By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- OFF TO MEXICO: President Obama travels to Toluca, Mexico, today to participate in the North American Leaders Summit, aka the “meeting of the three amigos,” ABC’s MARY BRUCE notes. Trade is expected to dominate the agenda. Commerce and immigration are also up for discussion. Obama will hold meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. After taking a “family photo”, the three leaders attend a closed-press working lunch. Tonight Obama, Nieto and Harper hold more meetings and then face the press together in a joint news conference. The president returns to Washington afterward.
- ANALYSIS: ABC’s RICK KLEIN: If you were trying to tank a Republican primary these days, one way might be not to really live in the state you’re looking to continue to represent. Another way may be to admit ignorance about the tea party – you know, the political movement that’s defined the direction of the GOP for, oh, four years now. That’s what makes this week’s comments by Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. – “the tea party, you know, is something I don’t really know a lot about” – nothing short of shocking. It comes just weeks after a devastating New York Times report found that Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has long been renting out the one home in Kansas that he owns. Moves like these are now known as the Lugar path, which is not to be confused with the Hatch path. And they mean that, despite early indications that 2014 wouldn’t provide a repeat of the tea-party topplings of 2010 and 2012, incumbent Republican lawmakers continue to fear more from inside their party than out.
MINIMUM WAGE HIKE COULD COST 500K JOBS, CBO REPORTS. While Congressional Democrats and President Obama have made increasing the federal minimum wage a top priority this year, a new report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office finds a wage hike could result in a net job loss of about half a million workers even though it would increase wages for 16.5 million others, according to ABC’s JOHN PARKINSON. According to CBO, increasing the minimum wage would have two chief effects on low-wage workers: First, about 16.5 million workers would receive higher pay that would increase their family’s income, and about 900,000 of those families could earn a big enough increase to eclipse the federal poverty threshold. But CBO also forecasts some negative consequences from the proposed increase. Some jobs for low-wage workers would probably be eliminated, the report finds, and the income of most workers who lose jobs would fall substantially while the share of low-wage workers who were employed would also probably decrease. CBO projects that if the president’s proposal to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 was fully implemented by the second half of 2016, it would reduce total employment by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent. http://abcn.ws/1jbKQ3y
FORMER CHRIS CHRISTIE AIDE REFUSES TO HAND OVER DOCUMENTS. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s former campaign manager told lawmakers investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closures scandal yesterday that their probe is invalid and political and he will not hand over the subpoenaed documents under any circumstances, ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE and JOSH MARGOLIN note. The New Jersey legislative committee probing the issue authorized motions last week to try and force Bill Stepien to turn over subpoenaed documents, but Stepien’s attorney has issued a forceful response, again refusing to turn over any of the requested documents. Kevin Marino, the attorney representing Stepien, wrote a letter to Reid Schar, the attorney representing the state legislative committee, saying, “in response to your request for my input, I can think of no lawful way the Committee can obtain documents responsive to its Subpoena from Mr. Stepien.” ”Stated simply, his principled objections to the Subpoena raise significant legal issues that are no less valid because they here arise in the context of a politically-charged investigation,” Marino writes in the letter obtained by ABC News. http://abcn.ws/N7tGZw
OBAMA MAKES NICE WITH ART HISTORY PROFESSOR WITH HANDWRITTEN APOLOGY. After President Obama knocked art history majors last month in off-the-cuff remarks, Dr. Ann Johns, an art history professor at the University of Texas, decided to send the president a message defending the work of art history professors and students, ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ reports. “It’s a changed discipline and I think in many ways it does prepare students very well for a complex global world,” Johns, a senior lecturer in the Department of Art and Art History, told ABC News about the note she submitted to the president on the White House website. “Perhaps the idea of just going and looking at nice images is not really what the discipline is about.” “We teach our students to do critical thinking, critical reading, critical writing. We present a very global approach,” she said. Little did she know the president would pen a handwritten apology for his comments. Johns, whose expertise is in Italian renaissance art, received an email on Feb. 12 from the correspondence office at the White House, informing her that the president had personally penned a handwritten response apologizing for what he called “glib remarks.” “I was stunned. Whoever really thinks … the man has time to do this,” Johns said. “The discipline was feeling kind of beleaguered.” http://abcn.ws/1htrp90
CAMERAS IN THE SUPREME COURT? NOT SO FAST. A group called the Coalition for Court Transparency launched a campaign this week to urge the Supreme Court to allow TV cameras to record its oral arguments, ABC’s ARIANE DE VOGUE reports. That might be a tall order. Many of the justices have expressed reservations over the years regarding the impact cameras would have on the proceedings. “We worry about the impact on lawyers,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in 2011. Justice Elena Kagan seemed receptive to the idea in Aspen in 2011 when she described her days as Solicitor General watching the court. “Everybody was so prepared, so smart, so obviously deeply concerned about getting to the right answer” she said. “I thought, ‘If everybody could see this, it would make people feel so good about this branch of government.’” But last week she backtracked a bit during an appearance with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in New York. “As I’ve served on the court I’ve come to see more than I once did the reasons that cameras may not be such a good idea,” Kagan said. A spokesperson for the groups says the ad will run close to 300 times over the next month on cable news in the D.C. market. http://abcn.ws/N7AEOg
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
THE MYTHS OF MARIJUANA: FORMER DEA CHIEF SAYS POT LEGALIZATION A ‘DISASTER’. These days, former DEA administrator Peter Bensinger is like a lonely voice crying out in the wilderness – an anti-drug crusader who served three American presidents, now battling the perils of pot at a time when legalization is all the rage. “I think it’s a disaster,” he told “Power Players’” DEVIN DWYER of the rapid growth in sales of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington and medicinal pot in 18 other states. It “will damage the young people in that state. It will damage the industries in the state, and put the highways in jeopardy,” he said. “Plus, it’s against federal law and the Constitution and our international treaties.” Bensinger argued that the public, and politicians now pushing to legalize the drug, have been duped by the “myth” that marijuana can do no harm. http://yhoo.it/1eQLOwX
@AmericaRising: Our new website is LIVE! http://AmericaRisingPAC.org . Will be a constant source for fresh research on Democrats behaving badly!
@davidaxelrod: Always fun to watch folks cherry pick CBO reports. CBO=Choose Best Output to back your argument. Overall, tho, min wage hike nets out well.
@donnabrazile: I accept people as they are – not as I want them to be. Today let’s act with goodness and kindness towards each other.