By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- AFFLECK, ROGEN ON THE HILL: There will be some major star power on Capitol Hill today when two celebrities go before senators to testify on two causes close to their hearts, ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ reports. Actor, director, and Oscar winning screenwriter Ben Affleck will testify Wednesday afternoon before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the prospects of peace in the Congo. Affleck’s expertise on the issue comes from his work as the founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative. At the same time, Seth Rogen, comedic star of “Knocked Up” and “Pineapple Express” will testify at a separate hearing on the rising cost of Alzheimer’s. Rogen’s mother-in-law was diagnosed with the disease at the early age of 55.
- TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama’s “Year of Action” continues today with a trip to St. Paul, Minnesota, to highlight transportation and infrastructure, ABC’s MARY BRUCE notes. This afternoon the president tours the Metro Transit Light Rail Operations and Maintenance Facility. Afterwards, he delivers on remarks at the Union Depot announcing a new grant competition to finance infrastructure project and encourage investments to create jobs. Also today, Vice President Joe Biden meets with college presidents and university officials as part of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.
ABC’s RICK KLEIN: House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp is about to do a terrible, awful thing. His unpardonable sin? Offering up a sweeping tax reform proposal today. This, of course, has his colleagues very angry. There’s no reason the chair of the House’s tax-writing committee should file actual legislation to change a national tax code that just about everyone agrees is un-improvable. The fact is, Camp is doing his job – posing potential solutions even in a paralyzed political climate. The work that he and the former Senate Finance chairman, Max Baucus, did over the last several years once held the promise of breaking through the DC logjam. That moment appears to have passed, which is why Camp’s GOP colleagues would prefer he stay quiet rather than upset allies and interest groups with a bill that would clear out loopholes and limit valued deductions. Camp may have his own selfish reasons for launching a proposal he knows won’t fly. But before condemning him for his motives and potential for backlash, isn’t it worth considering his ideas on their merits?
ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: All eyes are on Arizona as Gov. Jan Brewer moves closer to deciding whether to sign or veto a measure allowing businesses to legally deny services to gay customers. The opposition from big-name Republicans is growing, with Mitt Romney being the latest to add his voice to a chorus of critics who believe the legislation is not only bad for business, but bad for the brand of the Republican Party. Many Republicans believe it’s a distraction and wish the whole discussion would end — and end quickly. Top Arizona GOP observers believe Brewer will veto the bill, but does not want to do so hastily. If she doesn’t, Arizona will become a new front in one of the last-remaining chapters of the old culture wars in America.
COULD ONE FAMILY HOLD THIS CONGRESSIONAL SEAT FOR 100 YEARS? Debbie Dingell, the wife of longtime Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell, will run for his congressional seat when he retires at the end of this term, ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP reports. The safely Democratic seat has been held in the Dingell family since 1933, when John Dingell’s father, Rep. John Dingell Sr., was first elected. Debbie Dingell, 60, is a longtime Democratic Party fixture in Michigan and Washington. Also a former lobbyist for General Motors, she is now chairwoman of the Wayne State University board of governors in Detroit. If she where to win, Debbie Dingell would extend the 81-year streak of the Dingell family in Michigan’s 12th district. It’s not out of the question for the Dingells to hang on in Congress for a full 100 years. Debbie Dingell would be 79 in 2033, younger than her husband, who’ll retire just shy of 88. http://abcn.ws/Nv7UPH
OBAMA AND BOEHNER HAVE FIRST SOLO MEETING IN OVER A YEAR. It’s become a rare Washington event: President Obama and his most prominent political rival, Republican House Speaker John Boehner, meeting one-on-one. Following an hour-long sit down in the Oval Office, both sides agreed the meeting was “constructive,” ABC’s MARY BRUCE notes. “The two discussed a wide range of issues, including manufacturing, trade promotion authority, flood insurance, immigration, the president’s health care law, Afghanistan, the appropriations process, California drought relief, wildfire suppression, and the highway bill,” according to a Boehner aide. “They agreed that there is a lot of work to do the rest of the year, and it is important to work together wherever we can find common ground.” Yesterday marked Obama and Boehner’s first solo meeting since the “fiscal cliff” crisis in December 2012, although the speaker has attended several White House meetings with congressional leaders since then. http://abcn.ws/MrQSRF
DALAI LAMA SETTLES BURNING QUESTION POSED IN HAROLD RAMIS’ ‘CADDYSHACK’. It’s a question fans of Bill Murray and Harold Ramis have had for years: Does the Dalai Lama play golf? Is he really a “big hitter”? ABC’s JONATHAN KARL went to the Dalai Lama himself for the answer. But first, some background. In the movie “Caddyshack” — directed and co-written by the late Harold Ramis — the character Carl Spackler, played by Bill Murray, recounts caddying in Tibet for the Dalai Lama. “The flowing robes, the grace, bald … striking,” Spackler recounts. “So, I’m on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one — big hitter, the Lama — long, into a 10,000-foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga … gunga, gunga-lagunga.” But, in the story recounted by Spackler, the Dalai Lama leaves without giving him a tip. Spackler: “And I say, ‘Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.’ And he says, ‘Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’ So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.” The line apparently stuck with President Obama, who, in his statement on Monday’s passing of Ramis, made what is almost certainly the first official reference to “Caddyshack” in a White House press release. http://abcn.ws/1ckonMS
JOE BIDEN: HILLARY CLINTON ‘WILL NOT AFFECT MY DECISION’ ABOUT 2016. Leave it to the ladies of “The View” to get Vice President Joe Biden to open up about 2016. The vice president told ABC’s Barbara Walters on the daytime talk show yesterday that Hillary Clinton’s decision for 2016 would not impact his own run, ABC’s LIZ KREUTZ reports. “Whether she runs or not will not affect my decision,” Biden said during his fourth appearance on the show. The vice president also said that his wife Jill is “supportive” of him wading into 2016 presidential waters, even though he still has not made a decision. “It’s as likely I run as I don’t run,” he said. “I just truly haven’t made up my mind. And this ultimately becomes a family decision.” One thing is clear — if he does decide to launch a bid, he sees his experience in the Obama administration as a plus. “Look, the only reason to run for President of the United States, [is] if you truly believe you’re in a better position to do what you think is most needed in the country,” he said. “I think my knowledge of foreign policy, my engagement with world leaders, my experience, is — uniquely positions me to be — to follow through on the agenda Barack and I have of bringing up world peace in a way that is real and substantive.” http://abcn.ws/1cMbAWG
WHAT WE’RE READING
“HAWAII HEALTH MARKETPLACE OFF TO AN ESPECIALLY ROUGH START,” by the Los Angeles Times’ Maeve Reston. “When the federal government began parceling out billions of dollars for the new health insurance marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s home state was in an enviable position. Hawaii already had one of the highest insured rates in the nation as the result of a 40-year-old state law requiring employers to provide coverage. The state received more than $205 million in federal money to build a health insurance exchange to serve those still uninsured. Yet four months after enrollments began, the Hawaii Health Connector has allocated $120 million while signing up only about 4,300 people for health plans — fewer than any other state. Despite officials’ initial hopes of enrolling tens of thousands of Hawaiians, only 400 employers have applied for plans for their employees. Colorado, by contrast, had nearly seven times as many uninsured people when it launched its health exchange with $26 million less in federal grants, and signed up more than 68,000 people by Feb. 1. Most states operating independent health exchanges have placed them under direct state control or created strong legislative oversight, but Hawaii established its exchange as a separate nonprofit agency, rendering the details of its daily operations largely invisible to even the state Legislature. Lawmakers, who have no power to compel budget information, have struggled for months to get basic financial information or even an explanation of how the Health Connector will remain viable when federal grant money runs out this year.” http://lat.ms/1evO4dg
@GovBrewer: I assure you, as always, I will do the right thing for the State of Arizona. #SB1062
@joshtpm: Jindal Makes No Apology For Bickering With Democratic Guv http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/jindal_not_sorry_bickering …
@joshgerstein: If Obama’s considering a zero option in Afghanistan, I sure wish someone would let us know –or at least hint at it
@StevenTDennis: ICYMI: Cantor, Ryan & Co. to huddle Friday on Obamacare alternative http://blogs.rollcall.com/218/gop-leaders-to-huddle-on-obamacare-alternative/ …
@thehill: Obama turns sneeze into O-Care pitch http://trib.al/9vC9OIZ