOAN DEAL HEADED TO OBAMA'S DESK. A long-sought student loan deal is finally headed to President Barack Obama for a signature, FUSION's EMILY DE RUY reports. The House of Representatives passed a bill with bipartisan support Wednesday evening that will lower interest rates on certain federal student loans while tying rates to the government's cost of borrowing money. The deal, which was approved by the Senate last week, links interest rates to 10-year Treasury notes instead of letting Congress determine the rates. Rates could go up as the economy improves and it becomes more costly for the government to borrow money, but only for new loans. The interest rate for each individual loan will remain the same as when the money was first borrowed. Under the plan, instead of paying 6.8 percent interest, current undergraduates will pay about 3.9 percent interest on their Stafford loans this fall. Graduate students will pay about 5.4 percent in interest this fall while parents will face around 6.4 percent interest rates. There's also a limit. The bill caps interest rates at 8.25 percent for undergraduates and 9.5 percent for graduate loans. The cap for parents is 10.5 percent. http://abcn.ws/13nXGWy
JOHN LEWIS RECALLS MARCH ON WASHINGTON 50 YEARS LATER: 'ONE OF THIS NATION'S FINEST HOURS'. Members of Congress gathered in Statuary Hall of the United States Capitol on Wednesday to mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's March on Washington, ABC's JOAN E. GREVE notes. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who as a young activist had delivered a keynote speech at the march, addressed his colleagues Wednesday, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., used the occasion to criticize the Supreme Court's recent ruling on the Voting Rights Act . "When I look back on August 28, 1963, the day of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, I see it as one of this nation's finest hours," Lewis said. "The American people pushed and pulled, they struggled, suffered, and some even died, to demonstrate their desire to see a more fair, more just society." Lewis, who received multiple standing ovations during Wednesday's celebration, recalled the day of the march, before King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech. "[King] was the last speaker, but I was number six," Lewis said at the event. "I was the young upstart who said, 'We march today for jobs and freedom, but we have nothing to be proud of, for hundreds and thousands of our brothers are not here for they are receiving starvation wages or no wages at all.'" http://abcn.ws/16lMavg
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
WHY 'EVERYONE LAUGHED' AT JOHN MCCAIN - EVEN OBAMA. President Obama's meeting with Democratic senators yesterday had an unexpected visitor, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. Sen. John McCain, who has served in the upper chamber since 1987 after two terms in the House, apparently got lost and interrupted the meeting. "He opened the wrong door and the president and everyone laughed," a spokesman for the Arizona Republican said. "He didn't participate in the meeting." The mistake might have been an easy one to make because Republicans regularly hold their weekly conference in the Lyndon B. Johnson room, where the president was huddling with Senate Democrats yesterday. As news of the blunder made its rounds online, McCain chimed in via Twitter: "To be clear: I opened the wrong door, looked in and saw the President, said "my mistake" and everybody laughed. Lighten up everybody…" http://abcn.ws/1bKHZhq
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX
"GOP, OPEN DOOR TO IMMIGRATION REFORM," a CNN.com Op-Ed by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y. "The only obstacles to finally fixing our broken immigration system are Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans. If House Republicans fail to act, voters who care about this issue - especially our growing Hispanic population - will know they can't count on House Republicans. Instead of moving forward in the weeks since the Senate bill passed, House Republicans have allowed intolerant voices to remain the face of their party on immigration. People like Rep. Steve King, who has compared immigrants to dogs and DREAM Act-eligible children to drug runners, don't deserve a place on the Judiciary Committee that will decide the future of immigration reform. If House Republicans are serious about having a constructive debate, they will remove King from his position of authority. While it is true that Boehner's House has given us little reason to be optimistic and King's rhetoric is contrary to the principles that make this country great, I still have hope for the future of immigration reform. There are several House Republicans whose constituents will demand progress on immigration, and House Democrats want to work with them on finally achieve lasting reform. We can do this, but only if we do it together." http://bit.ly/17ljrDP
WHAT WE'RE READING
"LIBERTARIANS FLEX THEIR MUSCLE IN THE GOP," by the Washington Post's Karen Tumulty. "Libertarianism once again appears to be on the rise, particularly among the young. But its alliance with the Republican establishment is fraying, as demonstrated by the increasingly personal war of words between two leading potential 2016 presidential contenders. The sparring began last week, when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) posited: 'As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that's going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought.' … This kind of rancor is pretty much the last thing the Republican Party needs right now as it struggles to broaden its appeal and find its footing in the wake of two successive presidential defeats. For their part, libertarians are thrilled. They say it is a sign they truly have arrived as a force to be dealt with, rather than dismissed as a fringe element. 'There are a lot of people within establishment Republican Party politics who have controlled the process for the last 10 or 20 years who fear that their grip on the party is slipping away,' said Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), whose amendment to restrict the NSA's ability to collect telephone records came surprisingly close to passing in the House last week." http://wapo.st/18NwrFy
@TheBrodyFile: . @TheBrodyFile Analysis: @GovChristie vs. @SenRandPaul Turning Into Nancy vs. Tonya http://blogs.cbn.com/thebrodyfile/archive/2013/08/01/chris-christie-vs.-rand-paul-turning-into-nancy-vs-tonya.aspx … #GOP #tcot
@ZekeJMiller: Democrats seize super PAC crown http://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/08/01/13104/democrats-seize-super-pac-crown … via @PublicI
?@HotlineJosh: Must-read from @bethreinhard: Ds using voting rights activism 2 protect the Senate. Need black turnout 2 win in South http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/democrats-using-voting-rights-issues-to-protect-senate-majority-20130801 …